Yes, you read that title correctly.
‘Tis the season to be thankful, and although it seems insane, I’m occasionally thankful for my student loan debt—emphasis on the “occasionally” part of that sentence.
To be explicit, I am not saying that everybody should feel similarly (though some do, apparently). Debt sucks, and historically, my way of dealing with suckage has been to find the silver lining buried beneath the gristle. It’s more coping than anything else, and I understand if you cope differently.
Anyway, here’s why I’m thankful.
Nothing Else Could’ve Made Me Grow Up Faster
Debt ages you—fast. Growing up, I always remember my parents telling me that I “didn’t understand the value of a dollar.” And though I’d never admit it, they were right. I came from an upper-middle class family: Most things I wanted, I could have.
Boy, did I get a rude awakening when that first loan payment hit.
I was living in New York City at the time. Suddenly, things that had never seemed hard before, like buying groceries and paying utilities, became difficult. I had to stop eating out and getting drinks frequently because if I didn’t, I’d be living paycheck-to-paycheck each month.
My parents’ advice finally made sense to me when I had to make some hard financial choices. I stayed in more than I wanted to, traveled less, and had to get thrifty to make it all work
But from that day forward, I never spent money needlessly again. Ironically, I was worried about my more privileged friends who didn’t have student loan debt. When would they learn the lesson? Would it take crippling credit card debt or a home foreclosure?
It Made Me Hungrier
Watching my paychecks go toward a debt payment every month made me more ambitious in my career. I remember talking to debt-free friends about how eager I was to get promoted, to take on more. They were always confused: Why was I in a rush to do more work? Because more work meant more money, and more money meant fewer years dealing with a black hole of debt.
I’ve grown my career aggressively the last few years to gain new skills, take on more responsibilities, and ultimately, become more valuable. And while I’ve learned many a lesson on slowing down (for both work and health quality) along the way, I’ve still got a long way to go. And I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
It Gave Me Perspective On Education
Having student loans made me realize just how hard carrying education debt is. After undergrad, I watched friends go off to medical, law, and other graduate schools. While some were following their dreams, others seemed to fall into these programs to give their post-graduate lives some structure. It was a reason to delay entering the ambiguous (and therefore scary!) world of careers.
Not me. I had to dive headfirst into a career and figure it out on my own. I’m glad I did.
Every industry is different, but in tech, skills and executional ability are all that matter. Going straight to work made me realize that more higher education could be helpful to me, but it was by no means a necessity.
Had I not worked right after undergrad, I think I would’ve made an assumption that a lot of people do: that more degrees would mean more money, more success, more everything.
For me, another degree is a luxury, not a necessity. And while I’m not ruling more education out of my future quite yet, getting burned by the student loan monster once has made me reluctant to try again.
Have you found a silver lining in your debt to be thankful for? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know in the comments.