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December 6, 2013

“Maybe it’s time to forgive yourself for that student loan.”



Who do you think you’re talking to?

Forgive my loan too.

First, it’s forgive myself for being single, which, truth be told seems to be working pretty god damn well, so what if I don’t feel like extrapolating that to another aspect of my life.

I like to beat myself up.

There’s some spooky ass comfort in it.

Creepy that I enjoy the self-pity, but it’s a party I have always RSVP’d to.

What if I said, not today, or, try me later.

Or what if I did forgive myself for that student loan?

What then?

Then, I suppose, if it falls out like other things in my life have, maybe I can make space for what is supposed to come next instead of focusing on that big gigantic number that I owe the student loan sharks and I could see what else there is to see.

I spin out-and-out and spend the time being spun not even realizing what I am doing, but man, it feels busy.

However, it’s not.

It’s just distraction from the real issue.

See, when I was seventeen years old, yes, we’re going back into the Wisconsin time machine, hop in, welcome to growing up in a unicorporated small town 25 minutes north-east of Madison (that’s the capital if you are wondering.  I was trying to explain where I grew up to someone in Paris and the closest I could get was “Chicago” north of Chicago), I received a huge gift.

A gift I was sort of expecting and a gift I really did not know what to do with.

I got a full ride to school.

I have friends that escaped home life by drinking or doing drugs, staying out late, running away from home, stealing, getting pregnant really young, or having promiscuous unsafe sex.

I on the other hand, escaped into school.

It was safer.

And I was smart.

“I’m the type of person that always did well in school,” I told her, “I would, well, I would write my fifteen page term paper on Henry the V the night before and get an A.”

School was not hard.

I repeat I am an intelligent person.

But I tell you what, there are some things I just never did learn and despite having some really solid book knowledge, I was bereft in a lot of other areas that have taken me decades to work out.

I have not worked through them all, but.

I have walked through a lot.

Done lots of work.


But there are still obstacles to move through and work to be done.

“Aren’t you grateful for that?!” She said, all excited, “that you have stuff to keep working on?”



I mean, yes.

I keep coming back and practising and doing the work and getting the results and that whole, “more will be revealed” bit, well, more got revealed.

It was so simple.

Forgive yourself for the student loan.

I haven’t.

Every time I make that payment I hate it.

I hate myself more, secretly, quietly, in the depths of my soul, I ultimately am not angry with anyone else but myself.

I fucked it up and boy howdy, apparently I am still going to beat myself down for the mistakes an 18-year-old girl made.

Damn it.

So, back in Wisconsin, back in the early bits of senior year when I was applying to schools (I started getting solicited by schools when I was  a junior in high school and the amount of mail that I got by the summer just before senior year was stupid) I made the decision that I was only going to apply to one school.

The one I knew I could get into and the one I thought I would get the most financial aid for, though I am not certain that my rationale was that exactly.

It was more like this.

I think I can get into Harvard, I am pretty sure I can get into Berkeley, but I don’t think I can get money together to move there.

That’s what stopped me from applying to any school that was out-of-state, basically any school that was out of the god damn county, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have the money to move out-of-state.

The family unit, me, mom, my sister, was barely making it as it was.

I was working full-time in the summers, full-time on the weekends, and going to school, well, in high school its “full time”.

I was pretty busy.

And the money just would not stay.

It was rapidly taken out of my hands just as fast as I could bring it in.

Which is another blog, another time, and well covered elsewhere.

Suffice to say, the family unit, which was barely intact, was not making it any easier for me to save money to move out West or out East.

I was going to have to stay put.

That meant UW Madison.

Here is the truth that I have never written about before, I have lied all my life about getting accepted into bigger name schools because I wanted so bad to get out but was ashamed that I didn’t even try.

I didn’t even try.

I was too busy making fear based decisions.

And I have never forgiven myself for that.

I have never forgiven the fact that I also blew my ride.

Here’s the correlation that I see now with clarity and perspective:

First time getting drunk: one month after starting college at the age of 18.

First time dropping out of school which led to me flunking all my classes except one, and that’s also another story that is funny, but not applicable here, and being put on academic probation which lead to me having my entire ride for four years revoked?

Two months later after my first drunk.

I fell the fuck apart that fast.

I should have gotten sober at fucking 19.

But I was tumbling fast, soon a drop out, supporting my younger pregnant sister and her older boyfriend as well as a plethora of other unsavory companions on bounced checks, started ironically with the first installments of said financial aid compensation.

I graduated highschool with honors, had a full ride to college, yeah it wasn’t my first pick, but it was a great school, and by the time I was 19, less than a year after I graduate highschool I was smoking crack homeless in southern Florida.

Fuck me.

Through a lot of odd twists and turns and circumstances (which if I ever get my head out of my ass around the story will comprise the full series of memoirs I have written in rough draft) I found myself back in Wisconsin, back in Madison, back in school.

I re-applied to the University of Wisconsin Madison when I was 25.

I had to take out student loans because they wouldn’t touch me with a ten foot pole.

I had no full ride.

I had no scholarships or grants.

I had me and a job running a brewing company.

I took out loans.

I made it work.

I got on deans list.

I was still drinking, but I was managing.

I was smart, remember.

I am smart.

I got my degree, I got my diploma, even in the end I won some awards and got some cash and “prizes” some acclaim for some writing and some of the nicest things said about me and my abilities by some of the most talented and smartest people I have ever had the honor of studying with.

But I also had $43,500 in student loans by the end of it all.

Today, 11 years after I graduated I still have $32,345 in outstanding student loans.

