One partly-cloudy day in September, I walked into Fort Knox with an empty cardboard box and asked to borrow $98,000. The clerk (I believe his name was Clerk Knox CPA) said, "Why yes of course! Right this way, young miss."
I followed him down a gold brick hallway and into a room containing one of the world's largest money machines.
"This makes money," Clerk Knox said. "Take some!"
I held my empty cardboard box up to a part of the machine labeled "cardboard box goes here". Immediately, fresh money started shooting out.
"Too much!" I shouted. "Turn off this machine, sirs! I have all I can carry."
After signing my name on a line that came at the end of some words, I attended a brief wine and cheese reception held in my honor. I didn't stay long, and quickly found myself giving goodbyes all around to the good, hard working execs of our country's best financial institutions. Then I skipped out into the now non-cloudy September air.
"What a great day," I thought as I made my way to the bridge at the edge of town. "Yup, great day. Well, that's enough blabber about the day--there's the bridge!!"
I ran as fast as a person with a lid-less box of money can run. And reached the bridge without spilling one bill.
Once there, I looked over the side.
"Perfect!" I screamed to no one. "Watch what I'm gonna do next!" I also said that to no one.
I immediately turned over the box and dumped all the money into the murky waters below. Smiling, I watched as two fish took two big bites out of the faces of two Benjamins Franklin. And I waved/blew kisses to the rest of the pieces as they floated away to oblivion.
Satisfied, I headed home to get ready for bed. Thinking the whole time, "What a great decision I made! Borrowing money and throwing it away was the greatest accomplishment of my life. I am going to sleep better than I ever have. And tomorrow I will wake up successful and rich!"
"Hmm...what should I do first?! I know! I will do a play in the center of town. And everyone will applaud me. I'll pose for autographed photo ops and sign each one with: Much Love, From A Rich and Successful Person. And then, after eating fancy chicken pot pies until I puke (that's what rich people do), I will swing by good ol' Fort Knox and pay them back every penny I borrowed plus interest! Gooood Night!!"
Okay so you probably just now called me a liar. Because, as you may have guessed with your smart brains...that story wasn't true (except for the part about doing a play). But I promise I had no malicious purpose for misleading you, my good buddies. It was merely a tricky way of getting you to read a cautionary tale. Which you otherwise might not have read because most cautionary tales are BORING (example: Young Goodman Brown). But some--well-placed in front of the right eyes at the right time--can be quite gripping and effective (example: Gremlins).
There IS a timely reason for my caution-y tale telling. Today, after years of hiding in plain sight from scary people who hold a bloody note over my head...I started to repay my graduate school student loans. Loans that I will be repaying for the rest of my life.
And it's not the realization that I will be paying them forever that has caused my utter terror and delirium today. It is the fact that somehow, I spent almost $100,000 without even noticing. It's like I fell asleep and while I slept, the loans that once looked so appealing and harmless have now multiplied, hatched and are running crazy
The worst part is I have nothing to show for it save a dwindling elitist attitude that I am somehow awesome because I paid lots of money to learn. Money that would have been SO much better spent if I had carried it around in a box and thrown it into some murky waters. At least then I would have been able to touch it and see it for a little while before it was gone. At least then, when people would pass me on the street they would whisper, "There she is!! The girl that threw a box of money in the river! And I think she also won a chicken pot pie eating contest!" Then I would at least be known for accomplishing something.
But as it stands, the only existing accomplishment that came from the money I owe is my diploma. Which right now lies locked in a damp, university basement filing cabinet. Awaiting the $25 processing/shipping fee I was never quite able to afford.