Nice Work, Millennials: Your Word is Garbage

If Facebook news feeds are to be believed–and they’re generally not–President Obama has done “something” that offers people with student loans three years of payment deferment, although the loan can also be forgiven entirely. I don’t know the details, and I’m not going to pretend to. Recently, I wrote about how students who attended ITT Tech were organizing a campaign to refuse to pay their student loans, because they claimed that their degrees were suddenly worthless and that this, presumably, was the fault of the loaner.

When I said that, I used this analogy:

Let’s say that you ask me to borrow $5,000 so that you can buy a used car. You agree to pay the money back at $200 a month for 30 months–paying quite a bit of interest, but it’s not important. We can omit the interest entirely and it won’t matter. I tell you that those are my terms, though. “I’ll loan you the money, but only if you pay me back $200 a month, starting next month, and continuing for thirty months.” You agree, and I give you the money.

Then it turns out that you bought a piece of shit. The transmission blows, the block is cracked from overheating, the vehicle was evidently wrecked–basically, you didn’t check the CarFax. The next month rolls around, and I don’t hear from you. I go by your house, and you finally open the door.

“What?” you demand irritably.

“Um… You agreed to start paying me back today,” I say. “So… Do you have my two hundred dollars?”

“Fuck you, I’m not paying you shit for this piece of shit car,” you reply. “It’s your fucking fault I have this piece of shit. You shouldn’t have loaned me that money that I used to buy it. Hell no, I’m not paying you back. Get off my porch.”

It’s pretty easy to see here who is in the wrong. In this example, you are in the wrong. What type of car you used the money to buy isn’t important to our agreement. We didn’t stipulate that you would only pay me back if the car was reliable. If you’re not happy with the car, then take that shit up with the person who sold you the car; it’s got nothing to do with me. If you think you overpaid them and that they cheated you, then sue them. I don’t care what you have to do–none of that has anything to do with me. The bottom line is simple: you agreed to pay back the money that I loaned you.

You might have said, “I’m going to use the money to record a new demo for my rock band,” and it wouldn’t matter whether your band was successful. You asked to borrow the money, and I loaned it to you. It’s your responsibility to verify that your purchase will pay back dividends and that you aren’t just throwing that money away. It is not my fault that you didn’t look into what you were buying.

I happen to have a degree in the tech field. I began my college career majoring in Physics, intending to take on the General Relativity program at the University of Mississippi, because, believe it or not, Ole Miss has one of the best Physics programs in the world. However, I became disillusioned very quickly, and my uncle suggested to me at a family reunion that I enter the tech industry, because he worked for the IRS and had observed it is the only field that continues to grow. I took his advice and changed my major.

Plenty of people suggested that I stop attending what was then a community college–I was doing the 2+2 program between that college and the University of Mississippi–and to just attend ITT Tech instead. I made the conscious decision not to do it, for one simple reason. I didn’t trust ITT Tech. I didn’t distrust them, either–I had no reason to distrust them. The University of Mississippi, however, has been around for a very long time and is respectable enough as a school that I had no worry that my degree from them would be useful. If you have $140,000 loaned to you for college, why on fucking Earth would you use it to go to a school that you know little-to-nothing about? That is madness.

But you did. And then you blamed the people who were kind enough to loan you the money.

“We’re not irresponsible brats whining about our loans,” said Joseph White, 39, who graduated from ITT Tech in 2008 with more than $80,000 in student loans. “ITT lied to us. It’s fraud.”

But you are. That is the very definition of being an irresponsible brat! Yes, they lied to you. You believed them. There are two people involved in every lie, sir: the liar and the believer. One guy even confesses that he was swayed by the recruiter’s promises, that the recruiter basically promised him a life of luxury and ease. And rather than being an adult and saying, “Wait a minute. This recruiter has a job: to sell me something. Recruiters from the military have a very, very long history of lying to people to get them to sign up. Why should I think this recruiter is any different? Perhaps I should look into his claims objectively,” this guy grinned, nodded, and signed on the dotted line.

Dude, that is your fault.

You can’t just cry “They lied to me!” and escape your responsibility. If you are such a baby that you need to be protected from the lies that people tell every single day, then what chance do you have of making it in the world? That’s what this is ultimately about: is it the government’s responsibility to bail you out when you don’t question what you’re told and you believe someone’s lies? Let it be a learning experience for you. People lie.

