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My #CancelMyDebt story starts when I was 16. I graduated 2nd in my class a year early & wanted to pursue a degree in journalism.

There was just one little hitch. My parents wouldn't help me.
I'd been working part-time throughout high school, but I didn't have enough.
(2) I'd applied to some pretty incredible schools and been accepted at all of them. Marist. Bryant. Even my last choice- The Naval Academy at Annapolis. A few even awarded me scholarships. Marist was my first choice.
But there was one tiny problem.
(3) Even with Marist awarding me a generous partial scholarship, work study, and maxing out my federal loan eligibility, I couldn't figure out how to pay for even the first year. I was still thousands of dollars short and at 16, no one was going to give me a loan.
(4) So I talked myself into going to my state school. I could afford the in-state tuition (sort of), although they hadn't even given me a scholarship. And they had a degree in communications. It wasn't ideal and not going to Marist broke my heart a little, but I did it anyway.
(5) Some people have asked me why I didn't wait a year and save and go to my dream school. The answer is simple. I was being sexually abused at home and I needed to get out of there. Fast. By any means possible.

A few days into my first semester, I realized I'd made a mistake.
(6) Their communications program was focused on speech. As in speech therapy. Not mass communications. There was literally NO degree in journalism. So I decided to pivot to English. It was close enough and hopefully, I could get an internship at the local TV station.
(7) A year in and the internship was as far out of my reach as the moon. It was a rural college town and there was no public transportation that went out to the TV station. I couldn't possibly afford a car. And my work-study job was growing increasingly demanding.
(8) I taught at the on-campus daycare & worked nearly 20-30 hours a week when allowed, juggling a full course load. Rising tuition, books, mounting credit card debt, was sinking me fast. I decided to pivot my degree to English education to have better job prospects at graduation.
(9) I guess I gave up on my dream of journalism, but at the time it didn't feel like much of a choice. I kept my head down and pursued teaching. I enjoyed it but as I neared the end of the program, I had another problem. The unpaid internship that's required to become licensed.
(10) This was a financial obstacle I couldn't overcome. I could delay my student loan payments, but I needed a car. And a way to make rent, food, and pay down the credit card debt I'd incurred while in school. So I graduated with honors and a degree I couldn't use. 40K in debt.
(11) I worked for a few years as the head teacher and then the summer camp director full-time at the campus daycare, teaching preschoolers. I made 17K a year, well below the poverty line. But because I didn't have a license, I couldn't get one of the higher paying teaching jobs.
(12) And I couldn't pay any of that student loan debt. Some days I'm ashamed to say I stole gas to get to work or snuck into the basement of the daycare to do my laundry. I'd eat extra handfuls of crackers at work in lieu of dinner. I just kept sinking farther and farther in debt
(13) Eventually, I met someone. He was an engineer. We fell in love. Got married. Financially, he saved me. I decided to go back to school for that journalism degree. But he lost his job & was unemployed for nearly 2 years, so I had to delay payments on my student loans again.
(14) I worked as a kindergarten teacher at a private school and tutored after school to keep us afloat. He finally found a job. But then I got pregnant. You know how this story goes. I stayed home with the baby. I put my ambitions on the shelf for a bit.
(15) I went back into education for a few years and we were finally steady financially. We had a reasonable mortgage, and I had finally been able to pay a chunk of that student debt. We had another baby and I dropped out of the workforce again.
(16) I made the same decision most families have to make. I made less than my husband and it was actually more expensive for me to work and pay to send both kids to daycare. But I decided since I was home anyway, I'd dust off those career ambitions again.
(17) I'd always found ways to squeeze writing into the corners of my life, but now I wanted to see if I could make it real. Our financial security didn't depend on my livelihood, so the risk was minimal. I was lucky. So I jumped. And I made a career, slowly, through sheer hustle.
(18) I still don't have a degree in journalism. And I'm still 20K in debt from student loans nearly two decades after I went to college. My predatory rate, locked in by a company that promised to consolidate my loans after graduation, hovers at 8.9%.
(19) I am now a single mom of two kids with a stellar credit rating. I'd love to shift that 20K of debt into a loan with a lower interest rate. Guess what? Because I am self-employed, I don't meet the eligibility requirements for most lenders for another year.
(20) Everyone has a #CancelMyDebt my debt story, but that's the point. I've been working since I was 13 years old, sometimes as many as 4-5 jobs at a time. This economy doesn't work for me. It never has.
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