09/06/2011 04:57 pm ET | Updated Nov 06, 2011

I Should Have Listened to My Father

In retrospect, I should have listened to my father. "Take the money, and stay in-state," he told me.

I turned down a full ride at Michigan State (a school that ranks in the top 20 in my field, education) to get the HBCU (Historically Black College and University) experience at Hampton University. It was the best thing I could have done as far as experiences go, but the worst for my finances. They say you can't put a price on experience, but I can. Roughly $24,000 my freshman year, and it only got more expensive every year after that.

I'm not upset at the fact that I'm paying $600 monthly for my student loans; I'm more disgruntled with the false pretenses under which I signed my loan documentation. I never thought I would be in a field making $100,000 a year, and never wanted to be a businessman, but I did think that I would make enough money in my field to live within reason. I don't think I had unrealistic expectations (as a lot of college grads have), but I wanted to live comfortably. Right now? Not so much. At least my cubicle has glimpses of the things I want with my life; books, letters from old students, things of the sort. It keeps me sane.

I find it comical how many entry-level employees have a liberal arts degree. I don't think I got my money's worth in college because of the major I chose, not because of the school I chose or anything of the sort. Now I'm in D.C., working a government job from 6-3, and then running to a Section 8 Community center as program manager. Sitting at a desk all day -- the running joke is that my B.A. is in Xeroxing -- may not be optimizing my skillset, but I'm blessed to have something to remotely pay the bills. The second job (because I need two jobs to live in the D.C. metro area) is with a non-profit, and it is what it sounds like. I get paid peanuts to do what I want to do -- and there is the basis of where all this student loan hatred comes from. No one ever told me blatantly to drop what I want to do in order to be paid. I love working with kids in some form of educational/mentoring capacity, but that may never pay the bills.

I'm in grad school now, but I feel like as much as I want another piece of paper as validation, it may just be prolonging the fact that the whole educational system for liberal arts graduates is nonsense. Yet, I'm enrolled, because plainly put, I don't see any other options at this point.
And I was in a rush to be an adult. What was wrong with me?