(Just an update that my education loan is almost fully paid off now. And I’m grateful for it. And I use my education. Thank goodness we grow up.)
June 13th, 2004
U.S. Department of Education
Direct Loan Payment Center
To Anyone Inquiring or Curious as to the Status of Account 543-##-####,
Nine years ago, in 1995, I was offered a loan to assist me with paying for my college education. At the time, with the reassuring pat of all the social institutions, I was brimming with hope and faith in the benefits and pleasures that a University degree in Business would secure for my life. At the very naïve age of “barely 18,” I eagerly put my name on the dotted line and signed my life to a promise.
Unfortunately, what I did not know then, is that every promise to tomorrow is a lie.
When I completed and received my University degree, I did exactly as the social recipe for success called for. I found a job in the field of my degree and put nothing less than every drop of my passion into it. I worked 80-hour weeks, slept under my desk on weekends, became one of the highest paid employees in the company, and was never a day late in my school loan monthly re-payment checks.
But after two years of this life, I sat up from my computer one day and realized this; That I had attained the dream Society had prescribed for my happiness. I had a successful job with prestige. I had an apartment by the beach, a car, a boyfriend from a magazine ad, and an income greater than that of my parents combined. I had brand name clothing and a swimming pool and as many expensive frothy espressos as I could sip. I had everything…
And it wasn’t enough.
Or rather it WAS enough. It was TOO much. I’d had enough of it! I was grasping at the wrong dream — desperately clenching onto the airy and materialistic notions of the American dream — instead of picking myself up and pursuing my own. (Perhaps American society should also get out of the business of promises to futures?)
But where to begin? I had no idea. But on an intuitive whim, I caught a clue as to where I could to go to find MY dream.
So I put my school loans on deferral, sold everything I owned, strapped on a backpack and left the country.
In the following three and half years I traveled over six continents and through some thirty-six countries. And it was here, abroad, where I found that I can sweat out the passion of my being and soak in the joy and peace of having found MY dream — MY path.
What is unfortunate (for the reader) is that the work I do pays little or nothing in terms of monetary reimbursement. In the years that my loans have been in deferment, I have worked with the children living in the squatter community in the dumpster of Guatemala, built houses for Habitat for Humanity in Fijian villages, strolled the beaches of Costa Rica at midnight helping Leatherback turtles with birthing and keeping their eggs safe from poachers, fought off Lantana from overtaking the native plant species of Eastern Australia, given daily massages to the crippled limbs of those left at the Mother Teresa House of the Destitute, prepared the gardens for feeding an orphanage in India, and taught English to a refugee monk who escaped from Tibet.
I hope you understand that I am not asking for your recognition as a “good” person. I don’t need that. I am merely explaining why my chosen life path does not work with the dollar numbers that you are accustomed to working with. A position in the marketing department of Coca Cola, while perhaps allowing me the luxury of sending timely monthly checks to your office, would only lead me to a life of soul-ular suicide. And a living of being dead, I cannot accept.
These volunteer experiences (and my chosen life path) do not compensate me in money (although they have left me plenty rich in soul). My life loans (including, but not limited to yours) and my appreciative repayment of them, will likewise, not be in monetary form. And this path, of non-materialistic and non-monetary notions, is the only of which my “now” and “future” tread. Despite its financially disadvantaged nature, I have dedicated this life to the voluntary service and inspiration of others. I demonstrate my appreciation for the life of advantage given to me, and repay my debt to humanity, on a daily repayment schedule. And I re-make THIS promise every single day.
Now, I have looked over your deferment and repayment options and find that I do not fit in any of the clean little check mark boxes that are offered. (Seems my life does not want to fit in any clean little boxes.) I don’t need tea leaves to see that I probably don’t have any financially lucrative occupations in my future. But accordingly, neither are there any house loans, marriage licenses, retirement funds, life insurance plans or credit ratings. There isn’t even a mailbox to which you can send a neat white envelope with my name spelled almost right. And I certainly don’t have any intention of ever living on the soil of the United States again.
So with no check box befitting, I give you this letter of explanation. You may do with it whatever you’d like; dump it in a manila file with my number on it, spit on it, send it to the “greater authorities,”or tack it to the cork board for an office chuckle. But at least I feel better knowing that anytime one wonders whatever happened to account number 543-##-####, he or she may pull out this letter and see. Because I do not want to leave this matter without my apology and explanation.
I’m sorry I am currently unable to fulfill my agreement to repay your loan. If ever I come into any kind of money — by luck or wit or inheritance — I will immediately contact you and make plans of repayment. Until then, I hope you will forgive my youthful naivety in making a promise to tomorrow that I could not keep. I assure you that I have learned from this mistake and such promises will not be made again.
And I assure you also that my 4-year crash course in living, (at the prestigious global University of Life) has more than educated me of my debt to humanity for being born into a life of such incredible advantage. And to THIS loan of life that I’ve been granted, I consciously accept a duty to repay, in the forms of appreciation and shared inspiration, on a daily basis, till the day I die *living*.
My apologies, but I do not have an address or phone number or any other information of which will be useful to you in finding me for contact. Not even I know where I will be tomorrow. The only means of communicating with me is via email. I will most likely be here in South America for the good of a year and then plan on making my way back to India, Tibet and Nepal. (Or perhaps Africa?) Regardless, should any representative of your office wish to speak or meet with me over this matter, I most kindly extend the invitation to join me, so that we may discuss the issue further over tea.
With equanimous and undefended love,