Column: Having student debt helped me find myself

Student loans are worth having unforgettable memories.

25,000. That’s the number of single dollar bills that I will eventually have to pay back. That’s what four-plus years of college (plus interest) are going to cost me. That is the amount of debt I will have piled up for a piece of paper. That is the amount of debt that I am thankful for having.

During high school I always knew I wanted to go away for school, preferably out of state. Other students in my grade looked more at what schools would give them the most money or the proximity to home. I was never like that. I never looked at money or the ability to live at or near home.

I come from a single-parent household and am the oldest of three siblings. Growing up, I was not blessed with the extra luxuries that my friends had. I barely went out to eat, I never had the newest or coolest clothes, and we definitely didn’t have the money to travel. Many kids in a similar situation tend to look at the money factor, and that limits their choices of schools. I wasn’t going to let anything hold me back from going where I felt the most comfortable.

The main reason I wanted to go away was because I wanted to be on my own. I wanted to learn how to be independent. I wanted to grow into a young man that my mom could be proud of.

Many people would argue that you can achieve all this while still being close to home, but they just don’t understand.

Being able to live and grow away from home has given me the opportunity to mature and grow into the person I want to be. I am from a small rural town, and in a small community like that, people tend to fall into cliques. Going away to school has given me the platform to be the person I really want to be, and it has also truly given me that “fresh” start everyone is always talking about when you leave for college.

Not having that safety net of being able to just go home when things are not working out has taught me how I can’t just run away from my problems. If I am having a problem with my roommates, I have to face it head-on. If my car gets a flat tire, I can’t just tell my parents and expect them to take care of it. I have learned to take every obstacle and deal with it myself.

One day, I am going to graduate from MU, and the first student loan bill is going to come in the mail. I am going to open it up, see the first payment of many and go about my day with a smirk.

All the nights hanging with friends, all the tailgates and football games and all the late-night movies will have made all that debt worth it. The countless memories I have made in college that I will remember forever (or not remember) will have created the person I am today. Not worrying about money when I was first looking at schools allowed me the ability to pick a school where I felt comfortable and knew I would love instead of picking one out of convenience.

Though it will take over $25,000, being able to grow into the person I always wanted to be is something I can’t put a price tag on.

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