Saturday, October 6, 2012

Request for Online Support: Young Student Debtor Writes, "[B]eing dead would be a relief compared to a life without hope."

The notes continue to land in my inbox or in the comments section here - so many people, with crushing debt, write to me and express in difficult tones how they have lost hope, how they wish to be dead, and how they see no future. As I said in my article published by the Huffington Post (written with the support of the Economic Hardship and Reporting Project and edited by Barbara Ehrenreich and Gary Rivlin), I was stunned by these suicidal notes. That feeling has not gone away. Each time I read one of these notes, it stings. It stirs up frustration, anger, and deep sadness. But more importantly than that, it makes me more determined to continue fighting on behalf of the indentured educated class. It's not just the suicidal remarks, but the deep sense of hopelessness that absolutely infuriates me. We cannot allow our young people to give up hope - it's too precious. But many of them are losing hope, and for what? Going to college and being slammed afterwards with crippling student loan debt (they are also preyed on by credit card companies on their campuses). 

One anonymous reader, who graduated recently, explained: "On a daily basis, I pray that I will die so that this will be over; being dead would be a relief compared to a life without hope." (You can read this individual's full response here; I asked the person for permission to publish the remark in its entirety, but didn't hear back. So, out of respect, I've only pulled this one powerful quote from the entry).

 Currently, I am reading about the brutal history of slavery and indentured servants that came over from Europe when the Americas were "discovered." In Zinn's historical masterpiece, A People's History of The United States, he goes into great detail about the horrors of the slave system. He also describes the brutality that went along with being an indentured servant. They too were bought and sold. He describes the way in which these individuals would sign agreements that covered the cost of their passage across the Atlantic. In addition, they would have to work for a master for at least 5 or 7 years. Zinn refers to horrific historical records of how these indentured servants were chained on the boats, would die from starvation, and eat one another if the ships ran out of food. Once they arrived, as mentioned, they were sold off much like slaves. While they could buy their freedom, the laws were also against them. As Zinn writes,"the parties [master and servants] appeared on paper as equals, but enforcement was far easier for master than for servant." And the same goes with the laws on the books for student borrowers and student lenders. The laws, as we all know, are unequal and favor the lenders. Zinn also notes that records from Maryland show that there was a high level of suicides among indentured servants.

In a word, this sense of hopelessness, this desire to flee the status of being indentured by means of suicide is a common reaction, and something that has occurred in the past.

At the same time, we have come to see ourselves - as a society - as less barbaric than that grim period of time that Zinn captures with such brutal intensity, all of which is based upon historical records. That is why indentured educated Americans must focus their thoughts towards the possibility of freedom. This requires all of us to maintain a sense of hope. We must hold onto collective hope as well as personal hope.

Keep in mind: the fight has just begun, but we are making progress.

If you are suicidal, please call: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255


John in Boston said...

To the young person Cryn has referenced here:

I'm a not so young one anymore who is still saddled with it - but through blogs like AEM and shared experience and support groups on Facebook (and actually, through talking with Cryn), I've come to realize in just the last few years that my debt is not who I am.

Further, a rational look at circumstances - reinforced by my parents, who've had their own financial ups and downs and know a thing or two about recovery - reveals that there's nothing your ed loan lenders can do to you physically. Not trying to be flippant, but it's good to know that neither the Feds nor Sallie Mae is going to kneecap you, nor use a hammer to smash the fingers on your writing hand.

Finally, it's really, really important to focus on being what you want to be, separate and apart from what you think your debt wants you to be. I spent YEARS in fear - generated by wagging-finger job-search advice givers in media - that some employer was going to run a check on me and see that I was in this debt and not hire me. Very honestly, I don't know if that ever happened (it may or may not have), but by now, with ed debt officially outsizing consumer credit card debt, I know I'm in good, honest company - and no ed creditor is going to do a damn thing to me as long as I'm behaving in good faith with them, even if I can't make full payments.

To this last point, I took solace years ago in what a friend (of a friend) told me once about her observations as a medical debt collector for a hospital - as long as a consistent pattern of even small payments is maintained, there's really nothing a big mean angry-sounding debt holder can do other than wait for the next payment.

YOU come first, YOUR profession comes next, and the gray cloud you think is upon you is just that, a gray cloud. Sunshine fights through.

Anonymous said...

I saw Suze Orman's show tonight and was dismayed.

It was like Orman did an about face

What happened to her?

She used to say that nobody has any money anymore, and now she says you have to make the loan payments, even if you don;t have any money.

And then she said that college grads can make 100K and that a lot of the ones that move back home don't really have to, and are making that kind of money, in so many words.

Man of Hope said...

Being dead would be less than relief. Being dead is not a solution, remaining alive and finding ways to cope is always better. Remember, things change and so do perspectives. Take the knowledge gained and find ways to make life better even if it is in small ways.

Anonymous said...

That's very strange about Suze Orman. In the past, she has seemed to advocate for those suckered into student loan debt but now... what was that all about? I, for one, have a master's and no job. I'm currently a 30-year-old "couch-surfer," meaning I am also homeless and am being supported by any friends and family who are willing to let me crash with them for a couple of weeks at a time. I'd like Ms. Orman to tell me how I can make $100k?? Sign me up!