“Can you forgive yourself for that,” she said, “that’s where the work has to start.”

I think I am going to have to.

Because I am tired of living under the shadow of that mistake.

I am damn proud I went back and I got my degree and I did well.

I could have done better, the drinking was starting to take off by the time I was getting close to graduating, the cocaine use was only a few months past that and then less than two years later I was crawling around on the floor hoping to die.

I didn’t.

I am graced.

There are no mistakes.

I am not a mistake.

I am enough.

And I forgive myself for taking out those student loans.

I was doing the best I could with what I had.

Fuck, I still am.

Better than that, I live a life that I find full of integrity and that has no price tag.

So, yeah, time to forgive.

Not forget, I have no doubt that my experience will be of benefit to someone else, but definitely to forgive.

Because, well, see, I might want to go back to school.

If I can’t forgive that debt to myself then I won’t be able to get past this roadblock.

That’s how I see it.

And man, do I want to move past this block.

It’s time.

I am too smart to not be doing better.

It’s time.

One small step.

Today I forgive myself for my student loan debt.

One very small step toward something bigger.



No Burn For You

July 19, 2012


I thought maybe I was going.

In fact, I opened up my big mouth to my GM today after work and said, it looks like some one may need my nanny skills after all on playa, can I still take time off.

The answer was a resounding yes.

But the Universe was not giving me what I wanted.

I have absolutely no hate for that.

I did feel some disappointment, I realized I had gotten my hopes up and I got excited at the prospect of being out in the dust and doing another Burn before heading to Paris.

However, I also felt really good about myself for saying what I needed.  The interested party could not provide me with what I needed.  Not in any kind of sustaining way.

I have to self-support.  This is horrendously important to me.  I don’t have credit card debt.  I have no outstanding payments due anywhere.  I live entirely within my means. I have not borrowed money from some one in such a long time that I cannot even recall when the last time was.

I have experienced financial insecurity, sure, absolutely.  Fact is, I feel financially insecure right now.  However, my rent is paid and my phone is paid and my groceries are bought in cash and my clothes, toiletries, books, pens, paper, everything I have is paid for in complete full.

Yes, I do owe on my student loans.

But that is a debt to which I make payments every month and I whittle it down.  I whittle slowly, but whittle nonetheless.

The family sounded so sweet and so dear and I actually rather hit it right off with them when they called me this evening.  But they could not give me what I needed.

I “think” I should feel weird about asking for what I need and for charging for my services on playa.  But frankly, child care is serious business, and anyone who tells you different is either ignorant of what it takes or has not ever taken care of a child.

There is a survival guide that is given out to each and every person that goes out to Burning Man.  The ticket holder when purchasing their ticket is legally warned of the very real possibility of death or severe illness that can be indicative of the harsh environment.

You have to be prepared for it.

Then add in a child to the mix.  That is a hard job.  Being a nanny in normal day life is a challenge.  Being a nanny on the playa is double that.  There are ways to do it and do it well, but you have to be prepared.

Oh, that’s not to say that there is not fun to being a nanny on playa, but it can be really exhausting.  For me to take time off from work and not be supported out there and work without support is a no go deal.

I accept, then, that I am not going.

I made it pretty clear that I am willing to go, willing to be of service, willing to help.

But I have to help myself first.

I don’t know who I am trying to convince here.  I am experiencing some sadness at not going.  I was fairly resigned to it, then Megan sent me the nanny post and I got excited and I started making plans and trying to figure things out.

I knew that figuring things out is not my milieu, or my business, but I was beginning to dabble.  I was getting some big ideas, I was having some thoughts about ways of making it happen.

Making it happen.

In other words, manipulation.

Manipulation, which never works for me.  I resign.  I am resigned.  I am not going.

Deep collective sigh.

Funny, how hard it is to let go of certain ideas.  I wanted to be there for Shadrach’s anniversary.  I wanted to visit the temple.  I wanted.  I. I. I.





Nothing selfish here folks, just keep moving on by, nothing to see, nothing to look at.

The all about me show will now re-commence.

Then there’s the all about taking care of myself mode, which is really different.  Although, I used to have a tendency to confuse the two–self-care versus selfish.

Self-care means to nurture that which needs attending to so that I may better be of service to my community.

Selfish is magical thinking, not doing the work, manipulating to get a desired outcome.

I am doing the work.  I am letting go without being dragged.  Because, honestly, had I bent and said, ok, I’ll nanny for you in exchange for a ticket and some meals (no support, no lodging, no water, no transport, no money, no compensation), I would not be taking care of myself.

Further, I would be compromising myself and my health.

Sure, I could do it.  I could take out a credit card and run up some horrendous debt and go play in the playa.  But I would not be living the kind of life that I have grown accustomed to.

Knowing the value of what I earn.

Living within my means, even if they are currently quite slender.

Respecting my needs and not trying to get something from people who cannot afford to give it to me either.

The people who are looking for a nanny–they volunteer with the organization–they don’t get paid to go either.  It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever for them to pay for a nanny.  They can’t afford it.

I heard what they said and I thanked them for considering me.

I got back some really lovely compliments, they had heard through the grapevine about me and were supperaltively sweet and understood completely that I had to take care of myself.

It was a really great experience to honestly say, this does not work for me.  Thank you, but no thank you and leave it at that.

No Burn for me.

No burdening of others.

Despite the sadness I am quietly assured in my choice to be my own best advocate and not a burn out.

Even if that means pining for the playa inside, I get to experience the feeling without burying it and I get to be accountable for myself, my recovery, and my own personal care and happiness.


Not a bad trade off at all.

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