I've been blogging for a year now (Yes, I love it) and in that time I have explored probably a few thousand blogs. I love stumbling on a great new blog to read when I wasn't even looking for a great new blog to read. I love that whenever I am feeling anxious or sad or overwhelmed--guess what?! There's a blog for that! Maybe it's just me and I am just not looking in the right place, but I've noticed that people never seem to discuss financial woes in the blogging world. Maybe it just doesn't make for interesting reading. Maybe it's for privacy reasons. Maybe people just don't want to project themselves on their blogs as people who have real problems, financial problems. I have followed along this line of thinking on my own blog. I don't even want to think about my financial problems, let alone write about them and open them up for discussion with the world. I started this blog as an outlet in my ongoing journey of loss. That's still what I want this place to be. A place where I am Matthew's Mommy. I just don't have many of those places, and I'm sure there are many people out there who understand that. And yet... I find that daily events are often what's on my mind and I don't always bring them here for discussion.
As some of you may know, I had originally started nursing school before I got pregnant with Matthew. I left in the disaster pregnancy/child loss aftermath. Crawling my way back through nursing school has been a major challenge for me. On this journey I have had to face up to many things about my life and myself. I've learned that I can't always separate one element of my life from another. I thought I could leave my grief tucked away in a neat little drawer and go trooping back to nursing school. Oh, how wrong I was. Instead I was introduced to the most severe series of PTSD flashbacks I have ever experienced. You know...."Five years ago right now I was a 22 year old nursing student with no idea what was about to happen to me." "Five years ago right now I thought unplanned pregnancy was my biggest obstacle." "Five years ago right now..." What a fun game. I have played this game to some degree since Matthew was born. "One year ago, I hadn't even met Jerry, hadn't even been accepted into nursing school, didn't have a clue what was going to happen in just a few short months." Because it was (and still is) absolutely shocking to me. Biggest bitch slap ever. It was like I was just walking along and all of a sudden the ground wasn't there anymore and I was falling. I wouldn't say I "hit rock bottom" because even today I am not always sure that the fall ever ended. Often the time that has passed since 2006 has felt like one never-ending fall into chaos for me. Chaos that I have very little control over. So I was no stranger to the PTSD flashback, but nursing school brought on a very intense version of this game that I just hadn't anticipated and wasn't prepared for. In hindsight....Duh. Of course I was going to have some issues and obstacles to overcome. I vastly underestimated the impact these obstacles and issues were going to have on my life and thus was unprepared for the onslaught of emotional meltdown type of behaviors that piled down on me. Live and Learn.
I think I've been pretty open here about what an emotional mess I am. So brace yourself because I am about to unleash even more honesty. I (We) am also a financial disaster. If you have ever pictured me sitting in my three story house eating bon bons while I write I am about to change all that. I live in a trailer. I know some people like to say "mobile home" these days, but trust me. It's a trailer. My couch is so old it is a true horror to behold. I have massive debt. Massive unmanaged debt. I rarely worry about identity theft because there is nothing to steal (so that's something, right?).
Lest you think I am a societal delinquent, allow me to preface this little tale by saying that I do not live off the government. I do not have credit card debt from racking up purchases of expensive things that I don't really need. I do not spend excessive amounts of time shopping. Jerry and I are both very hard workers. My financial story goes like this. Got my first job at 16 (15?). Made great money for a teenager who lived with her parents. Other waitresses at work were comfortably supporting families of 5 on the money we made at our job. I drove a new little red car, which my parents kindly cosigned a loan for at 17. I paid it, but I don't know what else I did with my money. I certainly didn't save any. I bounded through my teens and early twenties with no real concept of financial responsibility. Even though I lived on my own I didn't own a checkbook. I would hand my mom cash and have her write a check for me or I would pay in cash. I would pay my bills when (and if) I got around to it. I'm ashamed to say my parents have had to bail me out quite a few times over the years. I think they always saw that I (and then we) was a hard worker and I had goals and they wanted me to reach them. My financial discrepancies were seen as sort of a youngish quirk. I saw them that way too.
By the time I enrolled in my first nursing school and met Jerry, I realized I needed to make more money. Making sure we take the steps we need to take in our careers in order to ensure an adequate income in the future is one thing Jerry and I have under control right now. I'm proud of that. Through hard work and lots of sacrificing and late nights studying, we have the potential to have a financially stable future. But that's all it is right now. Potential. Anywho...Jerry and I moved away from our families and very quickly Matthew came along. To this day I regret many things about the way we handled the whole situation. I regret that I even considered an abortion for a tiny amount of time. I regret that I quit nursing school the first time and that we moved back home after our son died without even trying to go back. So many things. For the purposes of this post though...I regret that after Matthew died and the bills were arriving in huge, thick envelopes every day I didn't take care of them as they arrived. I didn't even open them. I shoved them in a drawer and ignored them. For months. I didn't even begin to try to deal with them. And then I had another baby. Without ensuring any true degree of financial stability aside from being employed, having a place to live, and having a vague notion that "someday" I might return to nursing school. That's not to say I would ever regret having my daughter. She's...everything. It's just that when she arrived and I held her in my arms, breathing on her own with no medical intervention and looking up at me, I realized that I owed her so much more than what had been provided. The love was certainly there and the basic life necessities are there. But...more, you know? I owed myself more. And I owed Jerry more. I vowed that I would get "more" for her, for us.
In the years since my daughter's birth, we have tried to make the right financial decisions (we have tried to make all right decisions, really). But we aren't completely making the right financial decisions. Because we haven't gone back and fixed the mess. Neither one of us ever learned to adequately manage money before we became a family and we certainly haven't learned since then. I honestly have never added up all the bad credit debt we actually have. I really haven't wanted to know because I haven't been able to pay it anyway. So we haven't really paid at all. Suffice it to say I receive frequent phone calls and frequent letters in the mail. Jerry also made poor financial decisions before we met and we have combined those messes and allowed those messes to be added to over the years. I try to pay bills on time, but if my Kiddo needs something? She gets it. Before the bill gets paid. Ditto for many other "necessities." The brutal truth is that Jerry and I will never own a real house, will never have any real savings, will never stop needing bailed out, will never take that trip to Europe if we don't face the music and get our shit together. And I want those things. We want those things.
I'm not a New Year's Resolution type of girl because I rarely keep them. I rarely even accomplish my to-do list for the day. So this year, I am making a New Year's Vow. I want out of debt. We are going to get out of debt. I want the letters and the phone calls and the nasty "oh, a collection company can do that?" surprises to STOP. I don't want to be afraid of finances anymore. We are cleaning up the mess, folks.
Here is the plan of action(!) I have compiled thus far:
1. Clean out my office. I will stop piling unopened envelopes on any available surface that is out of my sight (and thus out of my mind). I will stop ignoring.
2. List our debt. This one is a biggie. I have never done this. If, a few days from now, you see a psychotically emotional post about some random fixation of mine assume that I am working on The List and am simply stalling the discussion of The List on my blog.
3. Dave Ramsey is my new in-car entertainment for my commute to school. First up: Financial Peace University.