My girlfriend and I both have student loans. Mine is – well, since it took me eight years to graduate – it’s $50,000.”
Does that keep you awake at night? I ask John Marquart, a 27-year-old who lives with his parents in Mason, Ohio.
“No, you can pay minimums for the rest of your life.”
What about interest?
“I’m not sure what the interest rate is now. That just accrues to the overall amount.”
As I learned, it took John eight years to graduate from the University of Cincinnati. In his senior year he began having panic attacks. “I had a pretty big breakup with a girl I’d been dating since high school,” he told me. He’d be flipping burgers at his job when he would suddenly freeze, break out in a cold sweat, and feel the people around him growing huge while the room was shrinking.
A doctor told him he might have an anxiety disorder. It got worse once he started student teaching sixth graders in an inner city school. “I got really anxious about going into that classroom. The teacher could tell I was stressed out, He said he didn’t want me there anymore, it was hard enough to control those kids.”
John told his advisor he was not enjoying the education curriculum and he needed to take a break. “I was twenty-two when I went back to live with my parents. It was comfortable, familiar. They provide a roof over my head and feed me.” But he drifted into depression. When he saw a therapist and was finally diagnosed, he was relieved to have a medical explanation. “When you have anxiety as a mental illness, you aren’t able to process even normal stress. Like, if I have a poor night’s sleep, I don’t want to leave the house.”
After skipping a semester, John went back to UC and chose to study History of Ancient Civilizations. Not terribly practical, he admitted, “but I wasn’t concerned about finishing a degree, I just wanted to do something that would make me happy."
After he finally graduated, he took the first job he could find near his parents' home – a customer complaint manager for an eyeglass company. "Now I’m content in the job I have.”
I couldn’t help myself from asking if his parents ever suggested he might start thinking about moving out.
“It doesn’t come up. They don’t seem to mind.”
Finally, hoping to hear he has set a timetable for independence, even semi-independence, I ask, “If you’re still living at home at thirty, would that be acceptable?”
“It’s not ideal for me, but if that’s what happens, that’s what it is.”