alma mater.


you should have seen her. she was really freaking out. we checked her online account, and the payments had gone up from $274 to $287. "why has it gone up?" she asked. how was i supposed to know? after all, it was my education, but really, her decision. "i'll give them a call," i offered. i pressed all the buttons to get through to an operator, but at the last minute, i handed the phone over to her, knowing that the operator would ask the usual questions: social security number, date of birth, pin, etc.

she sounded agitated from the start. "why have my payments gone up? i'm used to paying $274, but now it says that i owe $287." the woman explained to her that the online debiting only occurs for six months, and then a loan holder must go online to renew the option for online debiting. this proved true, as i signed her up for online debiting back in december, as she had requested. she was excited then, when she discovered that she could save something like 3% if she paid her bills online. i knew it was trouble, but i signed her up anyway.

her voice began to rise as she continued to describe and understand the dilemma she was now facing. "here, let me talk to her," i said. i took the phone. "hi. we signed up for online payments, but the..." the operator, obviously agitated herself, cut me off immediately. "there are no online payments. the current payment is twenty-six days past due." "well," i said, "we signed up for automatic debiting, so why didn't it go through?" "there's no record here for online payments to occur," she said. my own voice began to rise. it's that rare moment where i feel myself getting flushed, flustered, and my eyes begin to twitter.

"can we just sign up for online debiting now, then?" "you can go online to our website and sign up to make online payments there." "but that's what we did," i said. "well, there are no online payments occuring at this time." frustrated, mom began speaking to me. both women were now speaking to me at the same time in awful, angry tones. "just tell them to send me the bill through the mail," mom said. best idea so far. "can you just send us the bill through the mail, the way we used to receive it?" i asked. "when will she be able to make the payment?" the operator asked. "as soon as she receives the bill," i said.

after hanging up, i explained to her that the bills would come through the mail, and she would just write checks to pay them. i half-expected our conversation to turn into something ugly. luckily, it didn't turn to that. i am still conflicted about this awful mess i've gotten her into. currently, she owes $70,000 for my direct student loans. loans that she took out to fund my ill-informed decision to attend a so-so private univeristy in the pacific northwest, to major in something as useless and pointless as creative writing. i just wanted to get away. i didn't plan on financially ruining her.

she's told me, though, that she has no intention of paying off the exorbitant loan. "if something happens to me," she often says, "all will be forgiven." it's her way of saying that when she dies, don't worry, i won't owe a cent to the loan sharks. i feel guilty for racking up the bill, and not being financially responsible. in my defense, though, i paid off my $17,000 loan in under three years, by serving a two-year americorps sentence and saving every cent i had. still, i don't think it's fair that she had to bear the brunt of my wish to get away from home. obviously, had i known i would be paying $287 per month until "something happened" to me, i probably would've sucked it up and gone to sac state.

sometimes i honestly believe that my degree was more important for her than it was for me. whenever a parent accomplishes this, it gives him/her bragging rights. "i put my kid through school. what did you ever do?" additionally, they can hang the alma mater's sticker on the back of their cars and feel proud that their child is educated, unlike so many other uneducated children. i don't want to downplay my education, though. had i not gone to school, i probably would not have seen or believed that there are actually individuals in this world who are trying to better themselves, who are trying to do something good. had i not gone to school, i probably would've continued to believe that the world is full of self-serving, immature assholes. i would not have wished to partipate any longer.

so, maybe $70,000 was worth it.

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