When working on the topic of death, in this case suicidal thoughts expressed by student loan debtors, it seems inevitable that my own thoughts have turned to imagining my own mortality.
While I do not share the thoughts of those who, sadly, have felt suicidal because of their debt (in one case, as readers will see, a man did decide to take his own life), I certainly am facing a huge fear: dying as an indentured educated servant.
When I was quite young my grandmother suffered from a severe stroke that left her unable to speak for the next 8 years of her life. She lost the ability to move her right arm, and lived in nursing homes the rest of her life. At the end of her life, she wound up in a nursing home that smelled of urine and dirty laundry. Once we arrived in her room, I was terrified by the fact that her roommate, who had short, blueish-gray hair, was covered in urine. Or so it seemed.
That is what I fear the most. Winding up in some despicable nursing home that smells of urine, alone, and still owing interest to the bastards.
About five years ago, I worked for a Painting contractor on Long Island.
He had a contract to remove the wallpaper and paint a private Nursing home, and I spent one day working there, and never went back.
It was a private nursing home as I say, and about as good as they get, but to me it was really awful just being there.
I was working in the "Dementia" wing or ward. One old woman in a wheelchair kept clicking her tongue and trying to wheel herself down the hall and through the double doors to freedom. A nurse would eventually run after her and wheel her back. This went on all day like some kind of crazy game.
Another old woman-skin and bones-was curled up on a couch asleep for most of the day. I had to ask a nurse to mover her eventuially, although I did consider covering her with a new and clean dropcloth.
Another sweet looking old woman just kept sitting and staring at me the whole day as I worked, and I couldn't help looking up and nodding and smiling once in a while---but she never reacted--just kept staring.
Part II Below
Here is Part 2....
In a larger room nearby, a sort of activity session was going on at one point, with a nurse trying to lead a room full of slumped and slouched old people in a sort of singalong.
It reminded me of the way children are addressed in a nursery school setting.
One or two did sing along with the nurse, as terribly loud music was played (The sun will come out Tomorrow or some such song)
And as I kept peeling the old wallpaper off and washing down the walls with warm water and a sponge, I witnessed what I believe is an oft-repeated and tragic nursing home scene.
A man, perhaps in his fifties, with a sort of underlying anguish to his general demeanor or expression, was spoon feeding chocolate pudding to his old mother, who was also in a wheelchair.
A nurse was sitting alongside them,and both the nurse and the son were exclaiming: "Mmmmmm chocolate! She likes Chocolate!"
The poor old mother was indeed eating the chocolate, but was obviously a stroke victim and could not communicate.
And the son kept repeating to his mother over and over: "You're in the Sunshine Nursing Home Mom! You're in the Sunshine Nursing Home."
Actually I can't remember the name of the Nursing Home, but I was glad to finish that day up and get out into the fresh air.
I sort of hugged myself in the parking lot and reminded myself that I was still young.
I never went back there.
I am in my late twenties, and there is not a day where the thought does not cross my mind- when you dwell on the shame and failure combined with the grim outlook toward the future, you think to yourself it's been real, but millions of people on this planet do not even last until their double-digit years.
On a personal level, the thought of the grief it would cause my parents is obviously what holds me back.
On a cynicial level, while my parents are not on any of my loans, and my understanding is that educational debts do not pass onto survivors, I would not put it past Access Group to seek payments from my parents. So not only would they have to deal with the loss of their kid, but would have to worry about losing their savings.
Oh My God. I was reading some of the Student Loan Horror stories here:
Things are getting really bad with the student loan situation in the USA.
After reading these kinds of stories I am very afraid for the future. This kind of situation cannot sustain itself.
Kids, we are living in very terrible times in the USA. All consumer protections have been eradicated.
Do not, and I repeat: DO NOT TAKE OUT STUDENT LOANS for anything.
If you cannot afford a Higher Education.
Do not go.
Please, for the love of a merciful GOD! If I could grap you by the shoulders and shake some sense into you:
DO NOT TAKE OUT STUDENT LOANS
I've collected just as many stories, and recently wrote about student debtors with health care problems for a scholarly journal. You can read it here: http://www.nebhe.org/2010/11/18/the-new-indentured-educated-class/
I agree with your sentiment. DO NOT TAKE OUT LOANS. It's not worth it.
This is not a fear for me anymore, this is a fact of my life, or at least is going to be. I am 57 years old and owe over 100K in student loans. I work part time for 8.50 an hour, it's all I could get. I will die owing and will have to live in a government subsidized home because my SS will be garnished! Yup, I've come to accept this as my future.
@Gail, and that's absolute bullshit. It makes me so livid, I can hardly see straight.
I'm a man, and about half nuts and out of my mind by now too with student debt, with nothing but fear and nightmares every night. Sometimes I wake up with that old recurrent dream about running with sluggish legs that are underwater.
But here is a little song that sort of makes me cry. The Crazy lady Blues. I only hope for a better afterlife, and want to prepare myself for it. God knows that the current USA is so uncaring and so anti-Humanity.
May God help my indebted and hated by all the taxpayers... never to rest soul.
The only way I was able to pay off my $400,000ish loans for undergrad and medical school, without a life of debt slavery, was to take a job patching up private military contractors in Iraq. But hey, at least I know my table is reserved in hell.
WHY WHY WHY did I ever take out student loans?
I was always told when I was younger that going to college would guarantee a life of comfort and happiness. Both my parents didn't have the money to go to college, and they didn't want that to be my fate as well.
Who knew that graduating college would mean over $100,000 in debt and growing, at least 5 harassing phone calls a day, crippling anxiety, working paycheck to paycheck, never owning a house or being able to afford a wedding/children, and never receiving a tax return (because it is confiscated by NYS Higher Education services each year). I can't help but think my life might be less stressful and happier without my college education.
Mash Up, unfortunately, you are not alone.
Frankly, my loans have made me fear life itself.
My degree was never guaranteed to make a million bucks straight out of the gate. My school is one of the top in the nation for what I wanted to do in life.
Yet it was at the cost of six figures worth of debt. It's not an easy burden where there's the high possibility I'm going to end up working a job below my skill set- dare I say fast food or Starbucks- which would default some of my loans.
And I'm so wary of what our country is going to pass next into law, that frankly, I really don't see myself dying in a nursing home.
I'm beginning to fear that I will die either in prison, or on the streets, as that seems where most people in poverty end up when their wages don't allow them to make a living. Or if our country finally goes to hell in in a handbasket thanks to our broken economic system- I imagine the lower classes where I am, will not fare very well.
All in all, this was never what I wanted out of my life when I went to college. It hurts so much sometimes. And I pray for the future of this country.
I understand the pain, M. Almeida. I fear for our country and what will happen to so many of us as we age. I too think about dying on the streets. Let's hope we can unite and make sure that doesn't happen. I'm still young enough to fight and to raise hell.
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