Hey debt fighters! Ready to ditch debt in 2018?! Let’s do it! Today’s dear debt letter comes to us from Aparna. She has been bravely facing up to her debt for some years now. This struggle made her realize the importance of and her passion for personal finance. Now, a Certified Financial Planner herself, she pens down all her thoughts in her blog Elementum Money.
She also did a cool profile on Dear Debt! Enjoy.
I have had the most twisted relationship with you, ever. I was fortunate to not need you while completing my education thanks to my parents saving enough.
My first run-in with you was with my first banking job. I had heard of all types of loans, but with a job in a loan department of one of the largest private sector bank in the country opened my eyes.
There is an old saying that banks check that you don’t need a loan to give you a loan. That might have been true earlier but I saw how in order to get the next new thing or fulfill their dream, everyone is eager to get that loan. Banks are as eager to make it happen for them.
You, dear debt, were my bread and butter. If people stopped falling for the bigger versions of you, that time I would have stopped earning my living.
In India, one way of thinking is to get a house if you are not making good use of your money. Hey, that way at least a large chunk of your salary will go towards building an asset. We bought into it. Do I regret it? I am on the fence on this one.
However, apart from the big brother Home Loan, I met your younger siblings as well – Credit Card Loan and Personal Loan. I had varying needs for all of you ending up in a home of my own. I can say, that together the debt family helped me build for us a home I look forward to coming back to. A house which is comfortable, lavish even and a place that can be called ours forever.
While I never really talked to anyone openly, till the time me and my husband, both were earning stable monthly salaries we managed. Around us, loans are seen as a common-place way of life. There is barely any shame associated with it which makes it that much harder to find the motivation to work like crazy and ditch it like a bad habit.
Then earlier last year, the husband finally decided that corporate life was not his cup of tea. I was ecstatic because for years it had only been me trying to tell him that corporate shackles might not help him to give the wings that his creativity deserved. The one thing that weighed us down and made us stop in our tracks was, you guessed it, you Dear Debt!
We had multiple sessions of checking out all the numbers of my salary and how would we survive on that one salary with the massive monthly installments. With any new venture, we wanted to give it enough time to find its feet and account for at least a 2 year period of running the household on a single salary.
Finally, we had to withdraw the entire retirement savings that my husband was able to accumulate while working in his corporate job. In India, any corporate job docks off 12% of your basic salary every month and it gets accumulated in something called the Employee Provident Fund.
Thank god for those forced savings! Otherwise you, dear debt, had very nearly taken our dreams and aspiration off the rails.
It is only after I started blogging and became aware of the Personal Finance blogosphere that I became aware of just how important it is for me to break up with you. I dream of becoming self- employed too, some day. Can I let you come in the way of such a dream? Most definitely not.
I will end this letter with an answer to 2 simple questions that I ask myself:
Am I grateful for what you got into my life and did I need you at that time? Most definitely YES.
Do I like having you in my life right now? No. And I look forward to working harder, earning more and breaking up with you.
Till then, adios, dear debt.
To say we have a functional relationship would be an understatement. Heck!, to say that I like you would be an outright lie. I may not like you very much, but I do appreciate you. And I suspect that is something that you do not hear very often. But it is true. In fact, I want to thank you for the support you have given me over the years.
Thank you for allowing me to purchase our home. As I sit on the deck looking at the ocean, weed my gardens, watch our chickens peck away at the earth and do the everyday mundane things a homeowner does, I feel gratitude in my heart for the opportunity to live here.
Thank you for supporting me when I made that huge leap from being an employee to an entrepreneur. Without you I likely never would have jumped. You helped me bridge the gap between employment and self-employment. Thank you!
Thank you for being there as I brought two little beings into the world. I had no maternity benefits and had to return to my business two months later leaving my husband to step-in and take Paternity leave. The reduction in income was tough, but you helped us keep food on the table and afford the necessities for us and our new little ones. For that I thank you!
When we got back on our feet again, it was a wonderful feeling to be able to repay you for your kindness and watch your balance decrease month after month. Sadly, that period of time was short-lived.
