Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Oh No, They Can't Take That Away From Me

Or, Why in the World I Would Write a Blog Series about Debt...

I’ve been crying really hard for about two hours. I know there are people who would rather I not share that, as my blogs tend to be more positive and hopeful.

But last week during a rare therapy session, I was discussing how I understand who I am. And I am a person who shares. I write to make myself understand, and I write to share my story with others in hopes that they will see they’re not alone. And so.

I’ve been crying really hard for about two hours.

It started with a phone call from South Carolina. I am not expecting any phone calls from South Carolina, so I didn’t pick up. But who knows? It could be a South Carolina transplant who now lives in New York. So I listened to the message. As expected, it was a debt collector.

She didn’t say that on the message, of course. “Hi Mindy! This is Jennifer (inaudible last name). Could you give me a call when you get a chance?” The fact that she called me Mindy was extremely disconcerting, as anything official says Melinda.

But I was feeling strong today. So you know what? Fine. Let’s talk.

The conversation wasn’t so terrible for a while. And it turns out she wasn’t calling about my debt, it was Ryan’s. I told her we knew, it bothered us, we were working on it, we didn’t have it. She offered me a reduction in the overall price if we paid it in full. You know the drill. But after a while, we were just talking in circles.

Me: Yeah. I know. That would be great. But we don’t have it. We’re trying.

Her: But it will save you money.

Me: It doesn’t matter. We don’t have it.

Her: Why do you get a loan to pay this off? (Yes. Seriously. That was her suggestion.)

Me: I’m not going in to further debt to pay off a debt. Can we please just talk about a payment plan?

Her: But this will save you money.

Me: It doesn’t matter. We don’t have it.

Her: Could you ask your family?

Me: No. How about a payment plan? I called you, remember? We want to pay it off, but can’t pay it in full.

Her: But this will save you money.

You get the idea.

But some of the things she was saying were, to be honest, truly hurtful. She asked why we had gone into default in the first place. While this was kind of hilarious to me, as if the possible explanation was that we just decided one day to stop paying for things, it also hurt. And it really hurt when she told me over and over that we just weren’t willing to do anything about it. Didn’t I call her? Didn’t I tell her we could make payments? I just wasn’t willing to do it her way.

Soon, I was crying. Naturally. I finally got her to say “OK, I’m gonna let you go for today.” (Yep. I got a debt collector to hang up first.) But when we got off of the phone, I just cried even harder.

I hate being in debt. Ryan and I both do. Everyone does. And today was my breaking point.

I know that our debt isn’t much different than the debt of many of our friends. It’s about student loans, and bad decisions, and changes in financial situations. And we all feel guilty. And we all lose sleep. And we all want to do something about it. And the truth is, there isn’t a ton we can do about it. We’re barely hanging on as it is.

But. There are some things we could do. And we’re not doing them. It feels too big. It feels like if we can’t fix it all, why bother?

I called Ryan and told him how upset I was. And I sent Jackie a text and told her how upset I was. And they both fulfilled their respective duties. Jackie told me how stupid the woman on the phone was, and that she was wrong. And Ryan told me we would fix it.

This weekend, we’re looking at what we owe, and to whom, and we’re coming up with a plan. We can’t fix it. But we’re not going to ignore it anymore.

And I’m going to share it here.

There are a lot of details I’m going to leave out- exact amounts, names of debtors, etc- both for privacy and security. And I have no idea what I’m doing. We’re not financial advisors. We’re pretty terrible about this kind of thing, really. But I know that sharing my experiences has helped me in the past.

When that woman told me I wasn’t trying and wasn’t willing to do anything. When she accused me of being irresponsible. I felt like I wanted to hide. I was ashamed. And I didn’t want anyone to know what was happening. Even though I know- I know- that most of my readers are in the same position.

I felt like I should ignore the one aspect of myself of which I am most certain- my voice.

And I will not let debt take that away from me.

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