You are not a loan

As Obama eases into office for his second term, and the economy seems to take a turn for the better, there’s still one thing that’s hanging over our heads.

Debt, debt, debt.

I’ve lived my life pretty simply. I have no desire to be rich, just happy. I don’t pine after a bigger house or nicer clothes, I don’t want a new car or a new iPhone.  I just want a stellar life. I want experiences, travel, and time with friends, family. I want time to think and read and putter around. I want to write and bake cakes and watch weird movies, and lie on the beach and take road trips.

And mostly, I’ve been able to do this. I drive an old car. I buy my clothes at thrift shops. I cook dinner from scratch every night, and we eat a lot lentils and sweet potatoes. We don’t have cable or smartphones or new computers. Our television is ten years old, I have a prepaid Tracfone, and I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie in the theater.  I get my CDs, DVDs and reading material from the library, and buy my son’s toys at garage sales.  It’s a simple life, but it’s a very good one.

But there’s always this nasty thing hanging over my head. Debt, debt, debt.

I have $40,000 in student loans, racked up when I was a graduate student. And if I do say so myself, I was a great student. I got excellent grades, I won three awards and I finished two graduate degrees in five years. I taught ten undergraduate classes, was busy every minute of the day. But somehow, I still came out drowning in debt.It just doesn’t seem right that I have these loans hanging over my head for my education. It’s not like I went out and bought thousands of dollars of shoes, or a car I couldn’t afford, or went out to fancy restaurants every night.

I’ve decided to not let it stop me from living the life I want, but it’s still there, this nagging feeling in the back of my mind. Debt, debt, debt.

So when I read that about the Strike Debt movement, I was intrigued. The movement attempts to organize people as debtors.  According to Jodi Dean, a professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges:

“Debilitating medical and student debt are the result of a market approach to medicine and education. So if Strike Debt grows, we could see demands for free healthcare and free universities. Once people stop thinking of banks as entitled to interest and fees, then we may also decide as a society that public sector workers, pensions and basic infrastructures are more important than playing the bankers’ game.”

What does this have to do with health? Everything.

I don’t have any medical debt, but my student debt obligations gobble up a distressingly large portion of  my fairly measly income, making it financially impossible for me to purchase my own health insurance. I’m self-employed, so no one is going to provide it for me. I’ve been lucky so far, no major medical catastrophes since I’ve been uninsured, but really I’m just one bad pap test or car accident away from medical bills that could push me into financial ruin.

What about you? Do you have medical or student debt? Is it affecting your health? Have you heard about the Strike Debt movement? Let me know!

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