Perhaps I am a bit biased against Mr. Siegel, because I too, dreamed of becoming a writer while slightly hampered by a mountain of student loan debt — high five figures, in my case. And like Mr. Siegel, I ultimately decided to follow that dream. The difference between us is that while following my dreams, I also paid off the debt, as I had promised to do when I took out the loans for my fancy business school education.
Did this involve selling shoes in my spare time? Was I forced to abandon my ideals and turn to Wall Street for a soul-destroying sellout job? Nope. I paid off my loans by the simple expedient of living on as little as possible when working in Manhattan. I found a tiny, subterranean apartment that initially rented for just under a thousand dollars a month. I attended every event I could find that so much as hinted at free food. I didn’t drink unless someone else was buying. I learned to clip coupons, and realized you get a lot more value for your dollar if you don’t insist on the fancy brand-name ramen. I didn’t buy new clothes until all the old ones literally had holes in them. During the more temperate months, I wore through the soles of my shoes walking to work, to avoid the cost of public transportation. Every spare dollar I got in freelance money went to that mountain of debt. Slowly, slowly, this trickle of money wore down the mountain, until my payments dropped from a terrifying 40 percent of my paycheck to a manageable $200 a month. And as I earned more, I paid them off entirely.