Surprised by Student Debt

My time as a college student ended about three weeks before I walked at graduation. It happened at the ‘managing your student debt’ seminar my school put on for all of its graduating seniors. I had signed the loan agreements about four years prior, not really understanding what I was committing to. The people running the seminar put up a graph reflecting how much you borrowed alongside how long it would likely take to pay off. I remember wanting to ask if they had a graph that might help someone who owed four times what their maximum amount was. I called my parents and processed the shock. The reality of my newly-discovered debt obligations weighed heavily on me as I graduated and for the ensuing months and years.

This is my “next”???

Going to college was just the next life step for me after high school. Entering the work force and starting a career was supposed to follow immediately after. I assumed that college was going to leave me with a clear sense of calling and vocation, I ended up feeling extremely frustrated that I didn’t have anything I felt passionate about diving into. I felt further frustrated that I didn’t seem to be making any progress towards starting a career, particularly one that would meet my debt obligations.

“I can’t believe how this is going!”

I spent my first couple years out of college being frustrated that it didn’t look anything like what I had anticipated. I realize now that these first couple years were possibly more formative and facilitated more growth than any of my time actually in college had. I was so disillusioned with what my first experiences in the “real world” looked like that it took a long time to appreciate the great opportunities that have been presented to me. The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to not hold too tightly onto your expectation for what your story is supposed to look like, and to not feel too constrained by the pressures you feel for your story to pan out a certain way. I spent way too much time concerned with how I was going to pay my debt, and how what I was doing didn’t line up with mine and other’s expectations.

It’s a journey.  Be patient as the story is written.

I would encourage you to be as open-minded in thinking about this new life chapter as you were when you entered college. You’ll never stop being educated, and you’ll never stop honing and discovering your passions, gifts, and callings. Be open to what you learn about yourself, and don’t become discouraged if you aren’t immediately immersed in your life-long vocation. It’s a story, and it’s still being written.

*Justin graduated from Seattle Pacific University a few years ago.  Justin now serves as a firefighter for the city of Seattle.  working at Two Beers Brewing Company as a brewer for several years.

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