Three years and eleven months after I graduated from Oberlin College, I pressed submit on my last student loan payment. That was about an hour ago. I'm walking on air right now.
And then what did I do, you may ask? Well, in order, these three things:
I tweeted that I was done with my loans and got a whole slew of immediate congratulations back, the first of which came complete with seven exclamation points from a friend who manages social media for a student loan company. (Yay, support systems!) And I made this silly gif of me dancing because I realized that dancing was a thing I should do in celebration. (Ida can attest to this, she was blogging and watching me make a fool of myself while gifing it up.)
I gave money to Oberlin. And yes, I know I've been giving money in some form or another to Oberlin (or something like it) for the last eight years, but this is different.
The only way I was able to complete my loan payoff so quickly is because of Oberlin, in all senses of the word and spirit of things. My parents and financial aid paid for the pieces of my Oberlin experience I couldn't cover on my own at the time. I worked, hard, summers and throughout the school year, taking that learning and labor motto as seriously as I knew how. And yet I still took out loans, a solid 18K that looked like an insurmountable mountain when I graduated. But I chipped away, slowly as I figured out how to budget with a Big Kid paycheck, then more quickly as I realized completing the loans was within my grasp. My gift to Oberlin today was in part in support of scholarships and I made it in honor of my parents, because these are the two biggest reasons I was able to fully experience Oberlin while I was a student.
It feels good to know that I'm done with the largest financial burden I've ever experienced to date (#adulthood), but really, it's just a start. Attending Oberlin was worth it in every sense of the word, and it's given more than I could have ever dreamed of. The opportunity to learn, explore, challenge, create, work, eat, sleep, love, dance, scream — sometimes all in the same day — isn't something easily encapsulated in a price tag. For all that I gave to Oberlin, Oberlin gave right back to me in spades. Like Boston always says: "It's more than a feeling."
The fact that I am able to give back to this community both in terms of my job and financial support of the people and causes here at Oberlin that I care about is overwhelming in that chest-tightening "I can't believe this is real life" sort of way. And while I've been dabbling in this sort of small scale cyclical support thing for the past few years, this evening's new mindset tapped into something else in my head.
I've believed in Oberlin for such a long time (and I don't think I'm going to stop anytime soon), but I've freed up a bit of space in my head and bank account to start figuring out what else matters to me. It's time for me to expand my beliefs and support of things that helped me become me.
So, after giving to Oberlin, I immediately visited the Striking Viking Story Pirates website and gave to their current fundraising effort. I wouldn't have known about the Story Pirates if it wasn't for Oberlin: they were the group that I did my one and onlyoff campuswinter term project with, and I believe in them and what they do A LOT. I can't do much — hey, I just finished my loans TODAY; I'll have more money next month — but it's a start.
I've had focus for so long on such a singular goal that it's kinda cool to loosen up and see what else is happening around me that I can throw myself into as a pillar of support. The possibilities are nearly endless. As Allie Bosch would say: "ALL THE THINGS!"
Oh, right. I was making a list. Sorry about that. I got derailed by all the awesomeness that is Oberlin and my love for it all.
I posted a shortened version of this blog post on Facebook (which actually inspired me to open up a blog post and capture all my feelings right now), and I'm just tearing up at the amazing variety of people I've known from the past decade, eight years of which have directly included Oberlin, acknowledging my own personal accomplishment. I couldn't have done it without you all. Thank you for the support and belief that it could and will be done. It can and it is.