The Trouble with School Loans is…
. . . the government does not accept repayment in the form of produce from one’s garden!
I’ve been having a bit of trouble lately repaying my student loans, and I’m sure I’m not the only one in my cohort who is. Thousands of recent college graduates, like myself, are finding themselves either unemployed or underemployed. Let’s run by the facts, just for fun: students who graduated from college in 2010 (my year) with student loans owed an average of $25,250, up 5 percent from the previous year, and the unemployment rate for that year was 9.1 percent. 2011 graduates had even more debt, with an average of $26,600, and as college tuition rises still higher, I suspect 2012 and 2013 grad numbers will be even higher.
Lately, however, more and more of us are starting to find alternate routes to success, and even alternate destinations, if you know what I mean. To many of this generation, perhaps the “American dream” has dwindled into an outdated view of materialism and corporate careers, while our waking dreams are things both more real (in the making) and more ethereal (to attain). We don’t want free enterprise systems that deliver a supply and demand; we want free co-operation systems that deliver employee-owned or employee-shared ventures. We don’t want 401k plans; we want to lead lives of real job security, when we know we can make or grow for ourselves what we need to thrive.
Some of us out-of-work-and-going-for-gold are trying to speak out and change how America runs itself; others are taking notice and agreeing that we have a dysfunctional society today, particularly in the food system. Or rather, perhaps it’s the other way around–people like Michael Pollan and J.I. Rodale brought it to light, and the recent college graduates are following through with the work.
I choose, however, to think that rather than tell other people what they ought to do, perhaps I should simply try to do what I think I ought to do, and work on that for a while. Trouble is, if I’m focusing on living properly–caring for people, caring for the earth, and sharing the surplus in my community–the government isn’t going to get a lot of moola out of me. For all an abundant and beautiful life it is, when I feel wealthy, the wealth will not be monetary. If you look at the 8 Forms of Capital brought to us by fellow Permaculturalist Ethan C. Roland, organic farming and homesteading brings us tons of living capital, lots of experiential and social capital, but not a ton of financial capital–what Uncle Sam is looking for from me. Right now, it’s very hard to make a lot of actual money from just growing and selling organic produce–especially edible annuals, ask any farmer’s market vendor you know. And while the national market is starting to recognize the potential of some of the other forms of capital–I’m thinking about social media here–Uncle Sam, again, hasn’t gotten there yet.
So, what am I to do? Luckily, there is still a little financial capital to be made if you are savvy and happen to live in a supportive and enterprise-creative neighborhood, like I do, and perhaps the rest of the chips will fall into place sooner than later. If you are in a situation similar to mine, I salute your perseverance and hard work. And don’t let the problem here with finances blind you to the possibilities in starting systems that might work better. I’m thinking here of my friend who suggested a “Homesteaders Online Dating” site where, in her words, “the cost is $12.99 per month or the biggest squash from your garden!!!”
P.S. Kudos to you if you caught the reference to the Wicked song, “Dancing through Life.” “The trouble with school is/they always try to teach the wrong lesson . . .”