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“You’ll die with this debt.”
That’s the lie my husband and I were told. And it’s the lie that so many Americans with staggering amounts of student loan debt have come to believe. There’s no way out. There’s no hope, because the amount of debt I owe is overwhelming.
You’re not alone. With the three-year pause on payments and interest accrual finally coming to an end in September—along with any talk of mass forgiveness—many borrowers are left feeling angry, scared and frustrated. Many feel played by the system or tricked by the reality of compounding interest and a balance that keeps getting bigger. Some feel like the government, and even the adults in their lives, let them down by allowing them to become caught up in a predatory loan system.
Because of this, borrowers are desperate for another relief option. Will it come in the way of forgiveness? Maybe it should—but not in the way you’re thinking. I want to share with you how I was able to achieve full forgiveness for my student loans.
Remember the Great Recession? The housing market was tanking, gas prices were soaring, and financial struggle was everywhere. My husband, Sam, and I were just completing our first year of marriage at the time, and we started becoming aware of our own private financial crisis. But it wasn’t a subprime home loan or a gas-guzzling SUV. For us, it was owing $460,000 in the form of consumer debt, two vehicles, credit cards, a small townhome and the kicker: $280,000 of student loans. We were musicians making $30,000 a year while trying to find our way in the world. Things were spinning out of control, and the government wasn’t coming to save us anytime soon. We could only forbear and defer our student loans for so long. And even with the payments temporarily paused, we still felt the heaviness of their presence.
That’s when we decided dying with our debt was not an option.
Believing you’ll die with your debt means believing the lie that someone else is to blame and they have to make it right. This steals your confidence in your own ability to seek freedom and keeps you waiting for someone else to save you, leaving you at the mercy of a system that has never and will never put you first. Only you can do that.
So, here are some hard truths:
You may never get the apology.
You may never get “what they owe you.”
So, what are you going to do?
Focus on you.
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself so that you can move on. Forgiveness is yours for the taking, independent of anyone else’s actions or validation. Forgiveness brings peace, clarity and lessons learned. And forgiveness allows you to walk forward into the hope of your future.
The end of the story goes like this: My husband and I realized that if we wanted to be free from our debt, it was up to us to forgive it (and ourselves) by paying it off. So we started the process. It required deep sacrifice. It challenged our mindset about money and our own abilities. And it changed us forever. With each dollar of debt we paid, we forgave ourselves for getting into this mess to begin with. We let go of the government, institutions and adults that “owed us,” and we paid ourselves with freedom.
In just over seven years, the pile of debt, shame, fear and frustration was paid in full—and forgiven in full. By us. Together. We became the heroes in our own story. Just two regular folks taking an irregular journey to freedom.
So, here’s my challenge to you: Choose to take your own journey to financial forgiveness. Stop waiting for a hero to ride in and save the day. You are the hero. And you are more powerful than you could ever imagine.