Twelve years after I started paying them down, my student loans are paid off.
People ask me, knowing what I know now and having chosen not to practice law, whether I regret going to law school, especially a more expensive one like Duke. That’s a tough one. I loved my time at Duke. It was a place that I grew into my own skin and thought more deeply than I ever had before. My professors and peers troubled my thinking in the best way possible. If anything what I’d like to do is to go back in time and being able to crank down the level of anxiety I felt, so I could have thrown myself more fully into the experience.
Having the loans to pay back and choosing to teach instead of practice law kept me living more simply after school. I was by no means in dire straits, but I repaired things rather than buying new ones and made me mindful of how I was spending.
I’m grateful to my husband, who, when we got married, was supportive of aggressively paying off the loans. I’m also grateful for the scholarship that I received and the help that my parents and grandparents gave me. Without those, my loan debt would be much larger than it is. I’m conscious of the ways in which generational wealth has benefited me and given me options that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.
The topic of student loans is currently present in the popular consciousness. While I don’t have fully comprehensive thoughts on the issue, a good place to start would be to honor those in public service work who were told their loans would be forgiven and those who lost money when colleges closed before students got their degrees. These seem like the irreducible minimum as a way to address the deep distress that loans cause for hundreds of thousands of students who hoped to improve themselves and their communities through education.