Choices

I have two dilemmas facing me at the moment. First, which college do I go to? Secondly, am I willing to start my adult life in debt to my grandfather?

The first dilemma doesn’t need as much explaining, so I’ll come back to it later. Here’s the story behind the second:

My English teacher takes a group of seniors to Europe every Spring Break. This year they are going to Munich, Paris, London, and Zurich. He keeps talking about it in class, and I really want to go.

It just seems so magical; to see the world before truly becoming part of it. In old literature like Little Women the characters always have a trip somewhere in Europe where they find themselves and become more adult that child. It’s like a coming of age thing.

And I want to travel, I want to see the world. I want to experience new foods and new languages, see what life is like away from home. I want a chance to speak German and put to use what I learned last year. I want to be immersed in different cultures and meet all kinds of new people.

I have trouble putting to words the strong desire I have to go on this trip.

The problem is, it costs a lot of money. Money I don’t have. Money my parents don’t have. I don’t have a job (there’s no time thanks to colorguard) so I’m not currently earning any money. I plan to get a job when marching season is over, but I don’t know where or how.

My mom suggested I talk to my grandfather and see if he would loan me the money. He wouldn’t charge me interest and would give me time to pay him back, if he was willing to loan it to me. When she first said this I thought it was a good idea, but I didn’t email my grandfather because I didn’t know how to ask.

I write letters to my grandfather, paper letters. I had mentioned the idea of the Europe trip in one of my letters (but at that time I assumed I would be able to work out the money issues with my parents). He told me “a trip to Europe sounds terrific. I hope you find some way to go.”

What really got me was his next statement.

“Although if you have to make a choice between travel and college, I suggest college might be best.”

That hit me like a ton of bricks. I hadn’t even thought about college in relation to this trip. To me, those two things were separate. The trip would happen during school, way before I needed to start worrying about college. I would never choose to go one a trip instead of going to college.

But his statement made me realize that those things were interconnected, that how I spent my money mattered now, way more than it did before. I’m not getting a full ride to college; I’m going to have to find some way to pay it. Did I really want to start off my college career in debt to my grandfather even before the student loans and cost of tuition get to me?

And even more than that, the college that I like the best at the moment (the one I just visited) is more expensive than the other that I like. Would I be willing to go the cheaper one for the sake of the trip?

No, of course not. I want to be where I’m most comfortable and most successful. But I would feel guilty if I went on the trip, got myself in debt, and then went to a more expensive school and racked up more debt.

I never realized money could be so all-consuming and restrictive.

My grandfather wrote next: “However, there is something about putting off travel to sometime in the future that says some opportunities never repeat themselves.”

 Then he proceeded to tell me a story about how he and my grandmother planned to go the Rose Bowl in college when their team was playing, but their parents suggested they wait until next time (because the team had gone every two years in the past). And then the team ended up not going until they were no longer in college anymore for some time.

What does it mean? What does he suggest? I know my grandfather would think it’s a bad idea to start my adult life in debt. But what if I never get an opportunity like this again? I’m pursuing a career as a writer, it’s not like I’ll have piles of cash to hop off on a trip to Europe once I’m a real professional adult.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to make a decision about it right now. I hope another solution will present itself.

And the other issue, the one about picking a college. I’m going to go more into that in my next post, My Third College Visit. I can’t deal with all that right now.

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