But you were there again to support us as my husband changed careers and went from job to job, looking for his place. You were there when the company he worked for shut down, when the seasonal job he had laid him off, sometimes expectedly and sometimes unexpectedly, and you were there when he injured himself and couldn’t return to work for months on end. Really, I don’t know how we would have survived without you. I am certain we would have lost our home in those times.
It’s easy to blame you for the choices we have made, for the need to depend on you during trying times. It’s easy to point our finger at you and say, “It’s because of you that we can’t travel, or buy that ATV, or fix up our home”. Which leads me to my final expression of appreciation.
Thank you for teaching me how relying on you can upset our future plans. Thank you for showing me that allowing you in our lives takes away our financial power and increases the cost of every expected and unexpected emergency, creating a deeper and deeper hole for us to climb out of. Thank you for reminding me that there is a better way.
As I watch our emergency fund grow, and our obligations to you slowly decrease, I resist the urge to blame you, or demean you, or attack your character. Instead, I remind myself that you were there through all of the tough times to help out and it was I who chose to rely upon you, who allowed you to continue to be our support system. And in that process I have learned a lot about myself and about you.
I am comfortable with our new relationship, one that doesn’t have the air of dependency. Having said that, I look forward, so forward, to the day when we part ways, the day when I see you reduce to zero, when I say goodbye to an old way of being and let my new way of being flourish.
Thank you Debt. I release you. With love and gratitude.
Mary Ann Marriott (aka Dr. Debt)
Hey debt fighters! Ready for another dear debt letter? This one comes from Nair.
Wow, we have been doing this dance for so long. You have become such a key feature of my life and my story. I’ve wrapped myself in you and used you as an excuse for putting off so many things in my life and keeping people at arm’s length.
It’s time now to say goodbye and let you go. Let go of the behaviors that make me feel unworthy, shameful and stuck in a loop.
Sometimes you were there to help me out in emergencies but most of the time I used you as a crutch to help me through hard or uncomfortable times when I didn’t want to confront the real (emotional) issues I was dealing with.
I’m letting you go now so that I can move on and enjoy the next season of my life. The season of freedom, real independence and wealth. I’m ready to stop paying for and reliving the past on a regular basis. I’m looking forward now and excited to live a life full of choices and opportunities.
Thanks again ‘old friend’ but I’m off!
When I talk about you, debt, I turn into a different person. Everyone who knows me would characterize me as a happy person, ever the optimist. There are few things in life that I can’t see a silver-lining to – that’s probably why Pollyanna was my favorite book as a kid.
But when it comes to you, I get bitter. Some might call it “Millennial whining” but I prefer to think of it as “wanting what’s fair.”
I followed your playbook up until this year. I was raised to be a nice middle class girl by nice middle class parents, and I stuck closely to the middle class playbook:
In the past, this worked! It was a great middle class playbook. I’ve done everything “right” according to the middle class playbook, but what do I have to show for it? Yes, a great house and a great marriage. But also $500 down the drain, every month, to pay back loans (for the next 15 or so years, according to calculations!)
And for what? Debt, you know this already, but other countries are proud when their smart kids go to college and get good grades. I know this because I’ve been to those countries and have friends, my age, who graduated from college in those countries. They tell me stories about graduating with no debt – and one friend even got a stipend for her good grades in her country.
Debt, you have a stranglehold on people in the US. When I bring the subject of middle class debt up, I’m laughed at and ridiculed. Everyone wants nice, highly educated people like me until we ask “why?” Why does the richest country in the world not want to pay for middle class and lower class kids to go to college?
Then we fall back to the playbook:
Debt, I have to hand it to you – you did a great job of selling the American dream (and burden) to the middle class. And don’t worry, debt, you already know I’m going to pay every penny of you back, because the middle class playbook is tough to break. I won’t shirk my responsibility, although I won’t enjoy it.
But the joke is on you, and everyone who tells me I should have stuck to the playbook. That $500? When I’m done paying you off, you won’t see that $500 doing any of this:
I guess I did find a silver-lining in all of this, debt. When I’m done with you, I have no interest in falling back into your middle class playbook. I will not live in a big city and buy a new car every 2 years. I will find a way to pay for myself, always, no matter what that looks like. I will never look down on people who have debt and are struggling.
I’ll be done with you one day, debt. But I won’t be done fighting against you – I’ll just move on to helping the next nice middle class person struggling with the middle class playbook they were sold.