I think I’m probably lucky in this regard. Thanks to the fucked up childhood I had, I learned from a very early age that everyone will lie to me to try to get what they want. I am nothing more than a resource to everyone else, and all they want to do is suck what they can from me before I either am sucked dry or tell them to fuck off. If you are an adult and you haven’t learned this lesson, then, I’m sorry to say, your parents failed you. You parents should have taught you to look incredulously at the Snake Oil Salesman and to demand that he substantiate his claims. They didn’t.

So now you’re turning to Nanny to do what Mommy and Daddy didn’t–the Nanny Government, that you’re begging to swoop in and save you from the Big Bad Liar whose claims you didn’t evaluate critically. Oh, no doubt–and I’m not excusing the recruiter. The recruiter should be held responsible for the lies. Keeping your word is also a two-way street–ITT Tech should have kept its word to you, and they didn’t. But that doesn’t justify you failing to keep your word to a third party. It’s not ITT Tech that you’re refusing to pay. It’s some third party who loaned you the money and who has nothing to do with you and ITT Tech. That’s between you and ITT Tech.

One girl says that she almost immediately noticed that something wasn’t right, but she continued and amassed $30,000 in debt anyway. Are you kidding me? What kind of attitude is that? “My intuition tells me something is wrong here, but I’m going to continue on and pretend like everything is fine.” You ignored your intuition–that is also on you.

Everyone is to blame here. I’m not saying ITT Tech is blameless.

But if you enter into an agreement with someone, then keep your word. Honesty starts with you.

Some years ago, I needed to buy a second vehicle. My wife and I were going through a rough patch, and it looked like I might leave her. Neither of us had any credit history. After talking extensively with my employer about it, he loaned me $1,000 for the downpayment. About three months later, I’d gone totally off the deep end and was no longer working for him, and had paid back only about $350. This is a true story, by the way. I went completely off the deep end and lost everything, including that vehicle.

But I build myself back up, went back and finished college, earned my degree, and got a much better job as a slot technician. And then do you know what I did? I emailed that guy about the money that I owed him, and started paying him $50 every week. After a few rough weeks where I wasn’t able to send him anything, I said “Fuck it,” busted my ass with a bunch of overtime, and mailed him a $450 money order that covered the rest of it. Three years elapsed between the last payment when I worked for him and the first payment when I’d recovered. But I said that I would pay him back, and I did. If I needed to borrow $1,000 from him today, he wouldn’t hesitate to do it–provided that he had it–because he knows first-hand that I will always pay it back.

Because I gave my word to pay it back.


So here’s the simple question for everyone who wants to not pay off their student loans:

You gave your word. Why is it okay for you to go back on that?

Your attempt to go back on your word, whether you are ultimately successful or not, means that your word is garbage. I told this same guy–because he has helped me considerably over the years–that when I have a book published that sells very well, I’m going to buy him a car or a house or something, it kinda depends on how good “very well” is. And he knows I’ll do it. Besides, who else am I going to do something like that for? My dad? My sister? Are you kidding? Neither of them are ever even going to know about it. But don’t get me started on their recent shenanigans.

Your word is garbage. How does that make you feel?

I can tell you this: you can fucking bank on my word. If I give you my word on something, then neither god nor the devil will make me break it. It might take me three years to get around to fulfilling it, but I will never discard it. And, to be totally honest, that’s a good thing, because, if I’m being honest, I’m an expert manipulator. I get that from my parents, both of whom lived as manipulators through their entire lives. My mom’s word was so bad that when she disappeared, some people didn’t believe it. My dad’s word is so  bad that no one believes anything he says–the man has said that he was drafted to Vietnam, for fuck’s sake. So don’t criticize me for saying that I’m an expert manipulator–it’s just what I was taught to be from the time I was born.

However, I rejected that and consciously choose honesty over lies. It’s why you will never hear me say that someone “passed away.” Jarring though it is for people, I always say “died.” My mother didn’t pass away. She died. Why do I do that? Because even euphemisms are deceitful, regardless of their intentions, and the point of deceit is always to manipulate. By saying “passed away” instead of “died,” you are trying to manipulate them into not feeling that bad about someone’s death. What gives you the right to manipulate them? Fuck that. Be honest.

Everyone lies. Everyone is trying to manipulate you, to one degree or another and for one reason or another. Well, stop it. Say no to lies. Say no to manipulation. Say no to deceit.

Keep your goddamned word.

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