So I Paid Off My Student Loans- Part 1

If you’ve been following this blog for the past few years, you may know that I’ve been on a quest to pay off my student loans since… basically forever. Actually, for the first few years after I graduated, as my debt amount surged while interest piled up, I simply lived in hopeless despair. I wondered what magical miracle would occur that would enable me to pay off more than $100,000 (yes that 6th zero belongs) worth of debt – and for undergrad only! I’m not even a doctor or a lawyer or even a prosperous business person- I have a DRAMA degree, for god’s sake! And that $100,000 total is with ONE YEAR PAID OFF ALREADY by mom and grandma! So even with a whole year of school paid off, plus some financial aid, my loans were STILL that much!

And the loan kept growing, even after college ended, because in the first few years after graduation I’d decided that since my interest was high on the smaller of the two loans (one was for around $86,000 and the other was $14,000), I’d put the smaller loan on forbearance (effectively deferring it) and not pay it for awhile.

I know now that this is BACKWARDS thinking- it’s a really bad idea to put loans on forbearance unless you’re absolutely desperate and have no other choice. To be fair, most people put loans on forbearance because they have no other choice- I myself was the definition of desperate- so the warning is probably unnecessary. But forbearance is a horrible sneaky trap that only punishes your future self while your current self breathes a very temporary sigh of relief. I got the 14k loan down to 11k with a lot of blood sweat and tears, and then put that loan on forbearance for a year. When I started paying it again, after only one year of deferment, the loan had GONE BACK UP to 14K! As if I had never made a dent! The experience was both sickening and horrifying.

NYU is even more expensive now- disgustingly expensive. Somewhere around 70K a year expensive. It’s wayyyy overpriced, and pricing seems to only be only going up. The thing is, many colleges are following that same path of being completely out of line overpriced- the problem is not just NYU. To be fair, I really enjoyed my NYU program- I had private conservatory training in all aspects of acting, directing, and theater, and the 4 years were pretty amazing. It’s not a bad school. But the loans afterwards all but buried me- and I don’t recommend anyone ever taking on that kind of student loan debt. Ever. Even if  you’re going to medical school or something that should fast track to a lucrative career, I’d still advise you to think your finances through very carefully.

In a blaze of glory I finally completed my last student loan payment this February, 2018. I still can’t believe it. I remember the day I hit ‘send’ on that last payment- I cried. My body shook in front of my computer and nothing made sense. The student debt that had hung over my head for so many years of my early adult life was finally gone. It felt like a miracle- but it wasn’t. It was the result of an incredible amount of work and very carefully calculated planning. Even making very little money per year, I finally did it. I did it.

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I did it! In the next post I’ll tell you how…

 

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Are You Constantly Looking for the Extraordinary? What if You Stopped?

Yesterday I learned that one of my teachers from NYU died.  It happened last week, yet somehow I didn’t know about it. I was talking with my friend Kate from college, and she suddenly said “You know about Peter, right?” When she told me, I stopped in my tracks and couldn’t speak.

I’m a terrible dancer and he was my African Dance teacher. We were forced as drama majors in my school to take African Dance freshman year, and I always dreaded it. It was first thing in the morning and I was always exhausted. And there was so much drumming and jumping…and did I mention I suck at dancing?

Yet Peter, my teacher, always had so much energy. He was smiling and shining every frigging day…just beaming. It was insane how much energy he had and how much he danced in our classes all day. I remember feeling tired just watching him. Yet by the end of the year, I was African Dancing with the rest of the class. I was jumping and throwing my arms and skipping and bobbing my head and moving my back in funny ways. It was far from perfect. It was probably far from even sort of good. But it was.

And I was proud of myself.

So thanks, Peter, for giving me those moments of taking it all in- of forcing myself to do something imperfectly and to find joy anyway. For showing me that I can be terrible at something and still do it imperfectly but proudly. To find pleasure in my own ordinariness.

He posted a quote on his Facebook wall before he died, and it really stuck with me. I think it sums up a lot of what he taught me, and how I feel about those lessons. I’m posting it below.

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

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Those Brief Moments of Brevity In Your Thirties

Today my uncle and little cousin came to visit me at work. I’m working an auto show in Fort Lauderdale for a few days, and they live nearby.

My cousin is 16 and thinking about the colleges he’s going to apply to next year. I know that his parents are kind of freaking out about it. The college application process is a scary thing. My uncle and aunt asked me about my memories of applying to college- specifically about writing the dreaded college essay.

Even though I’m now 30 and the college application process was more than 13 years ago, it all came back to me like a dream…sort of screwy and very vivid. My college applications were nuts- I applied to 12 different colleges and visited all of the campuses. I also wrote over 7 different essays, and took dozens of hours to complete them.

But the hardest part for me was always the editing. The essays were so hard for me to shorten- 650 words tops, and I went over every time. Once I had my essays edited down to total brevity, they were almost unrecognizable- little moments in time that never captured everything I wanted to say.

Thank god I got into NYU and the application torture ended.

But as I was walking over a drawbridge in Florida tonight, I thought about how life is like the editing process. You feel like the years go on and on, but really, in the end, you get to keep only a small collection of memories capturing the briefest essence of what came before. And then your small fragments of memory meander and cut off, vivid and dreamlike, and not exactly what you wanted to say at all.

Every moment is special. Every feeling matters. Live in the now and hold it close before it’s edited down to nothing. Because one day what feels like forever will actually fade and cut off. And our beautiful path will come to an end.

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