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Hello fellow Tumblrs!

I (your curator) am writing a story about student debt. I’m looking into the psychological effects of having student debt after graduation.

So if you are either recently graduated or graduated within the past two years, send me a message. Tell me how your student debt has…


8 Bits of Wisdom From Neil Gaiman on Being a Creator

This is a fantastic speech by Neil Gaiman, addressing the 2012 graduating class of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Gaiman himself never graduated from college—in fact, he never even enrolled in college—yet he earned his place in literary culture as one of the most celebrated and prolific writers working today. Here, he imparts several pieces of life wisdom on young people beginning a career in the arts.

  1. Say “no” to projects that take you further from rather than closer to your own creative goals, however flattering or lucrative.
  2. Approach your creative labor with joy, or else it becomes work.
  3. Embrace your fear of failure. Make peace with the impostor syndrome that comes with success. Don’t be afraid of being wrong.
  4. When things get tough, make good art.

Read the rest. [via Brain Pickings]

Restoration Calls: “I’m more scared of being underemployed than unemployed.”

I graduate college three weeks from today. Honestly, student loans are not even close to on my mind. I’m two grand in debt. I’m lucky.

I double majored in Anthropology and Literature, and I would do it again. In Literature I practiced writing, critical thought, articulating criticism, applying historical and cultural factors to the production of meaning; I engaged with theory focusing on the reader of the text, rather than the author, and applied that in a senior thesis on Young Adult literature. In Anthro I got the opportunity to form a completely new world view based on cultural relativism and the ethics of studying people. I learned to face internalized racism, classism and sexism. I learned that people are a lot more than individuals.

And those are just my majors: I also engaged with translation work, diaspora studies, ornithology, philosophy, and pedagogy; I was a peer advisor and a TA; I’ve worked as a museum educator, a summer camp director, an office assistant and a retail sales clerk; I’m part of my campus feminist collective, my campus Occupy affinity group, NYSR (New York Students Rising), and I register voters in the city twice a month.

I did a lot these past four years.

It makes me so angry when my picture is in a news article for a demonstration with NYSR or Occupy, and these middle-aged privileged white guys in Westchester County comment on the story, calling us navel-gazers, telling us to go study, talking about how useless our majors are.

But here comes the critical thinking: how are you measuring useful? Am I going to have a job in August when I move to the city? Likely not. Maybe my immeasurable luck at having a resume with Real Jobs on it will help me pull through. But honestly, my chances wouldn’t be much better if I’d majored in engineering or international relations or business, so what’s the point in beating myself up for choosing to pursue majors that taught me how to think? Maybe it’s the imminent poverty talking, and call me an idealist (please!), but I think my education was a success if I’m more scared of being underemployed than unemployed. I did a lot these past four years. If I don’t get to use it I’ll be heartbroken. I hate being wasteful.

I am adaptable, well-spoken, and critical. I will never make hundreds of thousands at a multi-million dollar firm because I’m critical of what those firms do to our economy and cultural fabric. I spent four years coming to the conclusion that this country is fucked and I have the skills and passion and drive to help fix it. And I learned those skills in Anthropology and Literature classes at SUNY Purchase College. I learned that drive with the fantastic student activists I’ve met through NYSR and Occupy. I learned that passion in an environment where I was encouraged to do what I feel I need to do to give back to this broken and beautiful society.

I saw a news article that said, “the class of 2012 is in for a rude awakening: 1 in 2 will be unemployed or underemployed.” Don’t be so cocky: we know exactly what we’re getting into, and we know it’s not our fault. But we’re going to fix it for you. Don’t worry.

What’s your story? Are you one of the college graduates that have hung up the mortar board to enter the real world? Are you years out of college but still wondering how you’ll make your loan payments? Or is college off the table, never been an option? How are you chasing your version of the American Dream? Tell us and we’ll publish it here.

Restoration Calls: The Last Time I was in my Mother’s House

I’m writing this post for my family as much as myself.

