When my husband and I got married decades ago, he was three years away from graduating from college. So he went to school (in addition to his full-time job) and I worked full-time to help him get by. We made a pact that we would never go into debt for his schooling. Since the money we earned together wasn’t enough to cover school and living expenses, we also saved and cut back in countless creative places.
I started a garden and bottled everything in it plus whatever other produce I could find, either cheap or free. I sewed my own clothes from fabrics from the waste bin. I made jewelry to sell in the hospital gift shop. In addition to his first job and full-time school, my husband has also taken on a second job. I have supplemented my full-time job with writing, editing and babysitting on the side.
We lived so cheap. Our accounting process was easy. In the desk drawer were envelopes for each category: rent, utilities, food, car, and so on. If an envelope was empty, it stayed that way until the next payday. I’ve learned new ways to liven up beans, pasta and rice. Meat was a treat.
Our first child was born in the third year of our marriage. Our one-bedroom apartment became two bedrooms when we turned the tiny living room into her children’s room. Welcome to our home; There’s the couch, just squeeze past the crib. It was what we had so it was enough.
A couple of times my husband took a semester off to do extra work because we couldn’t afford the tuition plus books, fees, etc.
In his last tenure, we didn’t have enough to pay for his tuition. So close yet so far! As we have done many times before, we prayed for a miracle. It happened – albeit not in the way we expected. Someone drove into our little car and crushed the back end of it. It was still going well – if personal pride wasn’t an issue. The insurance check from the crash covered last semester’s tuition. We drove to his graduation in a broken down car, euphoric that we finally made it.
We were thankful for so many things including employment which allowed us to earn the money we needed even though in today’s economy our income would be meager. But the school costs at that time corresponded to the income at that time. His college knowledge aside, we also learned that if we stay connected to our purpose and to each other, we can get through just about anything. He devoted his time to his schoolwork while I devoted my time to supporting him. We earned this degree together and completed this academic framework with no student debt.
Guess how excited I am now to be forced to pay off other people’s college debt?
I can already hear the opposition’s arguments screaming. I would just ask her, did you take part-time jobs? Did you interrupt your schooling to earn enough to avoid debt? Have you been saving and toiling and giving up squeezing out every dime you had? Did you grow your own food, sew your own clothes, and live on beans and rice? Have you put pride and expectation aside? When you started your apprenticeship, did you swear that you would never go into debt? Did you end up driving to your start with a broken car?
In a recent conversation, I overheard a young friend explain why it was okay to have thousands of dollars of his student debt written off because the other political party had recently forgiven corporate debt. I asked when two mistakes become one right. He had no answer.
The sadder part, however, is what this has done to him. I listen to his diatribe and realize it’s nothing more than verbal fluff in my ears because I now see him as “bought.” Of course, he will speak eloquently about the current government’s decisions – these and others. And of course, to me, everything he says is a paid political announcement. Paid by me.
A great loss is borne by any person who is deprived of their chance to walk through fire to achieve a goal. A tough challenge builds character, develops integrity, and creates the kind of person we want to become.
My young friend was robbed just like me.
D Louise Brown lives in Layton. She writes a biweekly column for The Standard Examiner.