Saturday, June 03, 2006

I know it's great to be agonizing over these kinds of issues...


...but still, I do wish I didn't have to agonize at all.

I've got like 4 things bothering the mess outta me just now.

My main issue is that Columbia University costs so much that I'm having to decide if the debt is worth the anguish of being in that debt. I'm talking about $600 or $700 per month loan bills after I graduate. I'm talking, get a $80,000/yr job or a sugar daddy or a way to pay it off, or else. I'm talking, take the debt or have a family type decision, here.

This is because my fear is the worst case scenario: that I take on all this debt and then can't pay it back. This is a nerve-wracking thing to me. As Mikah said to me yesterday, "You're your own worst enemy," and I already knew what she meant before she said that. I get so afraid of the possibilities of greatness or failure that I don't even try, sometimes. I really really don't want that to be what stops me from taking advantage of this opportunity.

But another part of the issue is that I can't step back. I can't see the forest for the trees, here. At this point in time I have no perspective. I want to go so bad that I'm like, "to hell with the costs, give me a loan so I can make the most of the experience and then pay it back through working in IHS". That's what I've decided to do so far, but then the whole "One-Hundred-Thousand-Dollars-For-Just-Two-Years" thought goes through my head, or I wonder what happens if I don't get into the public health corps or the IHS, and I can't sleep.

So, I ask for and listen to advice...

Nene: "Why do you want to go to Columbia?".... (listens to the answer) "Okay, then go. It's just money. If New York is THE place to get the best training in this and a good place for you to live, and you've already got into the school, then go... I have some friends up there who may be able to put you in contact wth some places that can help with financial aid a bit... " etc. etc.

Mama (this is at various points over a two-year time span): You don't have to go to Columbia. Why is it that you don't want to go to Emory? (listens to the answers) It's a very, very expensive school, daughter. We don't have any family in New York. And you don't have to do this now. I sense an urgency on your part. But no one in our family has gone to an Ivy league school, and we're all doing fine. That kind of school, at that kind of cost, isn't necessary. Not for black folks. I know you're putting value on the name. And I know the school is excellent for what you want to study. We-your father and I- we can't help you if you go. I didn't go to an Ivy League school, and I didn't get my doctorate, and I don't think that makes any difference to the people I have helped in my lifetime. But get your teaching license first- I say that's why you went to Puerto Rico. Have something you can fall back on. Wait- study something else. Do you realize what kind of loan payments you'll be making? What job prospects do you have? You don't have to go to Columbia. You don't have to go there. You don't have to go now. etc. etc.

Umesh: (lilting Indian/Briton accent, here) Since you asked me, I do not think you should go. Look at me- I got a scholarship, and now I am struggling to stay inside the country. And I'm not taking any high-paying job. I went to the school that is the poorest in [pricey Ivy League school], it doesn't pay much. So I am very frugal. [ahem skin-and-bones frugal] That is an opportunity that may come again, but the cost is not worth it. I think not. You should wait, and teach in the meantime. etc. etc.

Magali : This is your dream, man. I mean, I'm not in your position. But you're not an extravagant person, you don't have expensive taste. You know how to save. The real decision, from what you've told me, is between going with your dream and taking debt, which we know makes you crazy, or not going with your dream and living with berating yourself for the next 5 years and regretting it and not knowing what to do instead. That's the real decision. Forget everything else and make that decision. That's what I think counts.

Vee (my sister and thus party to all decisions all the time): No! Don't even tell me you're thinking about not going! There are people in our family who have money that will give it to you for your education. (listens while i explain that our mother has said that her family would tell me go to a cheaper school- tis a given that our fathers side has enough for themselves and not much more) Look. Sister. You're the first person in our family to go to an Ivy League school. even if the family doesn't help you, you've been talking about this for 3 or 4 years now. You know what? You have to go. (over my protests about the costs and the fact that I'd want even more education later) You have to go. You told me this would happen. Do you remember? You said that one day you would find a way to talk yourself out of going, and that I have to come and kick you and make you go. I'll help you. Or just take the loans. But you have to go. You can't give up on your dream.

Mikah:You know, the first thing is, that that is a LOT of money. Think of what that did to you at GW. Think what happened when you were in Puerto Rico and not making any money. You got sick. That tore your body down. The past is a great indicator for the future. Can you be studying and working at the same time and earn enough for your incidental expenses without getting sick?
The other thing is, that when we're in our early twenties, we always think that we have to act right now, jump on it so that this opportunity will not pass us by.
But there's no rush, Twenny! So you'll have to go through the application process again. That's okay. I know you want your dream and you don't want to step away from it right now. But if you got in, and they want you there, then you belong there. So you can apply again and assume you'll get in. In order for you do this, you need do do proper planning, so that it doesn't stress you. And a good deal of your problem is that you haven't planned enough. Have faith that if God wants this for you it will happen, and wait on his timing. Anything you start half-assed is just half-assed. Don't set yourself up for a cycle of failure. etc. etc.
Yeah. So advice is all over the place. I can almost break it into generational categories: BabyBoomers = don't go. GenX/GenNext: forget the money, follow your dream.

What else is bothering me?

Well, I don't have a job. And I'm about to change my name and I don't want to talk to my family about it b/c they've shown themselves to be opposed to it. Oh, and I'm about to be twennyfive with no marriage prospects in sight, and I live with my aunt.

These are all great things to be worried about, masha'Allah. Today, at least, I'm not worried about where my next meal is coming from, or that the house is going to fall in on my head. I'm not sick, thank God. I can help my friends and laugh and know that none of this is the end of the world. Still, horses for courses. This is my life, and so these are the things I worry about.

Shouts to my friends, esp. Sherry- I've got your messages, and I miss you, and I'll be calling you soon.



  1. Salam alaikoum
    I am a product of a state school and loved it. I don't think the debt is worth it and I don't think it makes much difference on the job market these days. When I graduated, I didn't owe them a cent. That is a good feeling, compared to people I know who have 300k hanging over their heads for going to name brand schools.

  2. You're changing your name?