When I talk about you, debt, I turn into a different person. Everyone who knows me would characterize me as a happy person, ever the optimist. There are few things in life that I can’t see a silver-lining to – that’s probably why Pollyanna was my favorite book as a kid.
But when it comes to you, I get bitter. Some might call it “Millennial whining” but I prefer to think of it as “wanting what’s fair.”
I followed your playbook up until this year. I was raised to be a nice middle class girl by nice middle class parents, and I stuck closely to the middle class playbook:
In the past, this worked! It was a great middle class playbook. I’ve done everything “right” according to the middle class playbook, but what do I have to show for it? Yes, a great house and a great marriage. But also $500 down the drain, every month, to pay back loans (for the next 15 or so years, according to calculations!)
And for what? Debt, you know this already, but other countries are proud when their smart kids go to college and get good grades. I know this because I’ve been to those countries and have friends, my age, who graduated from college in those countries. They tell me stories about graduating with no debt – and one friend even got a stipend for her good grades in her country.
Debt, you have a stranglehold on people in the US. When I bring the subject of middle class debt up, I’m laughed at and ridiculed. Everyone wants nice, highly educated people like me until we ask “why?” Why does the richest country in the world not want to pay for middle class and lower class kids to go to college?
Then we fall back to the playbook:
Debt, I have to hand it to you – you did a great job of selling the American dream (and burden) to the middle class. And don’t worry, debt, you already know I’m going to pay every penny of you back, because the middle class playbook is tough to break. I won’t shirk my responsibility, although I won’t enjoy it.
But the joke is on you, and everyone who tells me I should have stuck to the playbook. That $500? When I’m done paying you off, you won’t see that $500 doing any of this:
I guess I did find a silver-lining in all of this, debt. When I’m done with you, I have no interest in falling back into your middle class playbook. I will not live in a big city and buy a new car every 2 years. I will find a way to pay for myself, always, no matter what that looks like. I will never look down on people who have debt and are struggling.
I’ll be done with you one day, debt. But I won’t be done fighting against you – I’ll just move on to helping the next nice middle class person struggling with the middle class playbook they were sold.