I cried harder as she continued on her lecture. Even though her voice was rising, between my sobs and my hands uncontrollably shaking the earpiece, I was struggling to hear what she was saying.
"Courtney, we are not built to break. You are stronger than this! So what, you've got to take a little detour. So? God is teaching you a lesson right now! Take this time to get your act together, then get your a** back in school! I know it seems like a lot of money—hell, that's a lot of money for me and I have a full-time job. But this is not insurmountable. If you work hard for the next 6 months and save everything—and I mean it Courtney, you better save everything—you can pay that off. I don't mean to sound like I'm not sympathetic to your situation because I am, but right now, you need tough love to get you out of this. You think this is tough?? You have it made, Courtney. There are women leaving abusive husbands, struggling to get that degree while living in homeless shelters. Heck, you think it was easy for me trying to get through grad school with two small daughters? Why do you think I'd always invite those young girls over to study at our house, hmm? It was because I couldn't afford childcare!!! I would feed them and they would come over and study with me so I could watch you and your sister! It is not a game, sweetie, but there are worst things in life. You can do this. So have a good cry, splash some cold water on your face, call your boyfriend, make some tea, draft up a plan, and get down to business."
"Do you understand?"
"Yes," I replied to my mother as I sniffed hard and hung up the phone. I was so angry but she was so right. I had gotten myself into this, but I could definitely get myself out of this if I was willing to put in the work.
Deep down, however, I knew the tears came less from the unfair charge I was being forced to pay and more from realizing for the first time where I really am in life. I cried hard a few days ago because for the first time, I really felt like I was at the bottom. To be perfectly honest, I am.
At 21 years old, I am unenrolled from college, I owe $3,350 in charges from Howard University, and I cannot transfer to another school until I pay the debt off because there is now a hold on my transcripts. In addition to all of that, I'm currently on a strict repayment plan with my credit card company because I owe $4,687.46 and almost 80% of that amount has to be paid in 12 months or else I get slammed with an outrageous interest rate. To say this is not the life I envisioned for myself is an understatement.
When I first came to Howard, I was a bright and shiny, scholarship having, 3.8 GPA achieving, chemical engineering student. "I'll never leave Howard," I adamantly told my parents on one of their first visits. "This is the dorm where all the scholarship girls stay," I continued. "I'll never stay in that other dorm."
Fast forward to my sophomore year when waking up to go to class literally sent me into panic attacks. I had long discovered that I was not really interested in engineering and that I was just doing it because it was "impressive", but I was too scared to do anything else because I didn't want to let anyone down. My grades were reflecting my lack of interest as I was struggling to hold on to a 2.5 GPA and my scholarship was a thing of the past.
Since I'm the type of person who likes to fix things before anyone notices that things are going wrong, I applied for my first credit card, hoping I could build up some credit before the school year ended so that I could take out a private loan to finance the rest of my education without getting my parents involved. As God would have it, the economy tanked right at the end of that year, simultaneously forcing Sallie Mae to raise the credit score required for school loans and leaving me up the creek without a paddle.
By my Junior year, I knew I had to get out of engineering before I graduated with a worthless GPA. I had since discovered my love and aptitude for Business, but the School of Business at Howard refused to accept me without a 3.0 GPA. Factor in the Parent Plus Loan my dad had taken out for me without knowing the extent of my academic and financial predicament, and you'll understand why I felt like my only option left was to crawl under a rock and die. Embarrassed and scared because my back was up against the wall, I broke down during a routine phone call with my dad and I told him everything.
I was so surprised at how supportive my dad was that I felt bad for not telling him sooner. Through my tears and much needed prayer, my dad agreed that it would be best if I withdrew from Howard and transfered to a less expensive university that would accept me into their business program before I wasted anymore time and money. Thinking the worst of my situation was over, I withdrew from all of my engineering classes and made the arrangements to enroll in the spring semester at the city university across town, given that I could take advantage of their lower, in-state tuition rates.
Everything seemed brighter at that point. I was laughing again, smiling again, and overall I was feeling more like myself. I was excited to be spending less money on a new major that I knew I would truly love and I couldn't wait to get started. The world seemed to be turning up roses until my new school told me Howard would not release my transcripts. I ventured to the financial aid department to find out why and BAM! Because I withdrew before the semester ended, Howard had returned all of my federal loans that were previously covering my tuition, unbeknownst to me, leaving me with a balance of $3,350. My heart sank—I would not be able to transfer to any school until the amount was paid in full.
I have been M.I.A. on this blog not just because all of this is happening (though it certainly has taken a lot of my mental energy) but because in order to stay true to the mission I had when I first started this blog, I knew I'd be a complete fraud if I continued blogging without addressing my situation on here. How on earth can I spread that message of "Think and Grow Chicks can achieve any goal!" and not put the spotlight on myself? If I truly believe my own mission, then I have to be this blog's resident example of making all of your dreams come true...even if everything seems to be going wrong.
So take heart, my beloved readers, I'm going to be fine and if you're going through anything right now, you're going to be fine too. With a little hard work and a whole lotta prayer, I know I can still achieve everything I've ever dreamed of doing. I will be back in school in 6 months, I will pay off all of my debt in a year, I will graduate as a high achieving business major, and I will be a raging success. Period. So if you forgive me for taking a leave of absence over the last few weeks and you believe in this blog, this mission, and the fact that you truly can accomplish any goals as a Think and Grow Chick, then I invite you to continue to follow my journey.
If you have a "comeback" story to share related to any topic or goal, feel free to leave your comments below or email me at thinkandgrowchick [at] gmail [dot] com.