It took a long time. But, I finally finished paying off my student loans.
The first student loan I took out was in 1996. I had moved back home from taking part in Katimavik and was feeling pretty lost. My best friend had flunked out of University of Manitoba and was also pretty lost.
Together we moved to Brandon, Manitoba to make our fortune.
She worked at Moxie’s Restaurant.
I worked at Northern Reflections.
Which I got by pure luck. I had dropped off about 50 resumes and I had enough money to pay my half of the first month’s rent which was $250. My other friend also worked in the mall and got me this job. I am still so grateful to her for it. I was a mess. I didn’t know what I was going to do if I couldn’t find a job. Luckily, I was able to secure 21 hours a week during the Christmas season.
Our parents gave us nothing.
And I mean that. They really tough loved us.
Then out of the blue one day, my friend’s Dad gave her a car valued at $400. It was a pure piece of shit. But, we were so happy for it.
Our couch was a used mattress.
Our furniture was from an auction sale.
Our meals were frozen peas and perogies, because they were the cheapest things to buy at IGA.
I even have a memory of the 2 of us sitting in the house crying because we had nothing.
Sure, I get how this must sound dramatic. I mean, we had jobs. We had an apartment. We had a bit of money for beer.
But, we were a bit broken.
We were lost.
We were 19 and instead of being excited about our future, we were scared shitless that we weren’t going to have a future.
It was at this time, I realized that I had to go to University. I couldn’t keep living like this and I knew that things would be okay, because I could get a student loan.
Which was probably my first mistake.
I understand that Student Loans were in place for that reason, for kids who had nothing, but wanted to go to school. But, I was a kid who had nothing and didn’t want to go to school.
I started my first semester in January.
I hated it.
I had never been more lonely in my life. First year University sucks. It is so isolating. You sit in big lecture theatres and no one talks to you. There are no group projects. You just take notes and hope to hell that it all makes sense when you get home.
The only class I liked at Brandon University was theatre and that was because we would go to SUDS after for draft beer.
I didn’t spend my student loan on stupid stuff. Mostly, food and beer. I also still had my job at Northern Reflections, miraculously after Boxing Day, they let most of the Christmas staff go, but kept me. Which made NO sense to me at the time, I was a terrible folder of clothes, but I was excellent at chatting and laughing.
I passed enough courses that semester to enroll again the next year and to secure another year of a Student Loan that would ensure that I didn’t have to move back in with my parents and that I was doing something with my life- I was going to school.
I found a couple of courses I liked including Geography, Theater and Music Appreciation. But, I failed basic stuff like English and Intro to Psych.
To my credit, I failed Intro to Psych because it was an evening class on Monday’s, which was also the same night that Melrose Place was on t.v. We didn’t have a VCR.
That is my funny answer, the real answer is that the buses quit running to my part of the city at a certain time. Sometimes I missed the bus by seconds and had to walk down Pacific and First to get home. Yup. I had to walk 1st along the Assiniboine River right by the jail, to get to my apartment.
I think it was 1st. I don’t remember. It was dark and scary and cold.
I didn’t apply to University the next September.
But, I did have to apply to have a freeze put on my Student Loans after the given “grace period”.
I spent the next three years working minimum wage jobs, just to get by.
And it didn’t suck.
I learned a lot about myself during this time. This is the time that my parents really helped me out. They lent me my Dad’s truck for 2 years. I would give them extra money whenever I had it to thank them. It meant the world to me.
But, I was still pretty lost.
I knew that I had to go back to school and at 23, I went to college to study Radio Broadcasting. I knew I had to get a Student Loan, so I decided to apply to every single radio school in Canada. I mean, hey, if I had to get a Student Loan, I may as well go somewhere interesting.
Somewhere interesting ended up being Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario.
It was the only school that accepted me.
I lived on campus in the residence.
I drank my face off.
I ate out all the time.
I had a blast with my friends.
I loved school.
It was the best thing that had ever happened to me.
While I was there, I never once worried about money.
I never once worried about having to pay that money back.
Until I did have to pay that money back.
We both did.
You see, at this point, I had met Zed and we had fallen in love and got married. And just like me, Zed had a Student Loan from a previous attempt at College. He also took Radio Broadcasting at Canadore College and had a student loan for 2 years.
We graduated in 2002.
Thankfully with jobs.
Radio Broadcasting is a low paying career. It is a fun career. You get a ton of free stuff. But, you are not going to get rich at your first job. My first full time radio gig paid me $1600 a month.
It is 2017.
It’s finally behind us.
It took us each 15 years to pay off our Student Loans. That is not including the few years that we each tried to pay the minimum payments from our first attempts at secondary schooling. Some years we were able to pay $800 a month. Other months we could only pay $117.
Do I regret getting Student Loans?
Yes and No.
No, because I needed them at the time to help me discover what I wanted to do with my life. I am thankful for that. Without that loan, I wouldn’t have been in radio school, I wouldn’t have met Chris (Zed) , I wouldn’t have had a great career.
Yes, because I never thought I would be paying off our student loans while also contributing to our RRSP and our children’s RESP. The weight of the loans have been heavy. The debt was exhausting.
We have worked hard for what we have. We just bought our first new vehicle. Our kids have never been to the ocean or Disneyland. Last year we bought new couches to replace the ones we bought for a case of beer in 2002.
I don’t mean to complain or dump my first world problems on you. We made these choices. We do lots of cool stuff. We go to great places, we go out to eat, we have new snowsuits and so on. We also didn’t rush to pay the Student Loans off like we did with our credit cards. We chose to carry them, I get that.
But, having those Student Loans hanging over us has affected our quality of life.
I don’t want my kids to go through what we went through.
Don’t get me wrong, I want them to have to pay for some of their schooling. But, I don’t want them to be weighed down by Student Loans for 20 years.
I’m not mad at our parents.
I’m not mad at the Student Loans program.
But, something should have been done better.
Maybe our parents could have helped us out more.
Maybe we shouldn’t have been given so much money.
Maybe I shouldn’t have boozed so much of it away.
Maybe we should have had part time jobs.
Maybe a course on the responsibility of Student Loans would have helped.
But, we were young. I don’t imagine that any of those things would have helped. We had to figure it out for ourselves.
It basically comes down to this.
We needed them, they helped us, we learned from it.
So we did it, we finally paid off our Student Loans.
Only 8 more years until our daughter gets her own.