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!
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.
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?