if you have or will graduate from university in the united states, studies say you are or will soon be saddled with over $20k in student loan debt. it’s a killer. i know because i graduated in 2007 with about $25k in debt. that’s a number that doesn’t go away, ever, unless you pay it down. your car, a house, other things in this life we go into debt for can all be sold, or repossessed, or washed away, but those student loans will always be there. lost your job? i have before. even though you get to defer payment, that interest still keeps adding up. 3% 6% 8%, month after month. it doesn’t quit.

is there any question as to why so many young kids take whatever job they can get?

it can be terrifying, having to sustain yourself—putting a roof over your head, feeding yourself, paying your own bills, maybe even supporting a family in the process—all on your own. and so we do the things we need to do to get by. we end up putting things off for another day, those things we can live without (like a new car, a new wardrobe, that trip you always wanted to go on) because it just doesn’t fit into the plan right now.

but if you do what you need to do. if you slog through the difficult times. if you can just hold out a little while longer, you’ll start to see the finish line at the end of that long student loan marathon (and it is a marathon; your monthly bills constantly remind you of that). you might feel good, for a while, but then a familiar feeling starts to sink in again.

see, one of the most terrifying things any of us can have is freedom. it’s far easier to do what needs to be done. someone gives directions and you follow them. someone tells you where to be and you show up. but freedom—that’s a whole other story. you set the waypoints now. the good news is that there are two very simple (not easy, but simple) questions to help you in your journey:

(1) am i doing the kind of things i always wanted to do? (2) am i happy doing the things i’m currently doing?

the answers to those questions will help you as you pivot from doing the kinds of things you need to do to finally doing the kinds of things you want to do. i believe that that is attainable for you. i believe that you are worthy of those things. i believe that you have more value than people place on you. i believe that your happiness is worth it. what would you do if you didn’t need this job?

pro tip: it may take a lot of time and effort to get you where you want to be, so knowing the answers to these questions well before you think you’ll need them is critical.