This blog post is part of the Suicide Prevention Awareness Month blog tour in partnership with Debt Drop. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.
Melanie’s note: This post is from my mom, who lost her father to suicide.
This is a story that I’ve told to very few. This is a story that if I told, it was typically only in terms of the highlights and typically only to those I trusted. This is a story that my own daughter only heard two years ago. This is a story that is long overdue in the telling.
My story took place in June 1962. Tuesday, June 12th to be precise; five days before Father’s Day. In 1962, I was a five-year-old kindergartner and the youngest of six children. On this particular day, I was home sick from school with an ear infection. This was in the day when school started just after Labor Day and ended in mid-June.
At home with me was my mom and my dad. My mom was a traditional housewife and my dad worked as a bank guard.
Since it was June and close to Father’s Day, my kindergarten class had been working on special cards to give to our Father’s on Father’s Day. The card was made of heavy cardboard and cut in the shape of a man’s dress shirt. The shirt was white and had a striped tie.
I remember how hard it was as a five-year-old to keep a secret but I was bound and determined to keep the Father’s Day card a secret until Father’s Day. However, that didn’t mean that I was not going to drop hints to my daddy about it.
I remember being in my daddy’s bedroom (yes, they did have separate bedrooms) and I was teasing him about a surprise that I had for him and telling him he was going to have to wait until Sunday to receive this surprise.
He kept trying to get me to show him the surprise then and there but being bound and determined to keep this a surprise until Sunday, I didn’t immediately give in. He kept urging me to give him the surprise now and stated that “he might not be here on Sunday”.
After a few rounds of this conversation, I reluctantly retrieved the card out of its hiding place and gave it to him. I know he liked the card and thereafter urged me to go downstairs and help my mom with lunch as my older siblings would soon be home for their lunch break.
Although I was mad at myself for not keeping the surprise a secret, I did as I was told and went downstairs to help my mom. She was in the midst of opening a can of soup (Campbell’s Chicken Noodle) and I told her that I had given daddy his Father’s Day card.
Suddenly, we heard a noise like a loud door banging shut. Something about the sound stirred my mom to action and she ran to the bottom of the stairs and yelled out my dad’s name a few times and when he didn’t respond she rushed up the stairs.
Something told me that something scary was going on and I remained rooted at the bottom of the stairs. Not more than a minute went by and my mom seem to fly down the stairs. She ran past me and out the front door to the neighbor’s house.
Something again told me that something awfully scary was happening and I wasn’t far behind her although I didn’t really know what was going on.
My next memory is of being sequestered at the neighbor’s house while a lot of activity was going on at my home. I was able to look out the window and see a lot of people arrive including my great Aunt Elma; people from my dad’s work and the police.
I also remember seeing my brother B.D. (who had just celebrated his 12th birthday the day before) sobbing while standing with his arms folded on a metal fence with his face resting on his arms. I still did not have a clue what had occurred.
I don’t remember much about the next few hours other than someone took me to the doctor so I could receive medication for my ear infection. I also vaguely remember hearing about my other siblings arriving home from school and how they learned the news of what happened at my home on that afternoon.
To this day, I can’t believe kids can be so cruel. I also remember hearing that my Aunt Elma in a misguided effort to be helpful, swept up evidence in my daddy’s bedroom before the policy had a chance to thoroughly investigate.
I don’t remember what was actually told to me about what happened. I do remember the next few days were a blur of activity. Someone bought me a really pretty dress to wear to the funeral and a lot of people were paying attention to my mom and family.
My Father’s Day card was propped up on my daddy’s coffin and was buried with him.
This is not something that has been an open discussion topic my entire life. For those that I’ve given the highlights to here are answers to the questions I’ve typically been asked:
— I don’t know when I first actually heard the word “suicide”.
— I don’t know how my mom explained to me how my daddy had taken his life with a bullet to the brain.
— He didn’t leave a note so I don’t really know why he did it. My mom always alluded to him having a terminal illness but to my knowledge, this has never been verified. A few years back my sister C.M. heard from a family member that he had gambling debts that lead to this action. I don’t know if this is true.
— I do remember hearing (but not sure I’ve ever seen) that he touched a calendar or a picture of Jesus with his bloody hand.
