It's finally over... $137,665.38 of student loans, many from my undergraduate degree, paid off in full in just the span of 2 1/2 years (I don't count the years making minimum payments going entirely to interest) - all out of my own paychecks, with zero assistance from friends or family.

Was all of this worth it for the PhD? In my accounting - yes. Would I casually recommend it to anyone else who is halfway sane - absolutely not, it is MUCH safer for hobbits to stay in the Shire than to do something dangerous and foolish like taking a weird ring to Mordor.

I am an obsessive. Outside of spending time with my family, I am rarely a happy person. On the fleeting occasions I am happy, it's because I am at my limit, doing something a bit unconventional, hoping that I can create something that surprises me and brings me joy - even if nobody else gives a damn (and they usually don't).

One of the ONLY true joys in life is when you're at that edge with other highly competent people that DO give a damn, are young and full of energy, and have taken voluntary oaths of poverty, all pushing in the same direction on some big, ambiguous, and interesting question - these types of questions almost never have a financial incentive as this would take away the interestingness - after all, this isn't an MBA. The highest concentration of these people I've been around was my PhD cohort and dissertation committee. To be that locked in on something and to have been the laggard in intelligence in that group was one of the greatest experiences in my life. It broke me down to my core and forced me to reassemble the constituent parts into an entirely new configuration.

As I've been consistently working 60-80 hour weeks over the past couple of years I have done so with a big smile on my face because I know that the experience I had was worth at least $1M or more, I carry it inside of my heart and it keeps me warm on the bitter days.