This week I plan to have at least five of my closest male friends (and strangers, if possible) reflect on this article, about cultivating relationships that lead to successful marriages. The basis of this article is about courting vs dating. Essentially it forces the point that true intimate (partnered) relationships are built upon knowing each other without sex and sexual actions.
I’ve just seen “42,” the movie on Jackie Robinson and The Brooklyn Dodgers. There are some great sports movies out there. “A League of Their Own” has always been a personal favorite. This movie is a new favorite, as the cast and writing behind “42” are spectacular. To see how far we’ve come in this country, and how far we still need to go for the equality of all of our people, this movie reminds us that there is no greater expression of patriotism than love and acceptance.
Could it be the surprisingly bountiful balance of my Wells Fargo checking account?
No, the significance of this number is not really much of either.
However, this number lingers in the back of my post-graduate mind. After graduating in June, I knew the day would come where I would have to come to copes with what every college student (and parent) dreads. It is the hopeless red-and-blue lights behind you during a long joyride with friends. It is…
The very first Department of Education Billing Statement.
Back when I began college, at the tender age of 18, I thought that the multitude of scholarships I was awarded set me up for four years of educational freedom. As a high-scoring, high-GPA, first-generation college student, I worried very little about paying for my education. As long as I maintained As and Bs, and renewed my scholarships, I thought I was pretty much set.
Well, at 23, I realized that all of the crying and begging I did in the Financial Aid office for MORE “MONEY” (so I could pay bills, how ironic), came back to bite me in the butt. I had to take out loans because I could not pay balances for my dorm room (though I was an RA), or pay for books (even though I bought older editions) or take the most amazing trip of my life to Mexico (which, for the most part, is a bulk of my loans).
But when I signed up for $1,000 here, and $790 there, I never thought I’d see a Billing Statement with a five-figure number on it. How many times did I need just a LITTLE BIT MORE to lift the hold in order to register for classes? And at what point could I have used some of those REFUND CHECKS to weather the storm? Maybe instead of going out and buying a flat-screen TV, or my first CAR (my 2003 Honda Civic EX), I could have started paying the bulk of my loans BACK, long before June 9th, 2012.
But the football players did it! And my friends did it. We’d all post on Facebook when we had finally received our quarterly stipend, spending it in our heads before the release notice came. To be fair, very little of it was squandered. A few of us students budgeted our pennies to stretch it out over the course of the OU ten-week quarter (what a glorious system we had back then). But for the most part, the first two weeks of every quarter was like an extended payday. No one was in the dining hall. Everyone was uptown, dining out for every meal. Everyone was out at the bars, and at every party. Everyone had their hair done, and everyone had on new clothing.
And at the end of the quarter… we all were struggling.
I worked four jobs at one time during my fourth year of college. Resident assistant in the dorms. Office assistant at the library. Night cashier at Walmart. Anytime-in-the-middle associate at a local bookstore. I almost killed myself attempting to pay off a car note, insurance, a cell phone and food (I decided the dining hall was a waste of money considering the constant stomach aches). All the while, I was not saving nearly as much as I should have been. I knew I wanted to study abroad the following year, but knowing that I would probably not be able to work during our long winter break gave pause to save for the short-term first. I hardly budgeted what I assumed was “disposable income” and bought a lot of clothes and did a lot of expensive travelling instead.
And travelling is amazing… I encourage it.
Like the Mexico trip that I took out about $7500 in loans for. It was my fifth year of college, and I have almost zero scholarships available to finish my second Bachelor’s degree. I just HAD to have these two degrees. Unfortunately, the one left uncompleted required a language requirement that I had not fulfilled (hence, Mexico). Going abroad killed two birds with one stone: I was (just about) finishing my second degree requirement, and spending a cold Ohio winter in the sunny Yucatan peninsula.
All of the loans for that trip were un-subsidized. Which meant, if I chose not to pay the interest while was in Mexico and during grace periods (six months after graduation), my interest will accrue (accumulate) and be capitalized (that is, interest will be added to the principal amount of the loan).
Now, I kind of knew what that meant, but I did not care so much. I really wanted to go to Mexico. And I did! I went with… $300. Even with the awesomeness of money conversion (with one buck being equal to about 13 pesos at the time), taking no credit card and only $300 to a foreign country is…
Not a good idea.
I was broke around Week 7, of 10 total weeks abroad (which I should be *commended* on). As the rest of my cohorts took advantage of Spring Break-style trips across the peninsula, I didn’t have enough pesos to get my clothes out of the laundry. I surely did not have enough money to pay any of my student loans! A desperate plea to my mother upped my bounty to $250 US in my few short weeks left, which I did some (very cheap) travelling with, but even as I boarded my plane back to the States, I did not have enough money to pay my additional baggage fee (I’ll have to write more about my poverty in Mexico).
Needless to say, my loans were the last thing on my mind as I dreaded becoming a permanent resident of Mexico in the Cancun International Airport.
But five months after graduating, I saw the letter. The first Billing Statement from Direct Loans… a month early in my calculations (I’m still trying to figure that out). I did not know what the damage was. I had the face of a guy, too scared to tell his date that the lobster and two bottles of wine were out of his budget.
Doesn’t seem like much, does it? Well, when I was working four jobs, not paying rent, driving 2 blocks to a friend’s house and walking to work most of the time, it probably wouldn’t have seemed so bad.
Now that I’m paying higher insurance (thank you, Pennsylvania), rent, heating, electricity, gas to travel (in a large city with prices rising), internet, and trying to save “like an adult” for rainy days (without running to mommy as I sparingly did as a student), I hardly have enough to shop for food, much less for working girl clothing (the soles of my shoes have never been to worn), and even less for loans, “money” I’ve already seen the results for (what I like to call the “I have the degree, so what can you do to me?” mentality).
And then I did what I probably shouldn’t have done. I didn’t pay my first bill. I told myself, “it came a month early, so I’ll pay a month late.”
Well nearly three-hundred bucks is a little more intimidating than a little over a hundred. Tonight, I decided it was time to log on to www.myedaccount.com and start doing… something. So I’m crying economic hardship because, well, I hardly want to turn my heat up a degree out of fear of seeing a triple-digit bill, and the buddy I had sleeping on the couch a few months straight really liked to watch TV… with his eyes closed. My refrigerator’s only contents are courtesy of catering from my job (mmmm, bagels), and my car is about to hit fumes. I drink water because I don’t pay for it. Besides the fridge, nothing is plugged in 24-7. And did I mention my shoes?
I’m hardly living the life I planned to with two Bachelor’s degrees.
But I’m living…
the life of a post-grad college student. Beware.
Lest We Forget, a phrase in the poem “Recessional,” by Rudyard Kipling