I acquired my first student loan in 1986, when I started college. I acquired my last one the year I completed seminary, 2000. As of this morning, eighteen years after graduating, I still owed tens of thousands of dollars. For some time, I’d had enough money to pay it off, but since the interest rate was lower than what I could earn on investments (sorry, recent graduates; that’s what the rates were like in the 90s), it made financial sense to hold onto as much as my money as possible and pay the loans off slowly.

But today, I finally decided that these financial advantages were outweighed by the emotional burden of approaching my 50th birthday and my 20th year in ministry still carrying that debt. If my daughter went to college at the traditional age, I would still be paying off my own tuition when I began having to pay hers. The hell with that. I called the handy dandy automated service, and through various beeps and pressings of “1,” gave it a payment for exactly the balance. (I really hope the payment went through before the close of business, or I will accumulate another day’s interest and have to write them a check for three cents.)

It feels really good to be done with this. I didn’t realize until I hung up the phone that some part of me had still felt like a student. Now I have graduated.