When you hear today’s date, what do you think about? Is it the Berlin Wall that once separated West from East Germany? If so, you’re probably some weird nerd because today’s date has nothing to do with the Berlin Wall. BUT if you do want to be reminded of that concrete embankment that was all over the high school history book that you never actually read, then take a look at your college degree and your loan statements. As I wipe the single tear from my face and burn the Nelnet letter reminding me that I have a month until my loan deferment plan is up, I now understand a terrifying reality. A reality that my parents never shared with me, likely due to gleeful ignorance. A reality that the university system never shared with me because…..why? A reality that everybody, to this day, continues to throw a white blanket over like a poorly planned halloween costume. Ironically, this reality gets treated like that ghost (read: KKK) costume-wearing kid would get treated in the middle of South Central Los Angeles. What reality is that? To make a long story short, LOANS SUCK….but I didn’t start a blog in order to make long stories short. I came here to make short stories…and long stories longer. So, I’ll begin.
It was a hot ass day in July. I decided I was going to UCLA. I went on a full-ride. Even if I hadn’t gotten a full-ride…whatever.
It was a slightly cooler day in December or something. I decided I was going to get my Master degree. I didn’t get a single goddamn scholarship. After a little worrying and some reassurance from my family, I said “Eff it. It’ll pay off.”
It’s a ball-chillingly cold day in November. For me, “ball-chilling” is about 60 degrees. Any who, today, I finally realized what I had been doing for the last two years. Something that quite a few of my fellow scholarly ’80s and ’90s babies had been doing as well. At 22, many others at 18, I packed up my things, got into my 1998 Honda Accord, and drove right through the checkpoint from West Berlin into the cold, grey, enslavement of East Germany.
Now I know what you’re saying. “But Marques! Technically West Berlin is geographically located in East Germany.” Yea, whatever. You get the point I’m making. In case you don’t, here’s what I’m saying.
The Berlin Wall was wall. It was in Berlin. It was REALLY difficult to get past. The Soviets in East Germany built it. Now, using the American side of my brain, I would conclude that the Soviets wanted to keep the nasty, icky, lazy, free-loading West Berliners out. And because it’s the American side of my brain, I am somehow correct, even though that answer would be wrong. The Soviets built the Berlin Wall to keep East Berliners from escaping crappy ass, Soviet-run East Berlin into the cool capitalist oasis that was West Berlin at the time. If you hate capitalism, that’s cool…but it’s pretty clear now that West Berlin was way better than East Berlin. Blame Obama. Anyway, that’s a new way to think about walls, right? Keep things in instead of out. Ask our old friend Ron Paul, and he’d say a Mexican border fence is probably to keep Americans IN after the inevitable dollar collapse and blah and blah and blah. I blah’d that not because I don’t agree with it, but because it’s not what I’m talking about here.
I’m talking about STUDENT LOANS. *waits for the gasps to subside*.
Your student loans are the University system and- instead of “society” let’s call it- the MAN’s Berlin Wall. Again, I know exactly what you’re saying. “Why is it always a MAN’s fault? You sexist.” Well, it’s a metaphorical man. You might also be saying “Come on, bro. College is great. Stop trying to make kids not go to college.” And to that I would reply “Shut up……”
I literally just emailed an applying college student some tips and advice about the application process. “Don’t Do It!” Lol just kidding. By the way, if you’re a High Schooler and you’re reading this, get a scholarship, please!
Back to the whole Berlin Wall thing. The Berlin Wall was built by the Soviets, who had a lot of pent-up aggression and even more just natural “We hate Germans”-ness, to make sure that their little German Communist project wouldn’t turn into something similar to one of those empty North Korean fun towns.
In order to make sure that people didn’t just do what normal, smart people would do if they lived in a crappy area with a big fence keeping them away from the not crappy area (hint: Jump over the fence), the Soviets outlawed Black people. ZING! But really, they did some screwed up stuff. They put barbed wire all over the wall. They built the wall in layers, so it wasn’t just one wall you had to get through. They posted armed androids (read: normal Soviet soldiers) in towers to shoot anybody trying to cross. And they maintained a massive surveillance program to watch dissidents, their families, and anybody who didn’t like East Berlin (read: almost everybody). All this, just to keep people from…ESCAPING!
