by Michael Arceneaux

I am in a rather peculiar time of my life. I am not exactly where I want to be, but in many respects, I am closer than ever to certain dreams. And yet, I still struggle with the reality that these are dreams people like me not rarely get to pursue because we can’t afford to. Literally.

I am fortunate in that I have managed to create a living centered on sharing my opinion. All I have ever wanted to do is to make people laugh and to make people think. I do that now and slowly but surely, doing that via the platforms I want to exist and thrive in. And yet, that required a lot of sacrifice. It also required the generosity of parents who may not have had it to give, but found a way to do so anyhow – particularly my mother.

It also required student loan debt, which has been the bane of my adult life. I, like many millennials, turned to private student loan lenders to fund my education. The education that I needed to get closer to what I’ve always wanted. The sizable monthly payments mirror a mortgage and the stress I have endured to pay those payments has stressed me to the point where I have overworked myself to exhaustion. Where I have literally blacked out. Where my hair has fallen out due to stress. To the point where strange rashes have broken out all over my body because I was literally killing myself worrying so much about work and making sure I paid every single bill hovering over my head.

I have struggled with this burden for several years now and it has admittedly dimmed my views of what constitutes as success. Recently, I was asked to participate in a feature for millennials who have managed to achieve certain feats in their respective careers despite the weight of this debt dragging them down. And now, at the age of 31, I find myself being told by those younger than me that I am someone to be admired. Likewise, those who do know me and know how hard I work, ever so increasingly tell me that they are proud of me.

It makes me uneasy. I don’t know how to feel. There are moments when I fall immediately to my knees and look up — ideally to a higher being that actually exists —for the blessings that are happening. Yet, there are moments where I literally wish I could cry over the pressure. I am not much of a crier; it is hard for me to often get the tears out. Nevertheless, the desire to is telling enough.

Lately and more frequently, these days have blended into one.

Thankfully, I have people in my life who refuse to let me sulk. Who will not let me dwell on what has yet to happen— i.e. me calling my private loan lenders, cursing them out after making my very last payment — and instead, reflect on what has and what is soon to. I push myself because if there is one thing I have learned in the midst of my adult life thus far, it’s no matter how bad you feel, you can only sulk for so long. That, as well as the reality that if you don’t like your situation, do whatever is humanly possible to change it.

I may be tired. I know I am way too caffeinated. I could certainly stand to be less hard on myself. I'll likely always regret not working as an escort while attending college in Washington, D.C. Even so, I am still here and still going.

I’m more proud of that than anything else.

Michael Arceneaux is a writer based in New York City.

Illustrations via Alia Toran-Burrell


Oct 20, 2015


Michael Arceneaux