Life After Debt: An Honest Look After the Finish Line
Last month, I paid off the last remaining consumer debt (my car loan). Then, I was in an odd place. Free from debt. To be honest, I was a little (a lot?) hung up on the fact that I was buying a condo, and I worried that by buying a condo, I was keeping myself in a payoff debt comfort zone.
It took a little getting used to, but logic won in the end, and I can safely say that I’m on the other side of debt. My money is working for me.
I slogged away for years getting to this point. Years. I worked my tail off. I sold stuff. I took on extra jobs. The earnest go-getter in me started in full swing in 2010, and three years later, I reached the finish line.
It’s a little like starting to walk across the country. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you wake up one day in Portland, Maine. You lace on your shoes and decide to walk to the “other” Portland. If you’ve decided to walk across the country, there’s simply only one way to do that: one step at a time.
And now, to take the analogy further, let’s say, instead of waking up and deciding to do this on a whim, you’ve awakened a deep desire to live life on your terms, and the only path that you see that can take you there is the long, slow walk. From Portland to Portland. From beginning to end. It’s a long, tiring process, and you’ll get fatigued. You’ll lose your step. Especially in the beginning, you’ll want to go back to the familiar Portland.
But something in you tells you that no, sweetheart, your life isn’t there anymore.
Once you wake up and decide, you can never go back to a blissful life of ignorance. You know that. You can’t throw caution into the wind and finance a pair of shoes, not now that you know who has to pay for that in the end.
Every step away from debt is empowering. And every time you pay down (or off!) one or more of your debts, you venture further into the unknown. “Oh, so this is how it feels to no longer have credit card debt,” I thought to myself when I finally paid that off. I poked my arm. “It’s not very different from yesterday.”
Every time I paid off a debt, I poked myself. “Self, do you feel different?”
Even now that I don’t have consumer debt, the answer is no.
I’m the same person I was ten years ago, before I had any debt. The same person who wrote a check from a credit card seven years ago. The same person who woke up one day in 2009 and couldn’t breathe because I couldn’t see where my next rent payment would come from.
I got out of debt, and that’s really something I’m proud of.
I walked from Portland to Portland so to speak. I arrived alone, without fanfare, and wasn’t greeted with hugs or high fives. No roses, no medals. Not for this race.
It’s lonely at the finish line.
I’ve had time to reflect. Time to think about what this means.
Life After Debt is a really great life. But it’s just life.
I think I was expecting it to be like how Dorothy felt after her house landed on the witch and the world was Technicolor. But I didn’t see that. There are no munchkins here. There’s just life. Nothing has changed, except that the goal you worked SO hard to hit has been attained. You are where you set out to be.
Sure, I don’t check Mint every day, and that’s weird. But it’s a good kind of weird. The kind where I’m comfortable with the inflow and outflow of my cash. I still log on at least once a week, but mostly to categorize my transactions (and see which direction that IRA heads toward).
I have to work toward new goals.
There’s something funny about laser focus and human nature. I’m the kind of person who needs tough goals. Paying off $35,000 in debt was a reach goal. Knowing that I can pay that much money in that short amount of time makes me feel a little like Superwoman. I’m unstoppable, friends! I can do anything! But without something to strive toward, I’m a little adrift. My new goals are lofty, but only one has a time limit.
- I’m going to earn $10,000 in 2013 (net!) in addition to my regular salary.
- I’m going to save $15,000 in a 2.25% interest bearing checking account (more on that another time, but why don’t you bank at a credit union? they’re better!) and after that, start investing in things that are less liquid.
It’s funny. I started this blog to keep me accountable, and for a long time, my favorite posts were those charts where I was tracking my debt progress. I used to update my spreadsheets and projections every single time I made an extra payment. Now? I don’t even publish those anymore, because I find them exceptionally boring.
Maybe I’ll start new charts and track my progress on my new goals!Has anyone else experienced this?