This essay is from a finalist for the 2019 Student Loan Planner Scholarship.
My family will joke that my passion was actually bossing people around. I was an overly enthusiastic 18-25 year old in undergrad and graduate school, being pumped full of knowledge that I was bursting at the seams to share.
It has taken years of learning and experience to refine my delivery so that I can share my passion in a way that is received well.
But all those years of learning meant I was not earning 6 digits right out of school like I was told I would when I was looking into graduate school. That’s six years of my debt accruing to astronomical fees while I went through a very natural process of slowly building a business.
This is an essay about my youthful, passionate and naive journey to become an acupuncturist and how that choice and the choice to take on student loans has affected my ability to live the life I had dreamed of.
Motivated By My Family
On a very deep level, I believe my desire to get into holistic healthcare came from my desire to want to “fix” my parents. They both had an awful upbringing and knew that they wanted to have children and give those children a life that all children deserve. A life full of love, support, encouragement, and communication.
They love(d) us dearly. But, love alone doesn’t fix old wounds. Since what they were doing didn’t seem to be fixing them I decided I would.
My dad’s back was broken from a parachuting accident n Vietnam. He lived in constant intense pain which affected his whole being. Each day, each year he lived with that pain he became a shell of the vibrant person I once knew him to be.
I didn’t understand why doctors weren’t helping him. He became reclusive, depressed, self-doubting, curt, angry, and eventually medically overprescribed. Prescriptions which he washed down with alcohol. I did what I could through grade school to help, but it was not enough.
I have always been active and gravitated towards a healthy lifestyle. When the world opened up to me after high school I was introduced to the world of fitness nutrition and health as a possible way of making a living and helping people- people like my mom and dad.
Graduating at Any Cost
I went to SDSU for fitness nutrition and health in kinesiology. I worked as a personal trainer at 24-hour fitness and SDSU’s gym – the ARC. I knew everything. Until I woke up and realized I did not.
I thirsted for more. I knew allopathic medicine was not what I was looking for so I searched and found acupuncture. It effortlessly transformed my life long battle with acne in a few sessions and I was hooked.
I enthusiastically worked in this field for the next 10 years constantly sharpening my skills while getting higher education to achieve my ultimate dream – to become a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner. I was getting into more and more debt, but I was also really good at what I did and really loved it.
Even my dad seemed to be listening to me! He told me acupuncture was the only thing he had ever tried to take the pain away- other than medications which left him feeling mentally unwell. This both broke my heart and fueled it.
He was ready to start eating better, talk to a therapist and heal his pain without narcotics.
My dad suddenly passed in September 2010. He would have been 60 that October. I was 25 years old. My dad just needed health care and he never received it. I felt numb that entire year. Yet, my passion for health and healing seemed to grow and so did my determination to help others.
It was my mission to address the whole person of any person who came to me seeking help about how they can improve their health, heal their ailments and improve their happiness. I was going to finish school at any cost. And at any cost, I did.
I am now 33 years old. I graduated in December of 2012, married in 2015, had our first baby in 2016, and about to have our third baby while living and working in San Diego. I never banked on being able to live in an expensive state like California or getting married or having kids. I mean, how could I? I can’t plan that I will meet the love of my life let alone the time I will meet that person. Or that I would want to have kids, let alone be able to have kids.
But, I could bank on getting an education and being able to stand on my own two feet whether I met the right person or not. So that is what I did.
I followed my passion, I got an education. I am now an educated and empowered and independent woman- sort of. I am educated. I am empowered, but I am not independent because I am chained to a mountain of student loan debt whose monthly payment and long duration of repayment dictate the type of life my family and I will actually be able to have.
We are lucky to live in a country where you can have dreams and pursue dreams. But, we as a country need to make sure that we don’t allow student loan debt to burden anyone anymore. The most effective way I can see doing this without changing legislation is by taking the time to fully inform our future graduates with sound comprehensive information about student loans before they take student loans.
Information that I have finally and recently found on College Investor/Student Loan Planner.
What You Need to Know Before Getting Student Loans
Getting student loans is too easy and before students sign on they should know this: You do not need to accrue astronomical student loan debt to achieve your dreams. Crunch the numbers beforehand and look ahead into the future.
Getting into debt, taking out far more than you will earn your first year out of college means you are giving up the freedom to leisurely travel, have a wedding, a new car, own a home, even brunches with friends because all of your income will be going towards paying off your student loans.
Be okay with taking twice as long to finish school as you work to pay your way through. There is no need to hurry through school if it’s only going to cost you more then you can work off and payback.
If it is your passion, then it is worth the long hard work. Do not let your passion blindside you into taking the “good kind of debt”- student loans.
There is no good debt. And a lot of debt is worse than a little debt. There are good loans and there are bad loans.
And if this warning call doesn’t resonate you because to become a doctor, lawyer, acupuncturist or whatever it is you dream of happens to just cost a lot of money, then work with a professional like Student Loan Planner before you take on student loans so that you can see ALL the options and be fully informed about what your life will look like after graduating.
The reality of my debt and what I was actually able to earn out of school as an inexperienced acupuncturist and business person hit me hard upon graduating and entering “the real world.” The amount of debt that continues to steeply climb each day and the fear of making a wrong choice about how to tackle it because I didn’t have the right information crippled me with fear.
That is until I recently found “College Investor” which led me to “Student Loan Planner.” I finally feel like I have the tools and the knowledge to make the right choice about how to deal with my debt. A feeling that has been missing for the past 6 years – a feeling of freedom that I thought may never return.
I still love what I do, but without this information, I have felt angry, trapped, hopeless and scared. I wish I had all this information 7 years ago or even 11 years ago before I started graduate school.
I’m still in a tough spot because of the amount of money I owe. At least now I know I am taking the best possible way to regain control and make the most of my life. I can’t turn back time and am thankful that I now have answers and thankful that I can share my experience with others in hopes that I can guide them towards a brighter more freeing future.