This year marks my decade on a number of milestones. I’ve now been married ten years and change. And it’s been a few months longer than that since I graduated from Connecticut College with a Double Major in English and Medieval Studies. It’s brought to mind because this month marks the very final time that Sallie Mae is authorized to take a chunk of change out of my checking account. It’s funny, that a form letter with a strongly serif font, printed in black and white, actually inspired a number of emotions in me.
First and foremost of course, is satisfaction. It’s nice to finish things. To finish paying off a debt, that’s extra nice. And then there’s the fact that I get a little bit more money now. (Not that much more. Thanks to good stewardship in the pre-kid era, I’d prepayed a significant amount of the loan and halved the payment from what it was originally.) And finally, I confess, I have a little chagrin that I’ve never gone back to school – not for even the smallest class. I vacillate between being slightly embarrassed by my lack of graduate degree and going through the logic again that shows it’s a sensible decision for me. In many programming careers, work experience is more valuable that education. Education is how you break in, but once you’re in it doesn’t matter as much.
I got to thinking, though, about what I’d gotten for that debt incurred. In serious retrospect, I think it was a superb investment in all the ways that matter. From a career investment point of view, I have no complaints about the career I’ve had so far, or about the opportunities for advancement that I have. In a surprising turn of events (another post for another day) I’ve even started to use some of those hard-won analysis and writing skills!
But those four years in college gave me some of the most important things in my life. For starters, and in the obvious camp, I met my husband there. That relationship has been the foundation on which so much of the rest of my life (and my joy!) has been built. I made many of the friends who still roll around for Mocksgiving and Piemas. Connecticut College gave me “Make We Joy” and Chaucer (at the same time – I’ve associated Chaucer with Christmas ever since). I wandered its hallowed greens under the faint luminescence of the Hale-Bopp comet, freezing time to memory. I read American Literature basking in the sun on the roof of Smith, becoming increasingly dismayed that Robert Service was completely unrepresented! I discovered that a hatred of science and mathematics was not actually inevitable for the literary-minded. I worshiped in a small, meaningful service on Wednesday nights with the faithful few. I learned how to write. I learned how to read. I learned that grilled bagels are way better than toasted bagels and had lobster for the first time ever.
In retrospect, my college experience lived up to the billing, and I’d likely be one of those nostalgic alumni who wandered through the gray-stoned campus stopping to tell sophomores to enjoy it because it’s the best four years of your life! … if I didn’t remember how alien and obnoxious those interlopers are to the currently-being-educated.
Staring at that last bill, I am completely satisfied with the investment I (and my parents) made and would decline to return the product, even if that was offered. I only wish my car loan and mortgage carried the same sense of satisfaction!