From Broken Man to Broke Architect and Life is Good!
Before I write a post on the nut and bolt on how we paid off a total of $160,000, I want to discuss the topic of personal growth and mental freedom. For many years before starting on this path towards financial freedom, I was broken man who never quite comfortable in my own skin. I was constantly trying to impress, seek the approval of, and/or gain the respect of other people. I spent a lot of time attempting to conform to the so-called social standards.
Growing up in a single –parent, working class home. I always felt I never measured up to my friends, especially during the high school years. My clothes were typically out of date or too big because my mom wanted to ensure that I would get more than one year’s use from them. I wish I had a dollar for every time one of the damn safety pins holding up my pants would come lose and stick the hell out of my ass. I was constantly teased for being poor because I was on the free breakfast and lunch program.
I am not pointing the finger at my mother for my insecurities. She raised my sister and I in a loving home with high morals values and a strong work ethic. My mom was a family trailblazer in her own right. She was the only female sibling of eleven brothers and sisters who had a career, was a homeowner and owned a car. This may not sound impressive today, but not long ago it was not common for black women to obtain these things by herself. For many of my female cousins, she served as a role model.
The feeling of being lesser than others, only increased as I became older. So when I started making my own money, I was determined to treat myself to the “good life.” No more safety pinned pants, no more no-name sneakers and no more eating pinto beans three time a week. To this day, you cannot pay me to eat pinto beans. I was going to “style and profile” my way into acceptance. So, I began purchasing the items I felt I needed to support and live the successfully life I dreamt of:
· Haircuts — This was the first step to the good life. I more than doubled the numbers of appointments I had with my barber. This was a great way to boost the ego. Everyone notices when you get a fresh cut, right?
· Clothes — The second step to the good life. The new clothes did make me feel better when I was out being social. Who does not enjoy receiving compliments? Put new clothes with a fresh haircut and I felt that I could not be stopped. The problem was when I took them off I felt no different. My self-esteem was tied to the clothing.
· Cars — The third and most important step to the good life. I call this the most important step because for a lot of men, this is where we stop because we believe we have arrived. A car is a phony indicator of our success and financial wealth. A car was my first status symbol that large numbers people could see and admire. Sad to say, my first symbol was a hooptie T-1000. It smoked and backfired. But I felt like I was riding in style. Initially it gave me a great since of freedom. I could come and go as I pleased, and more importantly I now had access to girls on the other side of town. My self-worth was instantly and totally tied to my cay. If the car need working I was sad, it got a scratch I was upset. When I hit a pothole, I was concern for the car. If I placed new rims and tires on it, I felt good for it and myself. My hooptie T-1000 was an extension of my manhood. And there lies the problem. As my friends accrued newer, better vehicles, there became a growing dysfunction with my manhood. I no longer wanted to be seen in the backfiring smoke mobile. Lack of financial backing from my mom killed the dream of a car upgrade. At least not on her dime.
· College Education — After I graduating from college, my self-esteem became one with my job title. I could tell the world I am an Architect!!! For years, my career defined who I was. I would damn near introduce myself as an architect before I said my name. This ego boost was much larger than anything I received from having a car. And of course, I upgraded all of the previously mentioned items to go with the new career. I deserved it, right? That is what I told myself. Weekly haircut and facial trim, new expensive name brand clothing, a brand-new car. My ego was so large that I could not be in the same room it. I was out of control.
These were just a few of the items I used to hide the fact the I was broken. I increased the number of haircuts I received to obtain compliments from other people. I bought new clothing to compensate for feeling poor. I bought cars to impress my friends, family and others. I used my job title to gain the respect of other people. As I accrued these items I did not feel complete, something was missing. I had followed the rules of success. I played the game and I was winning, so I thought. I escaped the hood; at least that’s what my co-workers said. I was now solidly middle class. I was doing better, on paper, then the generation that had come before me. But had I really escaped the hood? Was I really doing better than the previous generation? No, not mentally. I was the same broken dude with a larger income to help compensate for my pain. None of these items truly defined who I really was or who I am. They just gave me temporary relief from my every day situation. The more stuff I purchased — some with cash, but most on credit — the larger the void seem to become.
Before I became the Broke Architect, I was a broken man trying to cope with life. Not being aware of the impact these purchases were having on my finances. How many of you are broken; filling your life with items that will only temporary comfort you? Have you ever thought about why your spending habits are what they are? I challenge you to analyze your spending habit and to do some self-reflecting as to when and why you spend.
I want to end this post with something my father told me while we were at the local airport. I was scheduled to taking a flight to go back to college. He told me how proud he was of me for pursuing my dreams of becoming an architect. As we were talking, I noticed he looking dreamy-eyed as he watched the planes take flight. I ask him what he dreamt of becoming when he was a young. He responded with this statement. “Son, I always wanted to be pilot. Like the Tuskegee airmen but my teacher back in Alabama my teacher told me that Negros were not allowed to become pilots. That’s the way it was in those days.” Now, I didn’t share this story not because I feel my father is a broken man. He is my hero, and he could never be broken in my eyes. He is the strongest man I know. I shared it to show that our parents and grandparents dealt with and overcame much larger issues. Their problems were forced upon them and beyond their control. Today, there are still many racial injustices that we deal with that are beyond our control, but we have many more options and opportunities. And if we can get our financial house in order, more options will become available to us.
If we do not address our broken selves, we cannot find a lasting, permanent repair for our finances. What we will end up with are temporary bandages that will lead to greater frustration. Going from a broken man to the broke architect has been a long journey mentally. But I am in a better place now. The broken man does try to rear his head occasionally, usually during my most vulnerable moments. Whenever this happens, I now analyze the situation from the broke architect’s perspective, not the broken man.
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The Broke Architect