Two years ago today, I published my very first post. I shared my story, my struggle with student loans, and my desire to get out of debt.
At that time, my blog was not so much a form of self-expression — it was a lifeboat. It was an outlet, to have someone, anyone, listen to these thoughts that were driving me insane.
You see up until that point, I thought I did everything right. I went to college, worked hard, had a career, and went to a prestigious graduate school. I thought the world was my oyster. I played by the rules. While I have always opposed debt, I thought education was different. I truly believed that education would lead me to the biggest, and best opportunities out there.
But it didn’t quite happen that way. After graduating from NYU, I stayed in the city for six months looking for full-time work. After 30 interviews, I was exhausted of being on the merry-go round. So I moved to Portland, Oregon to be with my love, after miraculously surviving a long-distance relationship.
I thought I’d arrive in Portland as a big fish in a small pond, but then I realized that Portland is more like an aquarium. The job market was even worse — there was hardly any funding in the arts, or nonprofit sectors, and for the year and a half I looked for full-time work, I had a total of 5 interviews.
So I jumped from temporary job to temporary job, doing anything to get by. It was also the time I did what I previously thought as unthinkable. I went on food stamps.
To have a master’s degree to being on food stamps was a startling and humbling jump. Every day I felt like I was drowning in debt. Without a career, I didn’t know who I was. My career and my identity were so inextricably linked, I felt lost and wandering. What did all of this mean? Who was I without a career? Who was I with all this debt?
I felt like one sad sap. Every day, I would cry and complain about my situation. After crying one too many times to my family and my partner, I sought professional help. Since I was on food stamps, I couldn’t afford much. Luckily, the local counseling graduate school had low-cost sessions as part of the students’ training, so I negotiated $5 therapy sessions.
Therapy was great in that it gave me someone to talk to. But after six months of treatment, I felt like I was rambling in circles. I hardly felt any better.
After a few months of continuing to feel this way, I was absolutely sick and tired of myself. I was selfish, sad, and lost in debt, unable to truly see the great things around me. So I started searching for some answers.
How could I get out of debt? How could I turn my life around? And so I started lurking and became an avid reader of personal finance blogs. I felt like I found a community. Every day at my seasonal job, I would sneak around to read the latest posts. I loved it.
After lurking for a few months, I finally got the guts to email Kathleen and invite her to dinner. I was thinking about starting a blog, but I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. At that time, I was so embarrassingly inept with technology, having a blog sounded like mechanical engineering.
A few days later Dear Debt was born. But the first iteration was called Do or Debt, because for me, it felt like a do or die situation. I had to get out of debt. My blogger friends make fun of me now, because it looks like door debt. For the first seven months of blogging, I fell in love, but also felt like I wasn’t exactly myself. I was talking in vague notes and petrified of people knowing who I really was. After all, I was on the job search too, and didn’t want people to find me whining about my debt and not finding a job.
Funny enough, I finally found a job, which allowed me to loosen up a bit. I started to think of ways I could recharge my blog and make it more me.
I’m a sucker for relationships of all kinds, and I truly believe many of our financial decisions are deeply rooted in our emotions. From this, Dear Debt was born, and I started writing break up letters to debt.
I’ve been astounded with the feedback and grateful for the people who have participated in the project, by submitting their own dear debt letter.
I want to empower people to express themselves and break up with debt, once and for all. Flash forward another year, and I quit that job that I was desperate to find. In the end, it wasn’t a place that was right for me, and I was on a different course. My talents weren’t being utilized to their full advantage.
And so with that, I’ve been a full-time freelancer for six months and I can’t believe it. This year has brought so much joy, so many opportunities, and so many friendships.
This blog has turned into so much more than just a place to keep myself accountable. It’s turned into a place of friendship, community, hope, love, support, and guidance. I’ve been mentored by some great people in this community and I’ve received some truly heartwarming feedback from people who have told me my writing is helping them get out of debt and feel less alone.
In my first post 2 years ago, my total debt was: $57, 426.14.
Today it is at $34,640.53, which means in 2 years, I’ve paid off $22,785.61 or roughly $949 per month on average. Before that, I had already paid $23k over six years by paying slightly over the minimum, which accounts for my $81,000 total. It wasn’t until I graduated with my M.A. that I realized I had to do things differently this time.
While I wish my debt pay off number was bigger, I have to remember that I’ve been able to do this on a very small salary. When I started this blog, I was making $12/hr. Through hard work, pay increases, cutting back, and depleting my savings I’ve been able to do this.
And of course, with all your generous support. I would have given up blogging long ago if it weren’t for the bright stars in this community guiding me towards debt freedom.
So whether you are a new reader, or have stuck with me since the beginning, thanks for your support. It really does mean the world to me. I found a place where I felt like my voice mattered.
Thank you and may all your debt free dreams come true.