That day, I got a phone call. Actually it was a voice mail.
“Hello Mr. Sweet, this is so-and-so from a major financial institution…”
I knew it was a solicitation. But I listened anyway. Great, I thought. The bitch wants to sell me something. Or more likely I somehow owe them money!
“…this is not a solicitation.”
“You’ve been selected to participate in a round-table discussion about the expense of attending college, more specifically, student loans.”
OH hells yeah! I’ll give them an earful… I can go around the whole table on this topic.
“If you qualify, you’ll be compensated $150 for your time. Please call us back at your earliest convenience… bla bla bla”
I had heard enough. I wrote down the number and immediately called back.
$150 for talking about student loans? I’m in.
The discussion is being held tonight, October 24th. Part of the process involved completing an assignment that asks each participant to tell the story of his or her student loans.
This is my story…
We first met when I was 18. Though, I knew we would be together long before then. I needed him then and he quietly provided. Now he needs me and I just want to walk away…
It happened at community college. Even before the first day of class we were well acquainted. Of course I introduced him to my mom, my sister. Both of whom were wary, but couldn’t provide for me what he could. So they nodded their heads in mock approval as we got to know one another, in great detail.
Things started out innocently enough. I was already working full-time and paying for a car, groceries, rent… all the things I knew would come and to some extent had planned for. It still wasn’t enough. Then we met, my student loan and I. Things were fine at first, great even. I had everything I wanted. And he was there, right beside me. Patient. Understandable. Generous.
Then things got complicated…
I moved across the country to be with the one I loved. And he followed me. I started a new school in Maryland. We took class together. And as I filled my mind with all the makings of a hopeful future, so too did he grow. Bit by bit, class by class, hour by hour… we were in it together. Forever.
When I was accepted to a real university, I was ecstatic! Finally, I thought. I made it. It’s all coming together. And it was. In a very big way.
Private school was never in the cards for me. He convinced me otherwise. In looking back I don’t even think we were playing the same game. I’m not a gambling man. I’m bad at poker. I’m too honest.
Through Catholic school we traveled together. For three years. All the while knowing someday soon he would be there. Waiting. Asking. Demanding that I return the favor. That I pay him back.
I was broke. I was in school, without a job. I was hopeful and eager to learn. Though wanting at times even more than the damn degree, to be free.
He’s worth more than the mortgage on my mother’s house now, my student loan. And his interests are variable and many. Broken into parts, he’s almost manageable. Almost. But still too much to support on my first job’s salary.
How did this happen? Why did I do this? What do I do now?
I ask myself these things often, tracing my steps back letting my mind wonder, wander, ponder. How could things have been different? Did we truly need one another? What did I learn from him that I will teach my niece, my nephews?
I have no children of my own. If I become a father, I will protect them from this burden. This monster. We’ll work something out, my kids and I. So they never have to know the crushing weight, the fear, the despair he can bring.
For now though, we’re stuck together. By law. And in many ways, by force.
I want a divorce.