A year after college I decided to get my Masters in London. I thought I had deferred all my loans, but when I returned to New York, I discovered that the paperwork hadn’t cleared, and in the intervening two years I had defaulted on $30,000 worth of debt. Suddenly I had all these insurmountable barriers. I couldn’t apply to PhD programs even though I was the top student in my class. I couldn’t even get a lease for an apartment. It seemed hopeless, like I was already being punished for a mistake I hadn’t understood I was making. So, completely overwhelmed, I just stopped paying all my debts. Eight years later, I have learned to live pretty much off the grid. I have projects I work on that I’m proud of, an overall my life is OK, but I wish I could apply to a PhD program and pursue my actual talents.