And this ain’t no pale reflection/ this is the real thing”

My name is Ashley and I blog at Writing To Reach You. When I asked for opportunities to guest blog, Billygean offered me some space here, and since she has blogged about working to get out of debt, I thought I would tell some of my own story. Three years ago, I found myself in $20,500 of credit card debt. To be clear, I was fully responsible for all of that debt, but I was so deep in delusion that it really did feel like I just found myself there.

It confuses me now how I believed my own lies when I was confronted with the harsh numbers every month. But, I really had never screwed up so terribly before. And just as no one who knew me would have believed I’d be so stupid, I couldn’t believe it either. I couldn’t see my way out of the mess I had created for myself, so I just waited around either for a bunch of money to show up at my door or for the world to end.

Some of the most embarrassing lies I told myself were about how experience was more important than money and how I had to spend money in order to really live. My lifestyle was not extravagant, but I somehow thought I was entitled to it. I had to get it into my head that I wasn’t entitled to a life I couldn’t afford. I had to take responsibility for my debt and for paying it off.

The shocking thing about beginning my journey out of debt was how relieved I felt immediately. In order to hide from my own mistakes, I’d developed this angsty attitude toward money, but as soon as I faced those mistakes, I felt at peace. I discovered that all that time I told myself I was “really living” by not caring about money, I was just trying to survive under the crushing weight of debt. I thought I would have to wait until I paid it all off before I felt free, but I had my first taste of freedom the minute I started doing something about it.

When I was in the middle of this journey, I wrote a post about how I was doing the hard work to get out of debt, so that I could live better later. A friend who was also in debt said something to me about how I shouldn’t put off living while I was young just so that I could be responsible with money. It was like talking to my past self and I just wanted to tell her how wrong she was. Being responsible with my money was empowering and I was so excited by all the possibilities that financial freedom opened up in my mind. I can’t imagine if I had put it off in order to remain in debt and under the delusion that I was having a good time.

After 14 months of incredibly hard work, I had paid off all of my credit card debt, gained this amazing life experience, and developed the confidence that I could fix my mistakes and make big changes. I felt like a whole new world had opened up to me. Those years I was in debt and doing nothing about it, I was putting my future at such great risk, and it made it difficult for me to see much beyond the next paycheck. Now I can take real risks out of courage instead of avoidance. This feels like really living.

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