In fact, one of them could be getting ready to go off to college. The youngest could be shopping for back to school clothes for fifth grade and the middle “kids” would have just gone to their first prom a few months ago. No, really. I have to say, I am ready to have “empty nest syndrome” where my student loans are concerned.
Once I thought about my student loans this way, it really put things into perspective. I started law school in 1994, and by the time I graduated, a few of my loans had already been accruing interest for two years. I thought I only borrowed about $75,000 but now, 16 years out of law school, I owe $120K, with payments of at least $700 per month, if not more. How did that happen, you ask?
When I graduated law school, I wasn’t making $160K like some of the big firms offer to 1st year associates today. (In fact, the going rate for the big firms was about half that.) I didn’t get a job with one of those big firms, nor would I have wanted to. I was making $35K, just a bit more than the legal secretaries at my job. After just a year, I realized that what my gut had been trying to tell me during law school was true. I just didn’t like being a lawyer. So I moved to another location (didn’t really love where I was living anyway), and got a job as a legal secretary. And guess what? I made a lot more money. No matter what people tell you, being a lawyer is not a glamorous job.
After working in administrative positions for a few years, I did go back to school for yet another degree, a Master’s in Library Science, finishing in 2004. Even though I had some tuition assistance through work, I took out even more loans. However, unlike my law school loans which sit there with a hefty interest rate of 7.5% (still, gulp), they are much lower, as in under 2%. When I hear that the average student now graduates from school with something like $26-40k in debt, you know what sometimes goes through my mind?? “DAMN, that lucky bastard!!”
I might sound like I regret my decisions. At times, yes, I do. But I have made peace with the past and now choose to focus on going forward, and rectifying the situation. The past is gone–the future is whatever I make of it. And, honestly, I find myself smiling a lot these days. I have a goal, and I have a plan, now it’s up to me (and no one else) to carry it out.