I grew up in a fading industrial town in southern Ohio surrounded by paper and steel mills. I watched my single mom claw her way up from poverty-level wages and 2 AM calls in her entry-level job at the dawn of modern computing. I still remember standing in my pajamas amidst the weird hum of mainframe computers as she worked whatever magic she had to work in the middle of those long nights. 20 years later, she would become a project manager making 80k a year.

I saw that struggle and learned what it meant to work hard. I also learned, at least as much as I could as a young man, what it must be to be a woman, a single mom, in present-day America.

Then I saw her lose it all.  A layoff. A foreclosure. An abusive second husband. A son (my brother) with severe addiction problems made worse by years of frustration in our below-average, one-size-fits-all school district.

I had worked through college, first community, then four year state school, after which I promptly put my liberal arts degree to use working retail and paying $150 a month for rent in our near-abandoned steel town. Just down the road, a flame from the plant burned day and night and sometimes when it rained it looked like Coca-Cola. Friends worked 14-hour shifts to churn out the raw material for automobiles no one in town was buying.

I had settled into this low place. Keep my head down, watch the town I lived in bleed out, and try not to think about the trials of my mother and my brother. I didn’t realize it, but I had given up.

One of the last times I was in the house where I grew up, before the foreclosure, I fought my stepfather. It was over something stupid that grew into something serious. He was drunk, things were thrown, skin was separated, and we both ended up  in police cruisers. I slept through my shower in the municipal jail the next morning and went before the judge still bloody from the night before.

At that point, I knew I had to do something new. I joined Americorps, working two wonderful years in urban schools and doing service projects in some of Cincinnati’s most interesting and underestimated neighborhoods. I met champions doing so much more than I had done with so much less than I had.

Telling stories has always been a passion of mine. After my service, I realized I would like the privilege of telling the stories of these champions— the stories of people who, despite being put down by economics or geography or gender or skin color, continue to push on and strive for the America that has always been promised but never quite delivered.

People like my mother.

So here I am, privileged to be studying journalism in graduate school. Is it a crap shoot? Hell yes. I need no reminders how hard it is to get a job in the field. Is it a calling? Hell yes. I can’t imagine doing anything else. People need to hear about and talk about the heroic efforts of everyday folks. Because at this point, the deeds of these folks are the only thing about this country I have faith in.

What’s your story? Submit your story and we’ll publish it here.

Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked legislation to freeze interest rates on need-based student loans, creating an election-year fight that could double loan costs for some college students.
Restoration Calls: “My peers are lost.”

Hello! I am an 18 year old male from Southern California.

At 15 and 1/2  I tested out of our crumbling public educational system, got my diploma equivalency, and went straight into the community college system. At 16 years of age I was studying alongside peers 2 years my senior or more. Over these 2 years at community college I’ve noticed a few things: 

1. Most of my peers are horribly underprepared. This is a fact I could probably see coming, considering the mind-numbing experience I had during my year and a half at high school. The educational experience I’ve had at community college is distinctly better than the one I had at high school and I have to say that it’s probably a good thing that these kids came here first.

2. Most of the coursework in every class is disturbingly similar. English 1A/1B? Philosophy? Humanities? History? Art appreciation? “Today I will be lecturing on [sequenced topic #7492]. Next week I want a 5 page paper due on [specific detail or details within topic], double spaced, 12 point font.” 

The classes in which I learned the most were the ones most different from the others. My American Government class was classroom discussion-based, where the peers would solely communicate and debate with each other with accompanied mediation and fact checking from the professor. I remember more things from those classroom discussions (and it was two years ago!) than I do about my lectures last week in humanities and physics.

After being elected to the presidential position of my school’s chapter of an international organization, I actually started learning things about myself that I didn’t think were present before. Instead of jumping into a bunch of classes because that’s what was expected of me, I started going out and living life and experiencing; learning as I went along. 

I have no faith in our educational system. My peers are lost. Finding someone who has passion for their pursued topic of interest is near and narrow in between a large, zombified population who probably won’t say more than 3 words to you if you try to strike a conversation.

If I knew of another option (and if I wasn’t getting free, untaxed money from the government), I probably wouldn’t be here.

What’s your story? How have your dreams and goals changed since recession? Submit your story and we’ll publish it here.

