Forgive Student Loan Debt Now

Three years ago, Vista Equity Partners CEO Robert F. Smith paid off the student loan debt of the entire Morehouse College graduating class. It was a good thing for him to do. But it was appalling that it was even necessary. Even more appalling is that the problem of student loan debt remains nation-wide. Student ought not have to accumulate a lifetime’s worth of debt for a four-year degree.

Over twenty years ago, I accumulated more debt than was healthy so I could finish college and then a graduate degree. Largely, I did so because I didn’t understand debt and how it would affect me. My debt for two degrees was smaller than what many students have accrued today for a single degree. And still, it prevented me from doing a lot of things I wanted. It forced me to make choices that I didn’t necessarily want in service to that debt.

I have since paid off my debt. I was fortunate to parlay otherwise impractical degrees into a career in technology that paid far above what I would have earned elsewhere. And while I enjoy what I do for a living, I’m definitely in this field because of the money, not for its own sake. I’d rather have been able to focus on writing fiction. I’d rather have spent time on woodworking. I’d rather have played guitar. Those things all had to take a back seat to servicing student loan debt.

I’d rather no one else have to make those sacrifices.

Massive student loan debt is a drag on our economy. It damages creativity, innovation, and progress. It is a symptom of the disease that afflicts this country: that people exist only so that profit can be squeezed out of them for the benefit of those who already have grotesque amounts of wealth.

Forgive all student loan debt now.

The Sweetest Cat

PK in her favorite spot on the porch.

It wasn’t long after Carolyn and I moved into our house before a little calico cat made her presence known. She showed up in the yard, demanding affection from Carolyn. She got it–and a can of tuna. Pretty soon, she was a regular in our yard. Later, we learned that she’d been a neighborhood fixture for a couple of years, part of a feral colony at the other end of our alley.

I named her “Porch Kitty” because she could often be found on our back porch. Also, I thought that if I didn’t give her a real name, I wouldn’t grow attached to her. I was wrong.

“Porch Kitty” quickly became “Princess Kitty” and “Precious Kitty” and “Perfect Kitty,” but mostly we called her “PK.” She was sweet, and friendly, and an expert at breaking and entering. She exploited damage to the crawl space vent screens to get into the basement and took up residence there. Once, she appeared on the second floor, having climbed the inside of the wall, and exited through a hole in our HVAC ductwork.

Soon, she was coming inside to eat, and then we made her a permanent resident of the house. We screened the back porch so she could still go outside, and that’s where she hung out most of the time. But for a while each evening, we’d tuck the two birds away so that she (and Chubby Huggs, who we still miss) could come inside and spend time with us. She’d alternate between sitting next to me and on Carolyn’s lap.

She feared nothing, except for a weasel ball we got her one Christmas. She hunkered down against the wall, tail wrapped tight against her body, and did her best not to let it touch her. But she was death to Christmas trees, was happy to scale any height, and just last year, killed a rat that had invaded the screen porch.

We moved here in 2002, and she was already at least two by then according to the neighbors at the time. So she was at least twenty-two when she died earlier this week. She had a good, long life and we were with her at the very end.

Rest in peace, PK. I’ll always miss your fuzzy little face.

The first drawing

I do not write in the evenings. Most days, I’m so drained by work that processing language is difficult. Reading brings little pleasure, and I don’t retain much of what I read. Playing games and watching TV feel like a waste of time. When bedtime rolls around, I’m frustrated because I feel like I’ve wasted my time. Often, I stay up late trying–and failing–to make something out of the remains of the day. That leads to more frustration. Worse still—I start the next day fatigued. It’s a classic self-reinforcing feedback loop.

I can’t do anything about the fatigue caused by work. I’m a consultant and a trainer. Listening and talking are literally how I earn my living. I’m not in a position to retire yet.

I can’t stop working, but neither can I dampen my creative impulse. I wouldn’t do it even if I could. I’ve decided to try an experiment: use my evenings to learn to draw. I bought an iPad app (Procreate 5) and a Udemy class on drawing. I would like to become proficient and drawing from life and from my imagination. Cartooning appeals to me but I want to explore everything the course has to offer.

The drawing that accompanies this post is my baseline. This is what I can do now, before starting the class. I’m actually pleased with it. It is a reasonable approximation of what was in my mind when I started. I like that hair left ear peeks out from her hair–some is tucked behind and some falls in front.

This is the best I can do, now. I’m going to enjoy getting better.

An ink line drawing of a woman looking down with a pensive expression.

New Fiction: “Simpatico”

This week’s flash fiction on Medium was inspired by a prompt to write about two people who have such a close relationship that they can almost read each other’s minds. I chose not to write about two people in love, but two coworkers who are strongly simpatico even though one is ambitious and the other is not. I hope you’ll enjoy reading “Simpatico.”