This morning I woke up with Whitney Houston’s I Didn’t Know My Own Strength playing over and over in my head. Truthfully, how I have made it thus far is a blur. As I look back over my adulthood, I’m amazed at how many challenges I encountered and actually overcame. Some, I thought I would never make it through. Yet I’m here. I made it!
Transparent Moment –
Last night I received a credit alert informing me that my credit score had increased in double digits. In tears as I write. Allow me to share why this is so significant. Here’s my story.
When I was 23 years old, I filed for bankruptcy. At the time, I was a single mom with a debt I believed I could not repay. My daughter was almost two years old and daycare was eating up most of my paycheck – especially when I worked 12 hour shifts on nights and weekends. Therefore, I relied on credit cards to purchase food and necessities and pay bills.
The other day I was looking through old photos and came across pictures of my first apartment. I had moved from a small, fully furnished trailer/mobile home to this huge empty apartment, and the only living room furniture I could afford was two black bean bag chairs and a small stool, which held my lamp. I remember sleeping in my daughter’s toddler bed (I’m short- smile) until I could get a bed of my own. Which, of course, was purchased on credit. Needless to say, by the time my daughter was two, I was drowning in debt. I knew I had to find a way out and I believed bankruptcy was the solution. Some of you may ask why I did not ask for help since I was in the military. Well, I was too embarrassed to ask for help. I was constantly being praised for being a young, single mom with my life “together,” so it was hard asking for help. Talk about the stress of trying to be perfect, all while falling apart inside. It was too much!
Just like the day I decided to join the Air Force, deciding to file for bankruptcy was a spontaneous move. I did not have a plan in place nor a lawyer in mind. One day I just woke up and decided to search the yellow pages of the phone book for a bankruptcy lawyer. Listen, one thing about me, when I’m fed up with my circumstances, I will find a way out. Sometimes I do not make the best decisions but I get out. After finding a lawyer who seemed kind on paper (and he was very kind), I scheduled a meeting. Two months and $850 later, the majority of my debt was gone. I still had my car and furniture notes, but I could breathe again. It wasn’t until years later that I actually looked at the amount of debt charged off – $6500. Only $6500 worth of debt. I cannot believe such a small amount of debt caused so much anguish.
Fast forward to about eight years ago. For the second time in my life, I was drowning in debt, but this time I was married and making more money than I ever had. Two incomes and I was living off of payday loans – five payday loans to be exact – three local and two online, plus credit card debt. Yep.. that’s how I was living. I was a mess! I have never been into material things (clothes, shoes, bags, cars, etc.), but I loved to travel and I loved food (and still love both – smile). Honestly, I’m not sure when everything got out of hand, but it did. The sad part is my ex-husband had no idea. He was clueless about what was happening. He never knew how I made ends meet because everything that was in his name was always paid first. I made sure of that.
Months before we separated, I had watched the documentary Spent: Looking for Change . Y’all, that documentary changed my life. I finally felt like I wasn’t the only one who had gotten in over my head and couldn’t get out. So many of the stories resonated with me. The thing that mostly stood out was the sharers willingness to make hard sacrifices to get out of debt. Afterwards, I was inspired to change. Unfortunately, at the time that I chose to clean up my debt, my marriage was also ending. I remember finally paying off my last payday loan only to have my ex reroute his direct deposit to another account. This caused our joint, and my only, account to be overdrawn. All of the automatic payments that came out on the first of the month were either paid through overdraft or returned. I was hundreds in the whole. The only way I knew to get out was to either write more checks (payday loans), try to get a long-term loan, ask him for money (which was what he wanted) or let it ride. I decided to let it ride until the electricity was cut off. Sigh. I’m not going to retell everything that happened during the following months because I don’t want to relive it. Just know that that particular year was one of my hardest – from driving a car that was on its last leg to foreclosure, but I made it through!
Now, here I am seven years after the separation (now divorce), making far less money, in a fairly new house and car (no car note), barely any credit card debt, money in my bank account and savings, bills paid and my credit score increasing. Yesterday, I went to start my car and the battery was dead. Now I’m really in tears. You don’t know how good it felt to be able to purchase a battery without worrying about where the money would come from or what sacrifices I would have to make just to purchase it.
Y’all, I have come a long way to get where I am today. It was not easy. Believe me, the struggle was real. I’m so grateful I stuck with God and allowed Him to lead. For real! It was because of Him that I made it. One day I’ll share my entire story. Believe me, it was all God. Yep.. I’m crying. It was ALL God!
As always, thank you for reading. Wishing you an absolutely wonderful day.