It’s the last day of 2013, which means everyone and their cat is posting an end of year review. I’m not going to do that but I will say that I’m thrilled with how this year shaped up – the travel, launching my ebook, raising money to send a high school student abroad, working with UNC-CH and K-12 schools around the world, becoming location-independent part-time nomad, getting ready to host the #globallife2014 Summit – I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing.
But…out of the things I’ve accomplished this year there’s one in particular that I’m most proud of. And it’s probably not what you’d expect. 21 years in the making, it’s something that seemed so impossible for so long. Until last week.
The accomplishment? I paid off my student loans.
Graduating with a mountain of debt is pretty common these days but back when I signed my first promissory note in 1992 I felt like I was the only one in the world signing my life away to get an education.
While I was terrified to borrow so much money at such a young age, I was grateful that the loans made it possible for me to attend college, spend my junior year in Germany, and only work part-time. (They also made me realize that I shouldn’t have blown off high school and should have applied for some scholarships.)
What I remember most, as I signed my first promissory note, is feeling a huge sense of determination that my student loan debt would NEVER stand in the way living a global life. I had zero idea as to how I was ever going to live the life I imagined for myself with a decade+ of monthly payments twice the amount of my rent, but I was determined nonetheless.
For the past 21 years those loans have been a part of my life. They’ve never been far from my mind, even during the 9 or so years they were in deferment when I was in grad school. It was really hard, at first, to not feel crushed under the weight of potentially limited opportunities. But you know what? I don’t regret that student loan debt one bit.
Sure, I think about all of the places I could have funneled that money over the years (my mortgage, retirement, a new car, a trip around the world…) but those loans enabled me to go to college, which enabled me to teach abroad, which enabled me to get into grad school, which enabled me to work in international education, which enabled me to travel, consult, teach, and start SPS.
What I’m most proud of is that I didn’t let those loans stand in the way of going after my global dreams. I’ll be honest – it wasn’t easy. When I decided to move back to Germany to teach English after graduating from college, I wondered if I was making a huge mistake. I had one job lead and my loans were set to go back into repayment a couple months after I arrived.
You know what? It worked out. I found many more teaching jobs and earned enough money to make my loan payments and still live comfortably. After that, things got easier. I got used to the space my student loans occupied in my life and I resented them less and less, as my determination turned into confidence that I could live the life I wanted and pay back my loans.
The experience of having to figure out how to do the things I wanted to do while not defaulting on my loans helped me develop creativity, determination, and perseverance. I’m now really, really good at figuring out how to make crazy, unrealistic dreams a reality.
Nothing is standing in the way of living your ideal global life. You may have to get creative, and things may turn out differently than you expect, but you can live the global life you’re dreaming of. And I’m here to help. 🙂
Happy New Year’s Eve!