— I do know my mom did not kill my dad – despite the cruel statement a neighbor boy relayed to my sister B.J. on that fateful day
— My mom would never, ever discuss this. If this was ever brought up, even years later, she would tear up. The only time she ever voluntarily brought this up was in a card to me when I was in my 20’s when she spoke of us being together for a “mutual sorrow”
Here’s how my five-year-old self-interpreted this event:
— The initial attention was overwhelming yet exciting. A lot of people made promises (most unkept) to my mom about things they would do for her or for us.
— My new party dress was pretty even if it was intended to wear at a funeral
— I used to think that if only my card had been good enough……he would not have taken his own life
Here’s how I’ve handled this most of my life:
— It’s very rare that I disclose this to anyone and if I do it’s typically only the highlights
— For those I do tell, there is often a “judgment” passed (or at least this is what I perceive) not only on his actions but also on the probability of me leaning toward that action as well. When Robin Williams took his life a few years ago, it was a topic of conversation at work. I was just about ready to confide my history to someone but stopped myself when I heard someone discuss the probability of Robin’s children doing the same action he did.
Here’s how it’s impacted me:
— I grew up in a single parent household. His action left a 38-year-old widow with 6 children ranging in age from 5 to 16
— I’ve always had difficulty “bonding” and getting close to people. It took me a long time to figure out why but I believe it’s because I don’t want to bond because I fear that I’ll bond and have something taken away from me
— I don’t have a role model on how to interact w/ men either personally or professionally
— Since I was the last one to speak to him, my inner 5-year old in me still wonders if there was something I could have said to alter history
What I’d Like Others Suffering From Suicidal Thoughts to Know:
— Think about who you might be leaving behind and the hole you’ll be leaving in their lives
— Consider that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem
— Look back on your life and consider other problems you’ve had and how those have turned themselves around
— There is no shame in seeking help
It’s been cathartic to write this and I sincerely hope my story helps others.
This blog post is part of the Suicide Prevention Awareness Month blog tour in partnership with Debt Drop. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.
No one likes to talk about what it’s like to be suicidal or actually have suicidal thoughts. To someone who has never had thoughts like this it seems frightening.
Now, I do believe there is a difference between having thoughts and actually planning to do it. But the thoughts are scary enough and could lead to action if not treated properly.
As I learned from Lynette, this is called passive suicidal ideation. According to her post, “Passive suicidal ideation is the desire to die. It’s not accompanied by a plan to end your life, but the thoughts are real and intense.”
And those thoughts can be very real for people suffering under the weight of debt. People in debt may be more inclined toward suicidal thoughts. In fact, those who die by suicide are eight times more likely to be in debt. It’s a correlation we can’t ignore.
I wish I could say i didn’t have a relationship with suicide. But I do. My maternal grandfather committed suicide. So did my cousin. And I’d be a liar if I said I never thought about it.
The first time the thought enters your mind, it jars you a little.
The thought creeps in, unwelcome yet overwhelming. You wonder, “How could I even think this?”
I’ve written before that I’ve had these thoughts as a teenager. Unfortunately, earlier this year some of those thoughts returned. Every day was a battle and I was not doing well. I’d wake up with this overwhelming sense of doom and I couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible was going to happen.
I had no idea where these thoughts were coming from and why. I relinquished control and said, “I can’t do this alone.”
After trying exercise, meditation, healthy eating, therapy and more, I still wasn’t where I needed to be. So I went on medication. It’s been 10 years since I last touched medication, but at this point, it was something that I needed.
That month, I also decided to get my first tattoo to remind myself that I’m resilient and that my story isn’t over yet.
As you can see, I’ve replaced the “i”s with semicolons in honor of Project Semicolon.
Project Semicolon is a Suicide Prevention Awareness organization — the semicolon is used as a metaphor — an author uses a semicolon when they could have finished their sentence but chose not to. In this case, the author is you and the sentence is your life.
Your story is not over yet. I have to keep reminding myself of that still. Through therapy and medication, I can happily say those thoughts are gone and I’m in a better place. I asked for help and took action. I have a support network in place and am actively working on myself.
