The Post-College Struggles

Oh boy, I’m sure this post is going to be a lot for some people (myself included), so if you get stressed out talking about debt and the fact that an English major isn’t actually going to do anything productive for you in the working world, then click away fast. But if you’d like to know that you’re not alone, hi, I’m $80k in debt from college!

Graduation Day in 2014!

Let’s back things up a little so you have some history. When I was in the fifth grade, a wonderful teacher encouraged me to start writing, and I did so with gusto. The very long version of this story is here, but the tl;dr of it is that I’m still writing, all these 15 years later. I took every English & writing class that I could in high school, which wasn’t a lot, but one of my English teachers provided the after school kind of encouragement that I needed to keep pursuing my dreams. Eventually, someone introduced me to University of Maine at Farmington, and thus, a new chapter began to unfold.

I wanted to put my mom in an early grave, so I refused to apply to a single other school other than UMF, and I wanted to apply to their competitive Creative Writing program, which only accepted 16 students a year. My mom is a saint, truly, because she let me do it.

I got in. It was wonderful. Those four years at UMF were spent taking all eight writing courses, both the intros & advanced levels of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and screenwriting, even though we were only required to take four, two of each level. I grabbed every single British lit course I could find, including a Shakespeare intensive that I absolutely adored. Eventually, my adviser convinced me to double major in English because I was taking literature classes instead of electives to fill up my schedule, and so, in May 2014, I graduated from UMF with a BFA in Creative Writing, a BA in English, and $80k in debt.

Goddess, it’s good to be back with my favorite demon. 🖤 . #marywrites #amwriting #writing #writersofinstagram #sisterwitches #witch #witchy #witchcraft #demon #chai #chailatte #nanowrimo #nationalnovelwritingmonth (at Jaho Coffee & Tea)...

I had grand plans right out of college. I was going to get promoted to manager at BJs, where I was currently working part-time, and during my free time, I was going to finally successfully rewrite my novel and get it published.

Spoiler: only one of those things happened.

Again, the very long version of this story is here, but I eventually abandoned that novel, and while two of my short stories have been published, none of my novels have, and I’ve since accepted the fact that writing probably won’t pay the bills for a good, long while (if ever). I did get promoted, but I’ve since moved onto other jobs, and as I’m settling into my current one, it’s occurring to me, again, that while my Creative Writing & English degree is great, it didn’t actually do anything for me.

This is supposed to be a screenshot of a tweet in which someone asked VE Schwab if you had to go to school for writing to be an author, but I can’t find it, and I’m sick of scrolling, and who knows, maybe it wasn’t Schwab, so instead, here you go, more aesthetically pleasing writing pictures:

Recently, VE Schwab answered the above question and said that in no way shape or form do you need a degree to be a writer, and I am 100% on board with her. This is not meant to knock getting a degree in either, but unless you’re planning to become a teacher or a journalist, the likelihood of actually using that degree is–well, slim to none. There are definitely those that have gone above and beyond and figured it out, but from what I’ve seen, that means moving to a big city or getting a second job because writing doesn’t pay.

Sometimes, I wish someone had told me that. Well, a lot of people told me that, but I wish I’d believed them. I’m not saying I regret going to school. I learned a lot. I grew as a person. I never would have understood a screenplay as intricately as I do now without those courses. I figured out how the hell to get over being shy and just order my own damn food. It forced me into a lot of situations I would have otherwise avoided, and those helped me figure out my own issues.

But I do regret the debt. Most of the time, I wish I’d gone to school at Salem State and commuted from home. I wish I’d figured out how to have a full time job while also taking classes. I wish I’d pursued scholarships and tried to dig out the knowledge behind private & federal loans. I wish I wasn’t $80k in debt.

It seems like an unreal number, I know. I’ve found the easiest way to understand it is this: I’m going to be in debt until I’m 47, and that’s only if I pay about $1000 every single month for those 25 years.

I don’t even want to talk about that, so we’re going to move on. I think this post is more becoming, like, things to normalize about the post-college life, which includes probably living at home with your parents.

