How I Survived the 1980s


Earlier this week, one reader Calvin – a veteran of the U.S. Navy – told us how disappointing his job search was and how he didn't want to work a low-paying job outside his ideal career path. He was bitter about how being marred by debt and not reaping the benefits a college degree is supposed to provide.  Now Trent, another reader has chimed in about his experiences more than two decades ago. Sometimes, a temporary detour can be just what you need to get back in the game. 


“My last two years of college I took out personal loans at the bank to get through the spring semester. Each summer I worked construction in Chicago and paid them off before beginning the fall semester. My senior year the bank denied me the loan: I had not paid off the previous one due the summer construction job in Chicago not coming through.


With no money to pay for my spring semester it now looked as though I might have to drop out and not graduate despite only needing 18 hours credit to finish. Ultimately, my grandfather co-signed the loan without a thought. God bless him. 

How did I pay off the accumulated debt after graduating? I worked six years in the West African oilfields which more than paid off the debt. That job also allowed me to see Europe, have a lovely home in the South of England, and a sailboat in the English Chanel — all before turning thirty. What led to all of this? It was the need to find a way to pay off those loans and get on with life.  

I did not go to college to go and work in the West African oilfields. I had graduated with a business administration degree with a minor in finance.

By the way, I was job hunting in the 1980-82 recession which was far worse than this. But there was a difference then — the news did not make us feel like victims. I didn't even know there was a recession so it didn't bother me.

After leaving Africa, I worked sixteen years as a stockbroker and this year my first book, Wall Street Dancers, was published.

The lesson: Don't wait to for someone else to bail you out. You have to find a way to float your boat or be eternally indentured to the one who did.”




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Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.