It’s a work in progress every day. If you are feeling this way right now, you’re not alone. I’ve been there. And so have many others, too, which is why I want to #EndTheStigma. If you had a broken arm, you’d see a doctor.
If your mental health is suffering, you should get help and there is absolutely no shame in doing so. In fact, it could be the best thing you’ve ever done.
Just remember that there are resources out there.
You matter. You’re important.
Your story is not over yet.
As you might have noticed, it’s been awhile since I posted. I’m not proud of that but sometimes life just gets in the way.
Sometimes it’s about surviving what’s ahead and dealing with “in real life” stuff rather than my ramblings online.
I love this space and want to continue to nurture it but I also need to take care of myself. This year has brought physical health issues, mental health issues and most recently, the dissolution of my 9-year partnership.
Though it is for the best, I am completely devastated. It’s been a rough couple of weeks that have tested me in many ways. At times, I could not stand to take it “day by day” but only minute by minute. It’s been difficult to eat. To sleep. To let go of those dreams that you held so dear. The ones that will never happen the way you imagined.
I feel like I’ve lost a limb and I’m learning how to function again. I’m learning how to stand on my own two feet again without having an emotional crutch. Now that everything has cracked, I see all my faults come to light and am trying to become the best person I can be.
It’s a journey. If you want to follow along, you can keep up with my personal writing.
While my love life was imploding, I was trying to keep it together for Lola Retreat, the love + money retreat Emma and I have been planning the last 10 months.
And let me tell you. It was beyond anything I could’ve imagined. It filled me up with so much joy and hope to be around so many incredible women. We laughed. We had fun. We got deep about the issues around love + money (I may have lost it during that session), money mindset and more.
Lastly, I decided to organize the Suicide Prevention Blog Tour again this year. This is an issue near and dear to my heart and more relevant than ever. If you’re a blogger, there’s still time to contribute, so contact me!
Anyway, that’s why I’ve been radio silent here. Between the big projects and events and the overwhelming grief, I’m taking it minute by minute.
I am focusing on being resilient (oh yeah, I got my first tattoo a few months ago. Semicolons in honor of Project Semicolon).
Hey everyone! We have another dear debt letter from H, who lives in Salt Lake City and works at a nonprofit.
I’m not going to be mad at you. I’m over that phase. Because… I guess I hope this is all just part of growing up. Plus, I’ve beaten myself up over and over and over again, about you.
You stressed me out from the start. I’m from a smart and complicated blue collar family (but that’s an entirely different story) and it seemed like the fear of not having enough money just wafted around the house.
My dad lost his job in the 2008 crash, so when I graduated from high school in 2009, I didn’t even need to ask how I was going to pay for college.
A lot happened during college. I got mormon-married at barely 19 (another entirely different story), and promptly divorced.
I graduated college with a rather useless B.F.A in 2013, and since so much of my meager income was going to student loans, I got a credit card.
And, to be honest, I didn’t become a crazy spender. I don’t live a lavish life by any means, but I always want to be the one to buy my friend’s drinks, and by the end of the night, everyone else’s at the bar 🙂
I wanted to fly impromptu to visit my boyfriend while he was working in New York. And I wanted him to think I was beautiful (Which he always does anyway) so, I bought some $35 dollar facial primer from Sephora (I know, as if that shit actually works).
I don’t want to be a free-loader or seem cheap to my boyfriend, or my friends and family. So, I just sort of paid for more things than I truly could afford, and my debt crept up.
I would love to pay off my credit card debt by my 27th birthday (I’ve got about 10 months). So that I can be more responsible, and save enough money so if I ever do have a kid, I can help them get whatever useless degree they set their sights on.
Cheers, (And fingers crossed) that I can get my ass debt free by my 27th birthday.
Hey debt fighters! I’ve been working hard on the Lola Retreat, so have been MIA. In the meantime, we have another great dear debt letter from Mrs. Picky Pincher. She is the blogger at www.pickypinchers.com and writes about paying off debt while living the good life.
Ah, you and I go way back, don’t we?
I first met you when I was 9. Ahhh, young love.
I borrowed $20 from my dad so I could buy the latest Pokemon game. At first I didn’t think I could buy the game because I didn’t have the money, but my parents introduced me to you, Debt. They could loan me the $20 so I could get my game today and pay them back later.
