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There’s lots of talk lately about canceling student loan debt. Perhaps $10,000 of it. Maybe up to $50,000.

Who knows?

But there sure is lots of talk. And talk. And talk. And talk.

Meanwhile, I’ve been paying my student loan consistently ever since I graduated. I was three days late once and had my interest rate raised by a full point as a result, but the rest of the time, I’ve managed to pay on time.

Not that there haven’t been a few distractions along the way.

You know, like 9/11.

And the U.S. going to war with Iraq and Afghanistan.

And my husband dying of liver cancer.

A devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

Losing my job and apartment to Hurricane Katrina.

Moving across the country to start over with just a single suitcase. (Full disclosure—I did get a six-month reprieve from payments during this time).

Then there was finding a job at a payday loan center.

And being forced to relocate again when my apartment building was torn down.

There was the thrill of a new job at a credit union.

I was three days late once and had my interest rate raised by a full point as a result, but the rest of the time, I’ve managed to pay on time

Until my branch closed.

Several temp jobs later, I managed to find steady employment again. (It was during this stressful time I was three days late for a payment.)

I remarried.

I wrote 50 books.

I took part in a feature-length documentary on the Upstairs Lounge fire.

A damaged nuclear reactor in Japan sent radiation around the world.

A meteor exploded over Siberia.

The residents of Flint, Michigan, were poisoned.

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My grandmother died. And my father.

And, since I’m getting older, a few friends died, too. Like Jim, and Nicla, and William, and Tim, and Alan, and Richard.

And Burt, who was murdered.

There were some good times, too, of course. Like the entire 12-year run of The Big Bang Theory. All the Harry Potter movies.

Two terms of the first African-American president.

The Me Too movement.

Greta Thunberg.

And there were still other distractions.

You know, like Beirut blowing up. And wildfires destroying entire towns in the U.S. and Canada. And a global pandemic.

The Black Lives Matter movement.

And an insurrection.

Every day, there’s something. People fleeing a Greek island by ferry, surrounded by flames. Desperate Afghans clinging to the wheels of a plane taking off. A condo collapsing in Florida. An earthquake in Haiti. Floods in Belgium and Germany. In Tennessee.

Anti-maskers threatening to kill people.

You know…life.

The years roll on, millions of people dying, millions more being born, the Earth rushing closer and closer to a greenhouse gas tipping point from which it won’t recover even in the lifetimes of those who won’t be born until the day I make my last student loan payment.

Because despite all this, I still have years left to pay.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve made a choice to crush students with debt. Other countries have made better choices.

We’re free to change our mind and make a better choice, too.

We’re faced with hundreds of distractions every day, year after year. But let’s keep our minds focused on the essentials.

We must fight for tuition-free college and vocational training. An educated, trained population not crushed by debt can only lead to success both individually and as a nation.

We must fight for universal healthcare. A healthy population not crushed by debt also leads to success.

Johnny Townsend

And a massive, all-out effort to move away from fossil fuels and adapt to climate change is the only way any of us will even have the luxury of worrying about student loans. Or education at all.

But I’m getting distracted again.

In five days, my next student loan payment is due. Thank God I get my paycheck a day before.

Johnny Townsend