In which I worry about my debt

I think it’s time to talk about my debt, because I certainly can’t stop thinking about it. Doing this masters degree is going to put me in debt. I’ve never had any student loans before, I’ve been able to acquire scholarships and financial aid, I worked through college and my parents were able to help out. Now I’m on my own and by the end of this year I will have almost $50,000 worth of debt. I worry about my debt.

I carelessly missed many scholarship deadlines so I can’t get help in that way and most masters programs don’t give financial aid the way that PhD programs do (this is extra frustrating since I plan to pursue a PhD). The idea is that with the professional degree you should be able to pay back the loan by working in your chosen profession. But what if I decide, after going to school, that I don’t want to be in this profession? I worry.

In order to pay back my loans in 10 years (for 1 year’s worth of a 2-year program), it will be about $500 a month. The theory is that having these computer science skills should raise my income by about that much over my lifetime. But not if I don’t use them. Even if computer science jobs are as recessionproof as they say I may not find a job. Even if I do find a job I can stand, $500 a month is a lot of money. I worry.

It’s hard for me to concentrate on my studies with the weight of this debt on my shoulders. In addition, my chronic health problem isn’t getting any better and I fear the stress of school and debt and work is making it worse. A few weeks ago my net worth went from positive to negative. I worry.

My mother assures me that I’m not alone, that the skills will not be worthless, that the knowledge will be helpful (even if it’s the knowledge that this isn’t for me). There are more scholarships, I could work for the government, and that we will repay my loans together. And yet I worry.

Would I worry less if I was in working retail and living in a crappy apartment? Who knows. I worry that I am putting off life in order to concentrate on school and it will catch up to me. I don’t know how this is going to work out, and not knowing is making me worry..

Social justice

In my constant struggle for moral clarity and social justice, I have lately been reminded of a troubling fact; justice is as much about lifting people up, as it is about putting (or pulling) people down. It’s not all about rising tides lifting all boats, and bringing people up to the tall bridge (Hanna Rosin’s version of the glass ceiling), it’s also about yanking people down from their pedestals and reminding them what it’s like to feel pain and to be hated just for being who they are.

Obviously you don’t need to be a minority to know what it feels like to be ostracized, we all went through middle school. In adolescence, it seems like everyone’s unbalanced, and sometimes the way you are unbalanced exacerbates someone else’s imbalances. But you can’t seem to help it. Life isn’t fair, and neither is divorce, or sexual harassment, or war, or poverty, or racism, or addiction, or psychosis. It’s not fair that some people are beautiful and others are ugly, that some are born rich, and talented, when the boy you like likes your best friend better, when you’re fired due to budget cuts, when you can’t seem to find the words to say what you want to say, and everyone seems to be speaking a different language altogether.

Everyone feels this, including white people including the beautiful and talented (like Joan Didion), including the 1%. Sometimes I think the occupy movement is mostly about revenge. As much as I crave revenge, there is a certain amount of injustice we just need to accept. And acceptance takes time and patience. And some pain will never go away.