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Post-debt life

On February 5, 2021, a mere 10 years and 6 months since I finished law school, and 17 years and six months since undergrad, my student loans are paid off. I feel like I should feel...more.

I feel like I should feel more, generally, in life right now. I suppose that is the natural result of 11 months in lockdown. But I have spent so much time thinking about my student loans. I have cursed those loans, cursed myself for deciding to go to law school, made meticulous plans about how to get them gone, refinanced them, pored over my financial spreadsheet. For so long, a portion of my mindshare, conscious or not, has been processing those loans.

It feels strange to have them gone. Not like a limb that's been severed, but like a weight that had been tied around my ankle being dragged around like an anchor to a seafaring vessel had suddenly been untied.

I should want to celebrate, but celebrations right now seem gross with so much loss around me. Right now having a stable job is a thing to celebrate, I don't want to be a braggart with my spoils.

But what also feels disingenuous about my loan payoff is that it wasn't me. My husband's company had a good year. Because of that, we were able to throw one fell swoop of a payment at the remaining 5 figures.

Did I want more pain? The additional 3 years of large, but individual payments?

Why does it feel less meaningful because it was due to my husband's company's success? We have entirely joint finances in every other respect, this wasn't a loan or a gift. It was our money used to pay my debt. It wasn't infantilizing on his part; it was meant to liberate us from that obligation.

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around why it feels less momentous.

But I do know that it has opened up so many possibilities. I am not longer handcuffed to the highest paying, most soul crushing, opportunities in order to satisfy the gods of student debt. I can actually entertain the idea of going to work for a non-profit company. I can take a less demanding job that actually ends at 5 pm and doesn't take my weekends so that I can focus on writing in my spare time without being mentally exhausted. And what a gift that is.

Maybe the feelings will come. Maybe it will be next month when the money that got automatically pulled from our account each month is still there. Or maybe it's okay that they don't. Maybe that elation is just a "should" that has been planted in my head and isn't for me. And maybe, instead, living out the possibilities of what the disappearance of the loans has enabled is enough.


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