Today is March 7th- my 30th birthday. The day we were supposed to be yelling, “We’re debt free!!!”
Spoiler alert: we aren’t.
We have paid off a decent amount of debt, including all of our credit cards and medical bills, but we aren’t quite done. Sallie Mae still owns a good chunk of our lives.
Sometimes the truth hurts…
I have spent most of January and February mourning the reality that we set an unrealistic goal. This journey is going to last at least another year. The end is in sight but the race isn’t over.
This has been a large, difficult pill to swallow.
A month ago we received a HUGE gift from someone who knew our story and wanted to help. Yet, I was so focused on our failure that I struggled to even comprehend the reality of what I was holding in my hand. I tried to be grateful but instead I just cried (and they weren’t tears of joy). Joy was overshadowed by the sting of failure.
I was sad, hurting, dejected. The end seemed out of reach. Freedom felt too far away.
Instead of allowing myself to be present in a moment of joy, I was agonizing over a failure I had created, a self-imposed failure that I was choosing to use as torture. Instead of being overjoyed by an unexpected blessing, I was comparing my life to everyone else’s apparent “easy street” and other people’s debt free journeys. My story isn’t like theirs, I thought, and it’s not fair.
Life isn’t fair and things are not always as they appear.
People with easy, happy, cheery lives suffer too. Those people who paid off tens of thousands of dollars in debt in a year or two had to make sacrifices too. They spent a good long time exactly where I am right now. I cannot compare their story to mine. We each have our own reality.
The reality is, life gives you what you need, when you need it. No more. No less.
You have to decide what you will do with what you have been given.
I have been doing a devotional called “The Comparison Trap,” by Sandra Stanley. In one of the sermons, Andy Stanley (her husband and founder of North Point Ministries) comments that debt is a result of looking at what other people have for too long- trying to live up to other people’s standards.
How right he is.
I went to a private, Christian college because all of my church friends did. We went on vacations we couldn’t afford because everyone else did. We bought a house because no one else we knew lived in a nasty apartment, why should we?
In reality, we all have our own specific lives and situations. Comparing our story to someone else’s robs us of the joy within our own moments.
Each one of us has been given exactly what we need to make it through this specific moment in time. Sometimes those moments aren’t exactly comfortable or “normal”. Sometimes those moments are downright shameful. However, if we are willing to look up, instead of side to side, we will see that He provides and we truly do have what we NEED- no more, no less.
If we spend our entire lives looking around and comparing ourselves to everyone else, we will never be content. We will never accept our realities.
Yet, until we accept reality, can we truly embrace who we are? Can we live life to the fullest?
Learning to embrace the mess of reality…
Accepting my reality, with all its mess and unexpected turns, has been the key to overcoming this hump, my little self-inflicted depression over our “failure”. I had to accept the fact that this journey looks nothing like what I’d imagined and that’s OK. We are exactly where we need to be. We have exactly what we need. Honestly, from a world-wide perspective, we have been blessed far beyond what we truly need, or even deserve.
I just have to stop looking at those around me long enough to notice the blessings placed at my feet.
In retrospect, this entire journey has been about learning to accept reality, our reality.
We had to learn what living a life we can afford, without credit cards, loans, and payments, actually looks like. We had to learn to tell ourselves no, make sacrifices, give up things we want and redefine what we truly need.
Little by little, we were stripping away a feigned reality that had comforted us for so long. Chipping away at the little lie that lulled us into thinking we are all the same, we all deserve to live the same caliber of lives and have similar things. My story should look like hers, his, theirs.
That lie lulled us into debt, frustration and strained relationships. That lie, or trap as the Stanley’s call it, led us straight to the bottom. Thankfully, when you are at the bottom, the only direction you can really look is up. If you look up long enough, you can start to rewrite your story and this time it can be your story. Not one where you spend each day trying to be like everyone else. This new, freeing kind of story is one where you embrace the life you have been given and do your best to live it well.
Who is writing your story?
Are you looking around, continuing to search for more, for better, for a life like everyone else? Or are you looking up, giving thanks for what you have and asking for the strength to keep moving forward?
Who is writing your story? You or the neighbors?
Honestly, I’m still doing a little bit of both, but I’m trying. I’m trying my best to look up, accept my reality and be thankful for this experience that is growing us into the people we were meant to be. Instead of resenting this crazy experience, I am learning to recognize that with each painful step in the right direction on this unbeaten path, we are changing the trajectory of our lives.
I don’t know your story but I do know that you are also exactly where you are meant to be. You have exactly what you need to keep going, even if it doesn’t feel like it. The answers are not in the house next door or your best friend’s new car. The answers are inside you. This is your life, your journey. Live it with what has been given to you- nothing more and nothing less.
I am a free spirit who learned to use creativity as a key to success in chasing after debt freedom. I am a mom, lover of all things DIY, a little bit of a treehugger and modern-day hippy and an encourager to the core. If you need a little inspiration for your debt free journey, you’ve come to the right place.