This was a concept that totally blew my 9-year-old mind. I could get something now and worry about paying for it later? Whoaaaa. I should do this all the time.
Since I didn’t have an income, naturally I had a hard time getting rid of you, Debt. I realized it would take me three months of my allowance to get rid of you! Ouch!
After a few months of hoarding change in my piggy bank, I dumped you for the first time. I was young, but dang, it felt great to be free again. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson.
I didn’t see you again, Debt, until I was 21. I graduated early from college and thought the world was mine for the taking. Little did I realize that my degree came with an $80,000 price tag. I was also needy. I needed your allure and luxury: the $450 car payment, the student loan payments, and $14,000 in credit card debt. I cloaked myself in your brilliant sheen so I could look like everyone else who had you on their arm.
I was 21 and had several thousand dollars of you in my name, Debt. I was addicted to signing on the dotted line and only now realized what that meant.
Of course, my first job paid peanuts compared to the cost of my degree. Thanks to you, Debt, I struggled to meet my rent and wondered how I could afford the week’s groceries. I knew I was the one who let you into my life and that it was my fault, but I didn’t know how to get rid of you.
It wasn’t until I let another man into my life that things changed. I married Mr. Picky Pincher in 2015 and that’s when I found a way to dump you for good, Debt. Mr. Picky Pincher knew you too, and combined we owed $225,000. Ouch.
We knew you were a problem, but it didn’t become an emergency until I realized we had no savings. We couldn’t even imagine a savings account because we were in the red every month. And forget our dream of buying a house!
I was utterly ticked off. In the summer of 2015 we made a plan to evict you from our lives. Man, it was so much work. Getting rid of you was like lugging a belligerent 300-pound couch potato out of my house.
We canceled cable, stopped eating out, stopped shopping for fun, and stopped going to the movies. Instead I learned how to cook at home (a feat for a subpar cook), rent movies from the library, pickle and can produce, cut my own hair, shop at the thrift store, and sew my own clothes.
It didn’t happen overnight, but one day we realized we had $200 extra after making these changes. It was exhilarating, but it wasn’t enough.
We moved across the city to a cruddier apartment just to get rid of you, Debt. We were able to save an additional $400 a month on our rent, although herds of ants and roaches came with the territory. We even got rid of my car and I walked to work just to get rid of you, Debt. We were finally able to save $1,000 a month, which we used to pay off our credit cards each month.
After further cutting, we eliminated $14,000 of credit card debt in 10 months. Once that debt (and its minimum payments were gone), we were ready to go for the big ones: student loans.
Debt, you might think that you had us on these student loans. I thought so for a while, too, but we did conquer these loans. My dad graciously paid for the majority of my college degree, leaving me with just $25,000 of student loans. Thanks to changing our lifestyle and eliminating other debts first, we were able to kill that $25,000 of debt in 7 months.
Oh, Debt. You were probably heartbroken once that last check went in.
But you know what? I hate you. After seeing how easy it is to bring you into my life and how hard it is to make you leave, I’m done with you. There isn’t going to be any more of this on-again off-again business. This breakup is final and lasting. I’m going to sleep well for the rest of my life knowing you’re not on my doorstep anymore. Good riddance!
Hey debt fighters! We have a different kind of letter today from new blogger The Lady in the Black. LITB, aka Erica is a 40-something single mom, freelance writer, and published author. She was inspired to start her blog based on her ongoing struggles to manage her personal finances.
I have been thinking about writing you for a while but I really wasn’t sure where to begin. All I do know is that I’ve wronged you and you deserve an apology. However, I’ll admit that the apology is not completely altruistic. Forgiveness would help me move on and my hope is that we could, one day, grow closer and have a more mutually beneficial relationship.
Truth is we have hurt each other a lot.
