Month: August 2016

Paying for College, 10 Years Later

As of next month, I will have been paying off my student debt for a decade, and will still have about a decade to go. (And I even have a pretty manageable interest rate, unlike most students in the U.S. now who pay so much more than I do.)

For me, the financial burden aside, the issue with student loans is that they immediately make your college experience about paying for college and not about learning or finding a career path.

I graduated in the top of my high school class. I was one of the only people in my family to attend college. I was excited for my future. Academically, it always seemed like I would easily end up “successful.” But I didn’t. Even YEARS later, I still struggled. Why was a capable, smart person who made good grades not “making it?” I didn’t know the answer and I felt like a failure. But I couldn’t see the key underlying issue, which had nothing to do with me – College success is about support.
Loan money is not the same thing as support. Taking out a loan to pay for school does not automatically put someone on equal footing with those who have family funding and/or scholarships. (There is a huge gap to fall into when it comes to qualifying for government help and full scholarships, which is where millions of students end up.)

From the first day of classes, I owed money, I was in the negative, I was already behind. Loans (plus a couple of small academic scholarships) didn’t even cover everything. A soda from the vending machine, putting gas in my car, buying a jacket – These could never be casual, everyday purchases because I was barely scraping by working side jobs as much as I could with a full class load. I was always very aware of what I was unable to do and what I couldn’t afford.

My main focus in college was always money. I loaded up my semesters with as many credits as possible, because every extra semester amounted to more debt. Extra time outside class was spent working, not joining clubs or making the kinds of connections I would need after school. Thinking about abstract things like career goals, five-year plans, or internships (working for free?!) was never even an option for me. A huge gulf developed between me and my peers. I wasn’t fun or social. I never went out or seemed happy. I was just there, barely making it with straight As. I focused on completing my classwork and nothing else mattered. The result was a lot of anxiety.

I never had a “parent’s basement” to move into. I borrowed money for college because my parents couldn’t afford to support me. They had their own financial struggles and four other kids at home. I couldn’t ask for much, and when I did need help, I felt guilty. During school, going “home for the holidays” meant sleeping on a couch, and my summers were spent living with whatever grandparent had an extra room. That’s just how it was for me. I was luckier than some but it never amounted to a support system. I never didn’t feel alone or scared. I remember saving for weeks around graduation and going without meals to pay for a new suit to wear to interviews, and that’s not exactly how you land your dream job.

A lack of support during college has affected my life in an enormous way. I didn’t realize how much personal growth I missed out on until years after college. I was aimless, anxious, and already in debt at graduation. It was the lowest time in my life. I hope student loan debt is an issue we, as a country, can find a solution for soon, before the majority of a generation venture off into adulthood playing catch-up. It’s just too hard.

Recently, I’ve been sharing my college experience more openly, not only because I have worked through a lot of issues from that time in my life, but also because I think it’s important to know that if you did have support for college, you’re experience wasn’t just financially more privileged, it was completely different.



Like almost all world sporting events, I am much more into the Olympics than I expected to be. (See: Me watching every World Cup match in 2014/15 despite only having a loose grasp on anything football.) I think Leslie Jones’ Twitter feed should get some credit for this, but I’m also just totally into how many amazing American women are competing.

Just to give a few examples: The World Champion U.S. Women’s Soccer Team is hoping to be the first team to win the Championship and the Olympic gold medal back-to-back. And, of course we have to talk about Simone Biles. Not since Kerri Strug’s Olympic moment (one of the greatest sports moments ever) in 1996 have I been this excited about U.S. gymnastics. Our team is GREAT, and Simone’s talent is just untouchable. She’s amazing .

Last night, Katie Ledecky smashed the world record and won the gold medal in the Women’s 400m freestyle. It was the greatest few minutes of “someone swimming in a pool” I’ve ever seen in my life.


It’s all very exciting and difficult for me to not end up on the edge of my couch cheering for these women. Of course everyone competing in Rio is an impressive super-human, but if you don’t think it’s harder for women to receive the respect they deserve as athletes, see this infuriating claim by NBC Olympics: Women aren’t really all that into sports. (Also see: life for women, in general.)

All this left me thinking…

🇺🇸 Go Team USA!

Photo Credits: Katie Ledecky via Rio Highlights from NPR & featured image of Simone Biles via this story on Elle
List: Other Titles for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

List: Other Titles for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

I’ve been slowly re-watching Buffy on Netflix. I’m on s05 now, or “The season where Buffy, again, proves she can still be even more awesome.” I really like Buffy.
Some alternate show titles I think are pretty accurate:

  • Giles Getting Knocked Out A Lot
  • Powerful Woman Puts Up With Everyone’s Incompetence
  • Teenage Girls Have Been Changing The World For Centuries
  • Yes, We Know The First Season Is Ridiculously Bad But Trust Us, It Gets Better
  • Don’t Get Too Attached To Angel…
  • If Buffy Is Not Your Favorite, What Are You Doing With Your Life?
  • Men Not Listening To Buffy For No Good Reason
  • Get Ready To Have Complicated Feelings About A Vampire Named Spike
Urban Jungle (not as cool as it sounds)

Urban Jungle (not as cool as it sounds)

I live very close to a main freeway, so every morning I wake up to the collective rumbling of commuter engines. At night, I often hear our neighbors opening/closing car doors, and driving in and out of our street until around midnight. Twice a week, the garbage and recycling trucks clunk loudly past my bedroom window around 5AM. And the sirens and people riding loud motorcycles (why are they so purposefully loud?) are consistent.

Austin is notorious for crowds, traffic, and construction (There is currently a major project going on around the building where I work –  jackhammers, diggers, the whole thing.), so these sounds have become an ubiquitous part of life, but increasingly harder to ignore. Lately I’ve noticed a constant sense of urgency in my brain, due to recent stress, that is heightened by all this urban buzzing. Frankly, I’m tired of it. Literally tired since I haven’t fully relaxed or gotten very good sleep in months (years?). It’s all making me want to pack a few bags and retire to an isolated cabin someplace where I can calm down and recharge. (Until I need a better internet connection.)


I was recently reminded of some time I spent in northern California a few years ago, visiting my brother outside of Santa Rosa. His house was very isolated on top of a hill surrounded by trees, so every morning I woke up to the sounds of absolutely nothing. (The only exception was the occasional wild turkey gobbling around the backyard.) It was jarring, surreal, and wonderful. I could really use some silent mornings.

Photo Credits: Alan Levine via Flickr (cool tilt-shift featured image of Austin) & Jace Cooke via Flickr (above cabin in the woods)

Ugh, He’s Right

I started my day with a stressful situation (the details are boring), followed by rushing off to work. Enter: bad mood. (It happens… maybe more than usual, lately.) It drained me throughout the day, so by the time I got home from work I didn’t have the energy to be negative anymore.

I took a deep breath & declared to my partner that I was not going to wallow in self-pity and that overall, I think, in spite of a lot going wrong lately, and a lot of stress, (cue Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down) I have done a really good job of trying to stay positive, rise above, and be productive.

Then I waited for him to say something reassuring to me about how, yeah, I have been handling it all pretty well and things will turn around for me soon.

giphythumbs up

But he didn’t say that.

He reminded me that no matter how much I ramble on about rising above all the struggle, I’m getting in my own way lately. And not believing my own positivity. And I should probably stop that. Sometimes, when I’m really struggling, I forget that even though a lot of it is out of my control, some of it still is.

He also reminded me I can get through this and there will be better times again.
Good talk.