The Secret to Paying Off Student Loans

SEPTEMBER 10, 2015

post-graduate-emily-long

I wandered through college not knowing what I wanted to do. An endless reel of questions plagued my mind at any given time: What major would be most marketable? What major would I enjoy most? What major is still a possibility, given that I’m already a junior?

I envied the students taking pre-med classes, the ones who had a firm grasp upon their dreams. How could these people be so sure? There were either a million things I wanted to do with my life, or zero. Regardless how I felt – which changed with the hands on my wall clock – there was never any certainty. I had entered college with one major and switched within two months. Even as I began my senior year, an English major with an odd collection of minors, I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

More than anything, and with increasing ferocity, I regretted not taking a gap year between high school and college. “I would have a clear vision of my future,” I told myself countless times, “if I had just taken a year to think it all through.” But by the time I had these thoughts it was too late. I had taken the plunge, taken on debt, and wasn’t about to halt the motion.

In December 2013, I graduated. I had already decided – to my father’s great dismay – I would be looking for nanny jobs. He considered this a waste of a fresh and costly college degree, but I looked upon the experience as a delayed version of the gap year I desired. I planned to take the job for just twelve months, and use that time to figure out what came next.

Within a few weeks of my graduation, I began working for a single mother, watching her two daughters as she served as CFO for an international company. Not only did I have the utmost respect for my boss, but I loved her children and enjoyed going to work, too. We’d have dance parties, go to the pool, ride bikes – in what other job can you spend your days doing such things? The position served as the perfect escape from classroom and office, which was exactly what I needed.

In just twelve months time, I created relationships that could probably never be matched in a typical work setting. Not only did I walk away with a reputable reference, but also a friend and role model. My former boss showed me how to be a strong woman, and how to bestow that
strength upon her young daughters.

The girls I watched day-to-day instilled a sense of purpose in myself; they acted as my dedicated fans, loving me with sincerity that no officemate could have achieved. They wrote short stories for me, crafted priceless handmade cards for every holiday, and exemplified impressive gusto on my birthday.

At times I was embarrassed to talk about my job. People would ask, “So, what are you doing these days?” and I’d hide behind the title of “Freelance writer.” I didn’t brag about my job on social media and I shied away from the topic in casual conversations.

Despite my mild shame, however, I made more money than a lot of my friends. I was paid very handsomely, saved smartly, and – in just twelve months – put my college debt to rest. I used the extra time – when the girls were in school – to complete freelance writing assignments for resume content and extra cash.

And, as intended, I contemplated my next life move. Deep and thorough self-reflection led me to the Study Materials section of Barnes and Noble, where I purchased five different LSAT prep books. Now, a few months later, I have a full ride to law school.

Without taking that year to relax and reflect, I’m not sure any of this would have played out as it did. If I had taken the office job I was offered – the single “normal” job I applied for after college – would I be going to law school? Would I have had so much fun at my workplace? While I can’t be totally sure how things would have gone, I can tell you this: I have no regrets regarding my post-grad job choice. It was nothing to be ashamed of, and certainly not a waste of a degree.

I jumped into college because that was what everyone else was doing. I wasn’t going to make that same mistake again. By taking the post-grad route that I deemed appropriate for myself, and by shaking off the naysayers, I ended up here. As far as I’m concerned (which is really all that matters), this is right where I’m supposed to be.

(Photo by Emily Long)

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