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.

I never saw it coming.

how_to_change_your_lifeFor the past three years of my life I have transitioned into something new each September. In 2013 I packed up my bags at the age of 18 and I moved to Ethiopia. In 2014 I started school as a freshman at Northwest University, a school 10 minutes away from my house. And this year, I moved to LA to start school at Biola.

That’s a lot of starting over. And the first time was by far the most exciting and crazy. And progressively it has become a little more normal. I know this past fall was the last transition for another three years…I say that now and can’t imagine what God is thinking. Nonetheless, this is my plan for now.

I like new places. Transitions are not hard for me. I don’t naturally miss people. Trust me, it is not lost on me that this isn’t normal. I have to believe that this unusual trait of mine will be used for some good in this lifetime. What is hard for me is not knowing what is in my future…and that’s where I’m at.

With my latest move to LA, I’ve been trying to figure a lot out. I have my feet…and hands and eyes and heart in many places right now: Washington, Albania, Ethiopia, and now California. How do I not spread myself thin? How do I adjust healthily while respecting the fact that I love many people in many different locations? How do I know my boundaries and my limits within relationships that are not in LA? I am trying to figure out if I truly have feelings for a guy in my life. I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with my major. I’m trying to figure out how to stay connected with my family. I’m trying to figure out how to make LA my home.

It’s a lot, these questions and these things I’m trying to understand…

So I asked the Lord to give me patience. To allow me to see the sweetness of the unknown and to enjoy the mystery of this new season. I’m still struggling. So today I asked my professor to pray for my mind. I asked him to pray that I wouldn’t overthink my life.

I’ve been pondering a lot about how previously in my life the unknown became the known. So that maybe I could recognize some sort of pattern and figure out when my current state of uncertainty would suddenly become certain to me. And this is the pattern I found…in the past I never saw it coming. A trivial example is my senior prom. Never in a million years did I think that the guy who asked me would ask me! I cried once prom was announced because I thought it would be just like every other year where I went unasked. And in a second everything changed, as I sat in my social justice class drinking bad drip coffee I heard his voice on the inter-com and what was once unknown became known. The same goes for how I got to Biola. One day in February, as I was walking the aisles of Safeway, Biola popped into my head. I didn’t know at the time why I began thinking about a school 2 states away but 7 months later I am here. The mystery of the next season of life is just that until it is not. This truth doesn’t offer much condolence, but it does lend a taste of excitement that the known just can’t offer.

A line from my favorite poem comes to my mind when I battle this idea of the unknown, and living in the now, and the awfully hard balance of planning and being free…

“Do I dare

Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”

I know I have time…but soon that time will pass. And then I will look back, like I look back at prom and how I made it to California, and I will see the moment where all the unclear stuff in this season suddenly became clear. And while I look forward to that moment very much, Lord help me to enjoy this season. Help me to find and taste that excitement that is hidden deep in the unknown. I am young. I have a body that works. I have sweet friends and a bed and I am at a really great school. Help me to see the good things. Help me to see the now. For all that it is. And not what it could be, or what I want or who I want. Give me the patience and the courage to accept the now, right now.

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