I only had myself to blame for getting into this mess. The woman also told me that all of this information was available online at the National Student Loan Data System of Students where borrowers can view all of their federal debt and get information regarding which agencies currently hold that debt.
Before I had a chance to change my mind, I called up the first collection agency on the list. I explained why I was calling to the operator, who passed me on to the correct department.
I was sure my credit was ruined, but I had a long-term lease and eschewing credit cards and other forms of personal debt meant I didn’t care much about my credit score. One year into default I started getting phone calls from strange numbers. I thought maybe I should pick up the phone and deal with the financial mess I’d made, but every time I thought about it, I told myself I’d do it tomorrow. I didn’t know how to even begin to explain myself or have the conversations that I needed to have to find a solution to my problems.
And I still believed that my non-payment was just a temporary blip. I was afraid that I’d screwed things up so badly that there was no way to fix it.
After all, I’d been ignoring my loans for so long and there hadn’t been any negative consequences so far. Sometimes, I started to feel panicked about my loan situation.
Setting up the rehabilitation plan would be too time-consuming. Wouldn’t it be easier to just go on in default for years until it’s paid off, even if I have to live a hand-to-mouth existence until then? However, after two years of wage garnishment and generally avoiding the reality that I did, in fact, owe a substantial amount of money to the government, I decided to get my act together: No more stupid excuses. I went to Washington Square Park on a sunny afternoon, mentally preparing myself. Even though almost ,000 had been withheld from my salary during the last two years, the interest and collection costs that had accrued over the eight years I was either in deferment or default had caused the size of my debt to increase by almost 50 percent.
Would I have to call up all three collection agencies and negotiate a new deal with each one? I was going to take responsibility for my poor financial decisions and get out of default. But, it was a massive relief to finally, finally know where I stood.
Of course, life didn’t go as smoothly as I had envisioned as an 18-year-old. Fortunately, I had a six-month grace period before I had to start repaying my loans after graduating and I was confident something would turn up.
This became glaringly apparent 10 years later, when I received an email from the HR department at my company: We are commanded to immediately remit 15% of your disposable pay to the U. But six months later, the only career-related job I’d found was an unpaid internship at a small literary agency.