College Paid Off

On December 7th, a payment of $34.22 will free me of the last of my student loans.

I graduated college in 1997, meaning it’s taken around 14 1/2 years to pay off that education.  And holy crap, is it ever a liberating feeling.  Just thinking about it makes me a little giddy.  Heh.

Being that I now work at a college, a few of my student workers asked me if they thought it was worth it.  Valid concern.  After all, they paying upwards of $40,000/year to attend college and their prospects on the other side aren’t looking so hot.

Circa 1997

Yeah, there’s some difference.  In ’97, tuition was $18,500 (source) and my job prospects weren’t impacted by a global recession on the scale of the great depression.  But knowing what I know now, here’s my answer:

  • While signing up for Freshman year classes, my adviser suggested I enroll in a class called African Ethnomusiology.
  • The people I met and what I learned in that that class sparked an interest in African History and in turn an eventual major in African American Studies (along with my English w/Creative Writing major).
  • I met many of my best friends during my Freshman and Sophomore years of college.
  • During my Junior year I met the woman who would become my wife.
  • My Creative Writing professor and Senior Paper advisor was a published author who gave me my first insight into the world of writing outside of school.
  • I wrote my first novella while at college.  I still have it.  It doesn’t completely suck.
  • When I graduated, my writing skills and ability to translate complicated technology issues into plain speak led to unique job opportunities, which led me to moving to Cedar Rapids.
  • Living in Cedar Rapids meant I was able to meet the local writer’s group, the Noble Pen.
  • The Noble Pen inspired me to write my first novel – Asymonte.
  • The same day I was laid off following an ugly hostile takeover, I applied for a job at Luther.  Being an alumni played no small role in me getting the job.
  • Getting that job meant moving back to Decorah, a town I love living in.
  • Being in Decorah took me away from the distractions of the city and gave me the impetus to fine tune Asymonte and submitted to an open world contest held by Wizards of the Coast (publishers of Dungeons and Dragons).
  • Sending out Asymonte garnered a personalized rejection that let me know I was close, on the verge of breaking through, so I kept at it.
  • In an effort to break through, I submitted an application to the Viable Paradise workshop in 2009.  And I was accepted.

    Circa 2011
  • At Viable Paradise, I met a ton of new writer friends and became friends with a number of published authors and editors, including some of my personal heroes.
  • Following Viable Paradise, I finished my second novel (Genie Memories) and it’s now out making the rounds.  I’m starting my third novel.

And as I finish this blog post, I’ll be stepping out into the kitchen of my home in Decorah to help my wife make dinner.

So yes, I’d say that college was worth it.