For years, I was in the habit of listing our my monthly expenses, but instead of listing them out once a month, I’d make that list two or three times a day. I’d also list out all the income I anticipated receiving through various streams. I did this a lot, as a way to see where I was financially, and as a way to feel like I was taking action. I made lists of all my debts and lists of how much I might be able to pay on them. This small act made my situation feel manageable, although, ultimately, the expenses were managing me.
This month, it will be two years since my final student loan payment. As the anniversary of that milestone approaches, I find myself thinking a lot about those lists. Specifically, I’m thinking about how I don’t make those lists anymore. I don’t have consumer debt or student loan debt, and my finances are mostly automated. After the student loans were paid off, I started making lists of assets and liabilities. I gave those up at the end of last year. All in all, I spent a lot of time making all of those lists. I spent so much time making those lists that the amount of list-free time that I now have at my disposal is noticeable. It is glaringly obvious.
What am I doing with all that obvious time at my disposal? I fill that time with the creative pursuits I put on hold for YEARS while I suffered through that crushing debt load.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: MY STUDENT LOAN DEBT STIFLED ME CREATIVELY.
Because of that stifled creativity, I suffered professionally. This is one terrible price we pay when we take on tremendous student loan debt. Yet, it is hard for me to say, “Don’t do it,” when it may be the only means to an education that will deepen and expand your world. Sure, you could do a lot of it yourself. But, I still do believe in higher education to some degree. I believe in curious students and professor-mentors. I know that students often aren’t curious and I worry about their debt-to-curiosity ratios and what they’re really getting out of their expensive educations. I know that professors are often exploited, underpaid, and too busy to properly mentor the curious students.
Sometimes, professors are distracted by their own student loan debt and the numbers they constantly list out because of it.
Student loan debt takes a toll. It becomes a dark cloud, a preoccupation, a distraction, a deficit, a disease infecting our capacity to do our important, creative work. It took me a decade to get serious about getting rid of it, and then fourteen months to pay it off completely. I made a lot of lists in that time.
It took two years to reclaim that time. I’m no longer making lists of expenses, income, assets or liabilities. The debt is gone. I’m living my life. I’m instead doing my important, creative work.
What important work is student loan debt keeping you from doing?