debt owed: was it worth it?

Monday, June 2, 2014

I just got a letter from OCAC, asking for donations. Unfortunately my monthly loan payment of $364.00 will hinder me in making any. Now I’m not here today to be bitter. (Though there are still many moments of bitterness.) I’m going to try to answer that question anyone who has ever made a student loan payment has asked themselves: was it worth it?

Was it worth it? Was the trade fair? When you look at it all on paper, my degree for $50,000 of debt: no, it wasn’t. It wasn’t worth it. Nothing is worth this much debt.

But when you dig deeper, you start pulling up that murky substance underneath, and it’s not clear anymore what it was worth or wasn’t worth. Sometimes I’m not even sure what I got in return. Sometimes I’m sure I made a bargain. Let me be honest for a moment here. The degree means nothing, really. It doesn’t mean I’m a good artist. It doesn’t guarantee me a job. But the people, the community, the act of pushing and being pushed for four straight years? That means everything. That cannot be translated into $50,000. It’s not even on the same tier.

I have written pages and pages in my journal, gotten into endless debates with my friends, my mom, with Steele, about if it was worth it. I struggle with it still. And I know my answer to the question will change throughout my life, as I carry this debt through. Right now the reality of it is sharp and jarring and it’s hard to reconcile it with a post-graduate life where all the things I worked so hard at, the things that were worth $50,000, are behind me. Afterwards, you have to take all the things you learned and work them back into your life and not let yourself forget them. You have to hold the connections strong. Remember to push yourself. And of course, there’s always the walk through at the art museum to make you feel like it was worth it. There’s always that moment where you get to explain to your mom the difference between modern and contemporary.

OCAC is a sort of home to me still. A part of me will always belong there and though it’s not exactly a fair trade for $50,000, at the root of it all I find that it doesn’t matter. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I mean it in a freeing way. It doesn’t matter because the path I chose is behind me. It’s not longer a question of if it was worth it. I feel, almost without fail, that I never could have chosen anything different. Not that those possibilities don’t exist, I know they do. Sometimes I imagine the parallel universes where I chose differently, but the reality remains—I am here—this is now. The only thing to contemplate now is the way forward. 


This series is not a perfect view of how to deal with your student loans. It's my documentation of my own experience with it. 


  1. I get what you mean, though lucky for me I'll never have to pay off 50 grand! Personally, I think that the debt I have is worth it purely because it has gotten me to a job I really love.

    1. Thanks for your comment! Glad I'm not the only one, and wonderful that you've gotten a well loved-job.


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