My student loan.
Despite my lack of money and scholarships, I was leery of student loans heading into college. Even in 2006 (did I really start college 10 years ago!?!?), the debt crisis for students was dire, and I wanted no part of it. So I worked as much as I could, which was enough to cover tuition for 3/4 of my undergrad and 1/3 of my master's.
The rest of that tuition, though? I had to swallow my pride and take out those stupid loans. Thankfully, my experience didn't turn into one of those horror stories you hear about—clueless kids (and their parents) scratching their heads when they finally realize they have to pay back the hundreds of thousands of dollars (plus interest) that magically covered their college bills. My student loan debt was lower than the national average, and making payments was never a problem (in fact, I usually paid significantly more than the minimum amount required).
But still. The fact that I had student loans at all was irksome.
Over the last two years, the education I went into debt to pay for really started to pay off. (For starters, I get to laugh in the face of the "experts" who advise against majoring in a humanities field. My expert advice is that your major is only as worthless as you make it.) I have enough experience now to get decent freelance gigs. I got a full-time job doing what I love with a company that offers competitive pay and fabulous benefits . . . including profit sharing.
This year's profit sharing was record high, and it was tempting to use it for something fun, like more camera equipment and some bookcases. I could have used it to pay for a trip, which is what a lot of my coworkers do. But once I realized that my profit sharing check + some savings would probably be enough to pay off my student loan completely, I couldn't get the thought out of my head. It glimmered at me like it was the Holy Grail.
Half the office made a beeline to the bank the minute those checks were in their hands. And it wasn't long before I had all the money I needed in my checking account—all that was left to do was approve the transfer. I hesitated briefly, as I am wont to do any time I "splurge" on something, then, taking a deep breath, hit "OK."
The deed was done.
The feeling of relief came gradually. Over the next few days, the relief hit me at random times, and I would have to stop and figure out why I felt so carefree. Then I would remember: I was debtless. I'm not wealthy by anyone's standards, but right about now I'm feeling like a million bucks.
I think I'll be logging into my My Fed Loan account more than usual for the next little bit, just so I can see this:
Total loan balance: $0.00.