Look, I know that literally everywhere else in the world, this is acceptable, but in the US, they give you shit for not making it on your own immediately after graduating, and I felt that impossible standard for a long time, and even succumbed to it briefly when I moved out and nearly drowned myself in stress. I’m 27, and I currently live with my parents because I’m $80k in debt, and I’m never going to make enough money with my English degree to actually pay that off before the 25-year mark. I have this dream where one of my novels eventually gets published, and any of the small amount of money that I make off of it is going to go directly to my student loans because, truthfully, if I didn’t have them, I’d be fine. I could actually have a house if I wanted to. I could travel. I could do whatever the hell I wanted to.

I guess what I really wanted you to get out of this post was that you’re not alone. Student loan debt is a literal crisis. It’s okay to live at home. And I definitely think you should pursue a degree in English or Creative Writing if that’s your passion, but I need you to know going in that it’s not going to land you a stellar job. I’ve never worked in a field where either of my degrees have been the focal point, or even something that I regularly pull from. I’m okay with that now, but it was a pretty rude awakening going in.

Wow, okay, this post was pretty heavy, who wants to see my new jacket, which is just this whole post as a mood?

Tell me about your post-college life struggles! I want to not be alone, too!

Posted by

she/her | yoga teacher | Tibetan Buddhism | part-time witch | full-time author | astronaut in a previous life

14 thoughts on “The Post-College Struggles

  1. I’m mostly just amazed that the American post-secondary industry continues to thrive when debt is the norm rather than exception. It’s … well, let’s just say there are other systems.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s insane! Like, we’re told “you have to have a degree to get a good job”, but then yelled at when we don’t “do enough” because we’re so saddled with debt?? My previous boss literally used to make fun of me for not traveling, but the idea of spending MORE money on expensive things on top of my student debt just makes me want to die.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That sounds immensely frustrating. It’s too bad the States won’t learn from other countries and provide affordable/low-cost education. (I’ve been in school for 14 years … and have exactly $0 debt.)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad you wrote this post, Mary! Living at home after college isn’t bad and is so common nowadays. It just makes sense, especially if your parents don’t mind. My older brother is in his late 20s, and everyone from his group of friends lives at home. Some of them even have good jobs at big companies, but with their debt and the crazy-high rent in cities, it still just makes more sense to live at home.
    Also, the thing you said about an English degree not being necessary to be an author and your degree not being the focal point of your careers really hit me. My first job out of college was in a field completely unrelated to my degree. I felt bad that I spent four years and so much money to get my degree, only to work that job. But hey, I loved what I did and I loved my college experience 🤷🏻‍♀️.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seriously! I lived away for a year, and while it was great, it was unrealistic. And even though I have a good job with a decent salary now, moving out is just so beyond anything I can even fathom. My younger siblings talk about how they can’t wait to leave, and I get it, I thought that, too, but damn. It’s so much.

      I still haven’t worked in a job related to my degree, and it’s been almost six years! It took a while to come to terms with that because I also felt like I’d kind of wasted my time at college, but I love my job now and I wouldn’t trade my English degree for the world, so. All is well!

      Glad you enjoyed, thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As I have the chance to live in Canada, I’ve got an extremely small debt for now, less than 10 000$ – key words being “for now”. I anticipate that it’ll take me at least 5 to 6 more years to finish university, so I’ll have at least 40 000$ of debt by the time I’m done with studying. Hopefully less if I work during the school year, but then that also means less time to study so less opportunities for scholarships based on your grades, etc. And seeing all those stories from the US of people who studied for 3 to 4 years and are almost 100k in debt from it… that’s terrifying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so crazy to me that your 40k debt sounds like a breeze to me. Like, what kind of world do we live in that 40k in debt sounds easy?? That’s just so dumb. My brother came out with 120k in debt, and my sister is going to be around 80k, too, and I just don’t wish it on anyone. Sure, a little debt is fine, learn the value of money, but this is debilitating, and I don’t know how to live an actual life with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, gosh. This is so relatable. I wish someone also told me earlier on that hey, it’s a difficult field, probably should have a second job. In miss peregrines home for peculiar children it’s also stressed that you can only afford writing to be your only job if you’re rich RICH. Thankfully, I’m a Bangladeshi brit and we have no reservations whatsoever about living with our family because that’s our culture! Lol. But dear God, my community is more… practical, so we couldn’t imagine people going into creative fields! (Which I need to otherwise I’d be bored).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have three jobs, and it’s still hard to make ends meet, and literally none of them have anything to do with writing. It’s crazy to me that we can spend so much and come away with practically nothing. My mom definitely tried to warn me, and I definitely didn’t listen, but man what a rude awakening it is.