To the person who is feeling suicidal - I've been there and back about 500 times over the last 4 years (no joke). It's an exhausting emotional roller coaster. You get really low, then you get sick of feeling low and try to talk yourself out of it and convince yourself that something will change. That lasts for maybe a couple of weeks and then you're right back on the bottom again. Just try to tell yourself that you aren't alone, and these assholes have taken everything from us. Don't let them claim your life, too.

I hear you though, I've literally lost all hope myself. My hair's falling out, I've gained about 30 pounds (don't ask how as I haven't had much to eat), I don't sleep anymore. I've cried so many tears that there are none left. I'm severely, severely depressed.

Cryn, I'm sickened by the indentured servant information you shared here. I do not mean to minimize what those poor souls suffered, but I couldn't help but notice that their "terms" were (I believe you said) 5-7 years. While their conditions were deplorable, it almost seems survivable compared with my 30 year sentence. I'll never make enough to pay my minimums, let alone make a dent in them.

Still, though, I sit here writing this message on someone else's couch. Honestly, I've had it. I am sick and tired of surviving. I want to thrive. How do I do that? I don't even care if I'm honest anymore. Trying to make an honest living destroyed my future and my life. Someone needs to help us. Someone needs to do something. This is unlivable. It's unbearable

Anonymous said...

Re: Suze Orman:

She has at least 50K of paper white dental laminates, and she calls herself a blond when her very uncute roots say otherwise.

Which is strange.

On top of all that she now shills for the financial industry lenders and in a very hard nosed way.

Thanks Suze for letting us all down.

phoenix said...

It would be a good idea to learn another language, at least how to be conversant in it, and flee the country. Start a better life somewhere else. Maybe in Mexico.

See at least then you'd be at $0. If you make something you'd be in the black. Immigrants came to this country with nothing to their name, as the story goes, but the clothes on their back, then worked hard and made something of themselves.

Funny how the kids born in this country now can't even say that much. They can't even get back to $0!

Nando said...

There is always hope. If you are concerned about student debt and weak job prospects here, then do the following:

LEAVE THIS PATHETIC-ASS COUNTRY! I don't care if some ass-hat from DoJ or Homeland Security sees this comment. Yes, Nando from Third Tier Reality is encouraging those who feel hopeless - due to their student debt and weak job outlook - to leave the United States.

Start fresh somewhere else. If you do not speak another language, then you still have several options. If you have a professional degree here, do not expect to practice in England, Canada, Australia, etc. However, you might be able to land a regular job there. Is Sallie Mae or Nelnet going to go broke if some of you leave this garbage pit of a country?

Hell, those pigs do not give one damn about you - or the legions of others that they have crushed with non-dischargeable debt. So you should not care about those cockroaches and their filthy investors. If you truly feel hopeless, then leave the country. WALK AWAY FROM YOUR STUDENT DEBT.


Anonymous said...

My husband and I have actually looked into leaving the country because our situation is beyond dire. We're a $65k income household with $375k of student debt (thanks, compounding, capitalizing interest).

We've been paying for years, yet our balances continue to increase. At what point do you realize that you're a true debt slave in every sense of the word? At what point do you realize it's futile to continue this way? Where is our quality of life? What is the point?

How, exactly, do we move to other countries? I ask this in all sincerity. It is no secret that most countries hate Americans. As Nando pointed out, they won't take our degrees seriously (so why do they send their people to our schools?), employers of other countries don't want to hire Americans and the countries require all kinds of hoops to jump through including having significant sums of money to one's name. Student debtors like ourselves obviously don't have this kind of money - if we did, we wouldn't be in debt.

If someone has any more information on the matter, I'd love to hear it because we're literally desperate for help. As my husband sarcastically said today, "I have 3 degrees. Is it okay with society if I eat today even though I went to school?" If there was a realistic option to start over in life, I'd take it in a heartbeat. Please, share what you know!

And yes, I do believe that Suze Orman has sold her soul to even Sallie Mae now.

God help us all!

Anonymous said...

Yes, watching and listening to Suze Orman is insulting, and maybe even insulting to humanity, and much more surreal than even a Salvador Dali painting, and her cold eyes, and her expensive, paper white laminated shark fangs are absurdly dripping with condescension and cruel wall street salt sea water.

Tiffany Gholar said...

I have a question for John in Boston: is it really true that you can make small payments to Sallie Mae and they won't come after you? I only ask because I have a friend who tried this, and have read posts from people online who tried this. They still got their wages garnished. I'm trying to figure out what to do.

Anonymous said...


I'd like to know too because from what I understand, they actually won't even accept less-than-minimum payments for this very reason. I could be wrong though. Thankfully, my student debt is through other loan sharks, not Sallie Mae.

Online Education said...

Actually the thing is that all this is just going to keep us in a vicious cycle. I think people just place too much emphasis on college education than is necessary.

Anonymous said...

Me too. There's no way out. There's no hope. I've done nothing but work, work, work - way lower middle class. Raised my younger siblings, was a mom basically. Never took a day off. And while I was a captive audience my tuition went up about 20k and my interest rate subsidy went away. It just...grows. I have no debt other than student loan debt. I've never had a credit card or fancy things. After I worked my way through college, I got a statement from social security showing what I'd paid in during the 5 years I worked through college: 17k, exactly equal to the loans I also had to take out. Then I went to law school. They lied to me. They lied to everyone. Now, I know it's over for me. I'm too old too tired and I know I don't have it in me to fight this any longer.