Like Michael Arceneaux, I, Too, Recite the Student Loan Serenity Prayer.
This evening, I was sitting in the parking lot of ‘the place where my daughter works’ and decided to keep myself occupied by scrolling through my Twitter timeline. Since I arrived an hour early, I had time to kill. As I scrolled, I saw a tweet by @youngsinick about his upcoming NY Times Opinion piece, titled: The Student Loan Serenity Prayer and the doors of the church opened. Like Michael, I am a part of that generation that was strongly encouraged to attend college to land a ‘good job’, whatever that meant.
Although I am a little older, I remember being sold the dream of a better life through a college education. I was a proud member of Upward Bound program. Participants received tutoring throughout the school year, spent summers on the University of Notre Dame campus, and attended college fairs. This was the late 80s/early 90s. The Cosby Show and A Different World gave Black Americans (and the rest of y’all) a glimpse into the lives of upwardly mobile, upper-class, college-educated Black folks. It was amazing! Many of us looked forward to seeing a rich, Black family on tv every week, donning Hillman College gear, showcasing Jazz, Black art and history. Both shows were also instrumental in introducing a lot of people to HBCUs. Although I did not attend an HBCU, i was still one of the first
The Big Leap
Fast forward a couple of decades, I began teaching Special Education here in Georgia. Added to the challenges of being a new teacher, I moved here with my kids; no family and a very small network. I was determined as hell to leave South Bend and make a life for us here.
After working a few years in one district, I secured a teaching job and coaching position in another. Little did I know that I was jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire of working in a small, racist school system. Long story short: A formal complaint was filed against this district (several times) on behalf of my son. We ended-up leaving the district and I found another teaching job, until all the administrators refused to provide the required references for me to teach elsewhere.
So, January 2007 started my 4-year stint of unemployment. During that time, I applied for hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs. I applied for retail jobs because I had many years’ experience in that field. Nothing happened. I even applied to work as a Substitute Teacher and Paraprofessional. Eventually, I did the only thing I thought was a sure thing: I went back to school to pursue an Ed.S. in Curriculum and Instruction. My thinking: Having another advanced degree in Education would definitely open some doors, right? NOPE!
I decided, or the circumstances decided for me, that I would pursue an Ed.D. He’ll, why not? Also: I had to feed my kids and provide shelter, etc., etc., etc. There were no job prospects so there were no other viable options. So, I’m rolling along in this program, kicking a$$ with my research and writing when the bottom dropped out: I had reached the maximum borrower amount on student loans. To add insult to injury: I only needed to finish six or seven classes.
Today, I am facing six-figure student loan debt. I used to lose sleep over the enormity of that realization. I have more days where IDGAF because when I’m gone, it’s gone. If things go as planned, my kids will attend college abroad and I will be able to pay the tuition in cash.