full circle

. . .from an upward battle of struggles and emotions to a journey of healing, growth, and laughter. . .


insatiable desire to learn

1176405_2Here we go again. At age 40, I’m going back to school. The last time I did this, I was 38. My insatiable desire to learn is going to kill me. The commitment to homework at my age is almost non-existent. Heck, my commitment to cleanliness, exercise, nutrition, volunteer work certainly wanes these days. I would rather watch TV and play Facebook games all day than do anything productive. {I sound like a teenaged boy, don’t I?} It’s probably because I’m single. I hate to say it, but perhaps I need to face the truth. Nobody comes over, so my place doesn’t need to be clean. Nobody is dating me, so I don’t need to lose weight. LOL

But eventually, I will get bored of watching TV and playing Facebook games all day. I know because I’ve tried it. And this certificate (my third) in non-profit management is new and offered only once a year, and it would help me in my volunteer position and facilitate networking with important contacts. And it’s online, so I don’t have to take time off work to attend classes, like I did with my last certificate (which resulted in the creation of my volunteer project and position).

So, I’m going to ignore the additional debt I’m going to take on {what happens when you have insurmountable debt? Do “they” come after you? And if so, who is “they”?} and start working on my application.

I’m counting this as part of my 40th birthday celebration.

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shopaholics anonymous

I’m in debt. Like a lot. Like I should be going to a credit counsellor. But what is he going to tell me that I don’t already know? Stop spending money.

It wasn’t always like this. When I went back to Australia for my 30th birthday, I spent $3,000 on shopping {ok, maybe it was always like this…?}. But that’s not the point of this anecdote. When I returned, I was fired from my job {that’s another story}. I had no savings and a humungo credit card bill to pay off. Hashtag panic! Hashtag anxiety! I promised myself I would never be in that type of situation ever again.

And that was when I started building my emergency fund. The famous financial experts advise you to save at least three months’ salary for your emergency fund. For me, at the time, that would have been $8,500. Also recommended by financial advisors was to set up a certain percentage of your salary to be automatically deposited into your savings account. So, that’s what I did. I started with 5% {I had found a new job within a week} and never touched that account.

It took me nearly five years, but I had managed to save $10,000. What a financial accomplishment! What a financial RELIEF! But that same year, due to an unforeseen rental apartment incident, I took all of it {and every other penny I had} and put it towards a down payment on my first condo.

And that was the beginning of the end.

I already had my birthday trip to Greece booked and didn’t take possession until three days before I left, so I had to pay my last rent and first mortgage for the same month. After that, I just couldn’t keep up with the additional expenses—my mortgage plus strata fees plus property tax was double what I had paid in rent. I could feel myself going under and was sure I would drown any day. Hashtag anxiety. Hashtag desperate.

One of my favorite books was Confessions of a Shopaholic, and the movie had just come out. The main character ends up at a Shopaholics Anonymous meeting. I thought, well, if they have it in the movie, surely, they must have one in real life? Right?

So, one night, I googled “shopaholics anonymous” and found a meeting called Debtors Anonymous. Ah! So, that’s what they’re called in real life!

I started going to the DA meetings in 2010, a few months after I moved into my new place. In the first meeting, I cried while explaining my situation. But I felt relief in being able to share the seriousness with kind people who had or were going through exactly what I was going through. I felt comfort and hope. The meetings also kept my money issues at the top of my mind, which made me reassess the need for purchases before making them. The meetings were on Friday nights in my neighbourhood, and I looked forward to connecting with the others who attended.

But then my now ex-friend started asking me to go for a drink after work every Friday. Being social was a strategic part of my life given my history with depression. On most nights, I thought I would finish in time to go to the DA meetings. But, that never happened. And eventually, I stopped going completely.

That’s when my debt got worse.

641-01517495Being unhappy at work, I decided to go back to school and take an animal welfare certificate program and a community engagement certificate program. The latter alone was nearly $5,000. And then there was my weakness for retail therapy. And then for kitty health reasons, I had to switch my four cats to very expensive vet food. I put everything on credit because I didn’t have any cash as I could barely keep up with my condo expenses—they sucked up one entire paycheque. My credit card was going to be maxed out soon. My credit line, which had helped me consolidate some previous debt, was also maxed out. So, what’s the sensible thing to do? I increased my credit card limit and got a travel credit card. I figured the travel card would help me pay for three trips planned over the next two years. But it was supposed to be pay as I go. Very quickly {how the hell did it happen?}, I started losing the battle, and the credit on that card, too, started piling up. But that’s not even the latest. Last week, I booked an expensive trip to California due to family pressure. The new card is almost maxed out.

I have wanted to go back to the DA meetings for a year. I even put it in my calendar last year, so I would be reminded to go. But I never do. I’m embarrassed. I’m sooo embarrassed. I tripled my debt in three years. I’m not even using my regular credit card—I make more than the minimum payments, but the interest piles up faster than I can make the payments.

I’m not The Girl in the Green Scarf. Cutting or freezing credit cards doesn’t work—I have the numbers memorized. I don’t have lots of fashionable clothes and accessories to sell at an auction. {Though I did sell my red microwave from my old apartment. My new one came with one, and I hadn’t used the red one in five years, so I let it go. I’m also converting all my remaining CDs into mp3s, so I can sell them on Craigslist. I am definitely asking more for them than I did when I sold my first 300 due to downsizing into a smaller place. But those will amount to only a small payment.} And I’m not a fictional character.

I need to—no, I MUST—go back to DA. There is no other option. The solution has to start (again) from within.

What’s the evil number? $43,500.