Flash forward to my bank account. $0.43. But this isn’t about me, it’s about we. Under the crushing weight of my new-found poverty, the bone-cracking pressure of my persistent unemployment, and the impending doom that is the end of my student loan deferment, I contemplated ways to…wait for it…ESCAPE my current predicament. It was to my own astonishment that I realized, Sallie Mae definitely would have let Black people into East Berlin, because that’s where I am right now. Before the prospect of a lifetime of debt repayments truly hit me, I had pretty lofty ideals. I wanted to save the endangered Orca whales, stop global warming, and end world hunger. Not to hot on world peace, I wouldn’t want the history channel to run out of programming. But I was genuinely a happy person with the light of the world shining down upon him. Then the bulb blew out and they handed me my degree. But not until after I took my loan exit interview. *DEEP SIGH* OK sorry, sorry, Berlin Wall. Ok, once I realized that Free Willy was already dead, I started to think about how I was going to pay these goddamn loans back. 107,000 job applications later, and these were to places that I actually want to work, I started contemplating McDonald’s. I’m NOT doing McDonald’s. But then it hit me. If you want me to anything, then the last thing you can have is me doing what I want. If you want me to stick around and make sure that I do the jobs that keep you rich, you have to make sure that I NEED YOUR MONEY. It amazed me how quickly the tables had turned. I acquired the debt because I wanted to be rich, now I had to consider menial jobs because I was so poor….and in debt. (Not blaming anybody, it’s my fault….bro). But you see, that’s when I knew that I was in East Berlin. Not physically, but METAphysically…or Metaphorically. Whichever one works.
At that moment, I said “Eff this. No McDonald’s, no Burger King. Not even a part-time $15/hr job.” Why? Because I’m a prideful asshole. I worked those jobs for the last 6 years BEFORE I had two degrees. Screw you. But what were my other options? I figured I could rob a bank and pay off those loans real quick…But I’d probably end up shot a lot quicker. Run an elaborate scam to trick the masses into pouring money into my pockets? That’s still a work in progress. Get hit by a Brinks truck and sue the shit out of them? I haven’t seen a Brinks truck in months. Then, finally I arrived at the most sensible, logical, and easiest solution. Liev…Schrieber…Become an actor like Liev Schreiber. Never mind, my jawline isn’t manly enough.
Leave! I should just leave. I don’t want to pay my student loans. My unemployment status says that I CAN’T pay my student loans. I have a bit of an outdoorsman bent. And I don’t really like anybody. I should just leave society behind and trek off into the wilderness to live on my own terms. As I imagined my life among the bears and deer, a warmth and happiness that I had long forgotten returned to me. It was quickly suppressed my an email from Nelnet with the reminder that I owed approximately a shit ton of student loans. My common sense notified me that there was no way that they would let me just not pay this money back. I began to wonder.
Ok, I’m late on my first student loan payment. So what, i’m in a log cabin by myself. I can handle a few extra emails per week. I default on the loans. So what, I’ve already decided I’m not going to pay. Why would I care about extra penalties? My credit score plunges. Credit Shmedit, I’m living in a goddamn cabin. Debtor’s prison is outlawed in the US. They can’t lock me up for it…I think. Then the Soviet KGB hit me right where it hurt the most. My mind raced back through the entire loan process. All the paperwork. All the “interviews” to make sure I knew what the hell I was doing. Finding all of those addresses for references and….COSIGNERS! Oh shit. Sallie Mae says “The cosigner is equally responsible for the loan obligation.” That sounds to me like “Pay me my goddamn money or I’ll kill your entire goddamn family!” At that point, I shed another single tear, rolled up my blueprints, put away my C4 explosives, and gave up on any attempt at escape. The Berlin Wall was too much for me to handle.
Ironic that I can’t even just leave forever without dooming whoever I had cosign those damn loans. It wouldn’t even be a cool Bourne Identity situation where I get to be on the run from the CIA. They’d just say “Screw it, charge his dad.” or something like that. So now, I’m locked in. No escape. No job (that I want). No way to pay (without taking some soul-sucking position to keep someone else’s dream alive)…….Oh wait, never mind, the answer’s simple…millennials need to be entrepreneurs.
Every single one of us. (Yuck at saying “us”. I hate the term millennial.)