      Thankfully, I’m starting to not care at all about living at home! My siblings want out so bad, and I’m just like, “Power to you, but you’ll be back. It’s not feasible out there.” Sigh. Ah, well, I guess that’s life nowadays?

      I swear, once I’m debt-free, I’m going to conquer the whole world!

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      1. Wow, that sounds really difficult, to have three jobs and still not being able to make ends meet. Given the current pandemic as well, I don’t know how it’s affected you, but, *whew*. That’s so frustrating, we want to do what we love and doing what we’re not passionate about? It can make us feel worse. I hope it hasn’t discouraged you from writing your novels, it may be that you’ll need to wait a while, and that may be a long while, but you could get there eventually, and I really hope you do. The road to get there might be something different to what we planned, and I’m so with you on that it was a shock to me to realise that you still need to work while you’re writing a novel! Swept away by our own dreams, but, in our defence, I think our generation have committed similar blunders, we’ve been pretty naive, that doesn’t make us any less, we’re learning and that’s okay.

        Oh, no! Don’t discourage them! There’s nothing wrong with living at home, it’s much more pragmatic. I know quite a lot of people who are dealing with that shame, but we didn’t have it as easy as the previous generation!

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      2. Oh gosh, yeah. Two of my jobs are yoga studios, so those have been hit hard, and my classes have basically been cut in half. I’m still able to teach a little virtually, but it’s tough. And my primary job is talking about pay cuts & lay offs, so it’s just stressful all around; kind of want to just crawl into bed and never come out.

        It’s odd, working in fields that aren’t my passion (writing) has actually motivated me to write more? It lights a fire under me to get up and get going so that maybe I can make my passion my living sooner rather than later.

        Oh no, I’m discouraging them from moving out, haha. They want to live in an apartment, and that’s fine, I tried that, but where we live and with the debts we have, it’s almost impossible to survive on our own. I’m all about living at home! I appreciate it a lot now, and I know they won’t until they’ve tried to leave, but I try to give them a little perspective so maybe they’ll have a head start when they try to move out? Who knows.

        I hope everything is going okay with you in this crazy world we’re living in right now! And that you’re still chasing your passions, too!

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      3. I hear a lot of people are saying that teaching or learning from home isn’t really the same, unless, like me, you’re already doing an online course. Yeah, I thought I was this close to securing my dream job, but all interviews have been cancelled and postponed for the time being, and I quit my job, so now I’m literally not quite sure what on Earth I’m doing. Thankfully, I’ve got my studies. In the U.K. (though not all employers are following regulations), 80% of your pay can be accounted for if you’re working from home or if your job is on hold. But I guess this isn’t always possible for smaller businesses.

        You’re lighting a fire under me now, too, lol! I should really start writing properly again. I had my speech performed as the finale last year for a series, and I’ve been coasting on it.. it’s time to write more. Kinda wanna write poetry or something diabolical. Any tips? I think you said you had some writing/poetry published?

        Yep, for sure. It’s definitely a different approach in America when you compare it to the UK, but, here, we don’t have the “American dream” to aspire to. Living at home is pragmatic & should be normalised.

        Thank you! 🙂

        Like

      4. That’s amazing that you had your speech performed, congrats! And yes, I do have two short stories published, which was a wild experience in and of itself. I’ve got a whole section on the blog about writing, but my biggest tip is always going to be “just do it.” There’s no right or wrong way to write unless you’re just not writing. And writing is not always physically typing/handwriting, it’s so many different things. So as long as you’re moving forward creatively, that’s what counts, I think!

        Like

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