Restoration Calls: “My generation is screwed, and the only question is how badly.”

I’m twenty, and incredibly lucky. I managed to find full time work in a job that pays a bit more than minimum wage. Assembly work, second shift. If I last past six months I get health insurance and a 401(5).

I dropped out of college a little more than a year ago, with a small student loan leftover. My mother lent me the money to pay it off, and I’m paying her back, since she’s not charging 6% interest like the government is.

I’m not planning on going back to college, at least not in the foreseeable future, because I don’t see much value in a bachelor’s degree anymore. It’s not guarantee of a job, and it’d cost me thousands in debt.

My mom makes over a $100 thousand a year, but that’s not a possibility for my generation anymore. I’m hoping I can find a way to break into $30 thousand by my late twenties, and even that feels unrealistic. My generation is screwed, and the only question is how badly.

What’s your story? Submit your story and we’ll publish it here.

Restoration Calls: “And I was always told to study what I love, to pursue whatever education I felt led to.”

I’m 21 years old, and a junior at Bible College. I’m nearly broke; I haven’t been able to find an employer willing to work around my school schedule. I was able to get a job on campus, but it only allows me to work about 5 hours a week—10 if I can convince nearly all of my coworkers to give me their shift. I’ve tried to get other jobs on campus, but because I already “have” one my name is automatically sent to the bottom of the list.

I’ve been trying to get a summer job, which is just laughable. No one is willing to hire me for just the summer, and because I went to school out of state, that was my only option. I eventually made the decision to get a place to live in the same city as my school, in the hope that I could get hired on for the summer and continue working there throughout the school year. But by now it’s too late to be putting in job applications, and no one has called me back. My parents are breathing down my neck, disappointed that I’m not coming home this summer, disappointed that I don’t have a job yet, disappointed that I have no money to speak of.

Also, I’m a Biblical Studies major. The job options for when I leave here are practically nonexistent. My plan is to go to grad school to increase my chances of having a career capable of paying off all of my debt. But there’s no guarantee that a Master’s will help me get a job—and plenty of guarantee that grad school will bury me even deeper in debt.

College was never optional for me. My dad didn’t have the chance to go to college, and he and my mom worked hard every day of their lives to make sure my brothers and I could get there. And I was always told to study what I love, to pursue whatever education I felt led to. I still believe that God has brought me to this city, to this school, to this degree program…but I can’t for the life of me figure out why.

What’s your story? Are you in school and pursuing a degree because you love it or because it will lead to a well-paying job? Do you think students should pursue practical degrees or chase their dreams? Submit your story and we’ll publish it here.

Restoration Calls: “We can’t save up enough money because our bills outweigh our income.”

I’m 23 and graduated last May with my BFA in photography. I moved to downtown Detroit to be closer to school, a little over two years ago. Since I graduated I have only found one full time job (which I am currently working at) on Craigslist. My job is a “gallery” ran by a shady 86 year old owner. I can’t find anything better, no matter how hard I try I still get rejected for my lack of experience. I barely make enough to afford all my bills and enormous amounts of student loans. My boyfriend (who also works a full-time, under paid job) and I tried to apply for a used car loan through my credit union for $5,000, since we currently share a car. We were rejected because I have “excessive debt”, even though my credit score is 722 and I’ve had an account there for over 7 years. I tried again with a co-signer, rejected again because their credit wasn’t good enough. We can’t save up enough money because our bills outweigh our income. We can’t move out of Detroit to find better jobs (if there are any out there) because we share a car. Since I’ve graduated from college it’s been a really rough time trying to start my life. I feel as though everything is working against me and that I am set out for failure. It’s making me second guess going to college in the first place; at least I wouldn’t be in so much debt.

What’s your story? How have you tried to change your circumstances but found obstacles? Submit your story and we’ll publish it here.

Restoration Calls: “She struggled less than she is struggling now”

Three years ago, my mother was paying for three kids in college and eight credit cards. She struggled less than she is struggling now, with only two credit cards, no kids in college and the house completely paid off.

What’s your recession story? Are you or your family struggling to make ends meet? Submit your story and we’ll publish it here.