Looking far back into my childhood, I can see you and I got off to an extremely rocky start. You presented yourself to me first as shiny silver dollars. You were cherished little glittery gifts that I stashed safely away in my little miniature mailbox coin bank. I was infatuated with you. Not because of what you could get me but because you were beautiful and you were mine. That is, until the day you ran away with my sister to the video arcade. You traded yourself into dirty little quarters which granted my little sister hours of Asteroids and Ms. PacMan! How could you!?!? I was so hurt. I felt betrayed by you and my sister. Now, in hindsight, my sister was just a little girl who wanted to play and took something that wasn’t hers. That’s what little sisters do. And you? Well, I suppose you weren’t responsible. You didn’t abandon me. The child in me only remembers the loss. The child in me didn’t appreciate my parents attempt to give me an allowance in such a special way to teach me of your value. I FORGIVE YOU, MY SISTER. I FORGIVE YOU, MY MONEY.
As I grew, I felt ashamed how you seemed to avoid me and my family. You really weren’t making yourself available to us. It was embarrassing to have to shop at the bargain stores when my girlfriends all gossiped about their weekends at the cool CrossGates mall. They sported their Jordache jeans and Sony Walkmans while I hiked up my no-name leg warmers and feathered my hair with the generic comb, tucked safely in the back pocket of my jeans from Caldor. Our family was “middle class” with a working dad, stay-at-home mom, and 3 kids (staggered 4 years apart.) Where were you? The child in me remembers the government chunks of Velveeta cheese and special reduced-priced lunch tickets. I remember wearing “high-water” jeans and scruffy sneakers. The child in me remembers feeling like “having money” wasn’t something attainable for us. The child in me didn’t appreciate how hard it must have been to budget a single-income and feed a family of 5, especially during dad’s 18-month long union strike. I truly wonder how they did it. We were well-fed, well-mannered, well-educated children living the American dream. I FORGIVE YOU, MY PARENTS. I FORGIVE YOU, MY MONEY.
When I was in college, reveling in the new-found independence of my first apartment and my first true love, you bailed on me with him-that-shall-be-not-named, when he dumped me and took off for Florida. I had nothing! You both broke my fucking heart and I was literally starving. I’d scrounge up $10 and buy a pizza from down the street. That pizza was my breakfast, lunch and dinner until it ran out. I had no phone (the old kind), no friends, tons of difficult schoolwork, and a broken heart. I binged watched China Beach on TBS and cried my eyes out for months. The victim in me put everyone to blame, especially you, Money. The victim in me didn’t acknowledge that I was successfully scraping my way through college. I was tough and building up my resiliency. Most importantly, I didn’t acknowledge it was temporary. I FORGIVE YOU, MY FIRST LOVE. I FORGIVE YOU, MY MONEY.
And while I could continue on, elaborate the times in my marriage when you were such a hot topic, I really want to focus on what I feel like was the most profound disappointment you ever gave me. You know what a trial my divorce and custody battle was. You saw me fight with every fiber of my being to build a new life for me and my child. You saw me move 3,000 miles away to reclaim the person I believed I was but never felt comfortable being. You watched as I started a new job and suffered one of the greatest tragedies of my life. I’ll admit you did support me a bit when I had to tuck my tail between my legs, admit defeat, and once again uproot my life for the benefit of my child. You knew it nearly broke me. And yet, when I was in exile in a desert land, miserable, lonely and afraid, you left. I got fired because I was miserable. I got dumped by the love of my life because I was miserable. And you were no where to be found. The victim in me felt punished for trying to be independent and doing the right thing. The victim in me didn’t acknowledge that I put myself in that absurdly vulnerable position with no safety net or plan B. The amazing truth is that you did come back for me. You returned when I was at rock bottom. First, you were gifts from the man who loved me but couldn’t “save” me. Then, you were a comfortable and loving place to stay while I got on my feet again. You were the great-paying freelance contract I landed straight out of the gate. You have spent the last year surrounding me, comforting me, rebuilding my life and my dreams. You’ve given me the strength to live life on my terms. I FORGIVE MYSELF. I FORGIVE MYSELF. AND I THANK YOU, MY MONEY.
Since I’m now quite literally in tears, I suppose I’ll just sum it up by saying that it was me that chose to remember you in a negative light. It was me who cast you as the evil villain and myself as the damsel in distress. You are just you, Money. I see that now. And now that I’ve pulled up my big girl panties and committed to truly taking care of myself in every possible way, I hope that you and I will have a very positive future together.
And even if you try to take off one day, I won’t let you. You aren’t everything to me, Money, but you are important and I plan on keeping you around.
Your Repentant Friend,
The Lady in the Black