When I was 14, I nervously approached my mom and asked if I could finally get my first cell phone. I was in eighth grade and was sick with jealousy that every girl in my homeroom had the latest Nokia flip phone. I wanted in.
To me, having a cell phone was so adult. I could call people to make appointments (what appointments?). I could text people to discuss the latest episode of Gossip Girl. To me, there was nothing more independant and freeing than having my own mode of communication.
But right as I was about to perform my lengthy speech for why I deserved to have a cell phone (I had been practicing it for hours in my room), my mom cut me off and said “You can have one, but you have to pay for the phone bill each month. If you’re old enough to have a cell phone, you’re old enough to get a job.”
At the time, you had to receive a work permit to get a job before the age of 16. So once I applied and got one, I walked down to a nearby women’s gym and asked for a job in their childcare department.
For the next 2 years, I marched into that gym every Saturday morning at 7:30 AM and worked my shift.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the beginning of my fear of money. It taught me that work was designed to be unenjoyable. It inherently required you to do things you hated like hold screaming children and clean up babies’ vomit. And all at 7:30 AM on a Saturday? Whoever came up with this whole minimum wage employment thing must be playing a sick joke.
At the same time, I realized that I was a slave to it. I was desperate to hold onto my precious Nokia flip phone, and my menial monthly paycheck supported that.
Basically, after a few years, here was the idea that formed in my head: Money only comes if you do things that you hate. If you stop working, you lose the things you love, like your 2008 electronic devices. You only deserve a lot of money if you’re at least 35 and have a lot of fancy degrees, like my mom. And, last but not least, you cannot advance in life if you don’t have the money to allow you to do so.
That at least seemed to be the case until I was 17 and I was knee deep in college application season. Suddenly, my fellow students were willing to pay anything to attend a certain college, even if they didn’t have the money. This was the first time I was introduced to the concept of loans.
I had quite a few friends - 18-year-olds - who were signing loan agreements for $25,000 a year. This was considered normal. An investment in the future. The right decision.
Most of those friends, now seven years later, are still in that debt and will continue paying it off for many years to come.
Don’t get me wrong - I am not anti-loan. I’m actually very pro-finding the money you need to make shit happen. But this leads me to my next question...
How come American society has decided that college - and only college - is a future investment worthy of loans?
Unless you’re going to be a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer, college doesn’t even matter anymore. You can learn any skill, network with anyone, buy anything, and sell anything from the convenience of your couch with a laptop, making traditional college a fad of the past. You just don’t need it to build a lucrative, meaningful career anymore.
I’ll tell you what I do think is worthy of loans.
Learning a new skill that excites you.
Finding someone to support you and help you grow.
Attending incredible events.
And you know what I’ve found? When you take out a loan for a purpose that will actually advance you and make you a happier person, you are naturally going to manifest the money to pay it off a lot faster.
Think about it: If you invest in a therapist who’s going to make you the most self-confident, pro-active version of yourself, you can now use those major character changes to get a job you’d never thought you were worthy of.
On the other hand, if you choose not to do it because you don’t feel that you’re worthy or capable of change, and instead hoard the money you do have in fear of losing it, you’re never going to have the confidence to put yourself out there and get that dream job.
And if you borrow money from the bank to take a year-long trip in India to volunteer in women’s shelters, you’re not “wasting time” or “throwing away money”. Traveling and volunteering are two of the most direct ways to gain valuable life and professional skills, learn new languages, connect with incredibly special people, gain independence, and have serious realizations about your own life and the impact you want to make with it. And with all of that self-improvement and awareness, you can now become an influencer in that space create a lucrative career out of it. If you had stayed at home at your mom’s house working at McDonald's and going to community college on the side, could you have accomplished all of that? Hell no.
Or, you could have taken that loan money and put it toward a four-year communications degree that teaches you absolutely nothing about anything. Gotta love binge-drinking, $300 textbooks and outdated tenure professors, am I right?
The point is that I’m really tired of everyone getting antsy around the word “loan” when it comes to anything other than the all-American broken business of college.
Whenever I even mutter the words “find the money to make your dreams come true!”, someone attacks me with an angry “are you promoting taking out loans to your followers?? What are you, a war criminal???”
Calm down, trolls! I am not the enemy here! Nor am I even anti-college; I’m just pro-options. And I’m pro-finding the money to become the best version of yourself, no matter what that looks like for you.
So if there is something you know that you need in your life to be happier, more confident, more free, more worldly, more skilled, more helpful, more connected, or more wealthy, stop wasting time and find the money to make it happen. Do it now. The money is out there and waiting for you, and with the right action and drive, it will pay itself back in no time. Trust me, I’ve done it.
Sit down and truly ask yourself: What do I need to elevate my happiness in my life? Once you figure it out, don’t overthink it or stress or back out. Take action and commit making it happen. You owe it to yourself.