I’m Really Tired of Dealing With Debt

I realize I have to make big changes

Credit: Adobe Stock // olly

My breaking point was over a hazelnut. A hazelnut that cracked my tooth at two-thirty this morning. Because I was stress-eating granola. But it was the three thousand dollar bill to fix said tooth that did me in. Only a few weeks before, a persistent ache in another tooth turned into a five-hour fiasco involving a dentist, an endodontist, a $5,000 bill and me texting a friend — while the fifth shot in my mouth was kicking in, and I was inhaling nitrous gas like a glass of water in the fucking Sahara — ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS BULLSHIT?

My dentist tried to reassure me, after rejecting my pleas for a fifteen-year repayment plan, that this particular tooth had already booked a one-way ticket to a root canal, so I ended up saving $2,000! Oh, cool. So, instead of dropping ten grand on two teeth, I was only paying eight. Like I have eight thousand dollars just laying around, waiting to be flushed down the dental toilet. Apparently, the hazelnut was my salvation. I started laughing and continued laughing. For a while. To the point where everyone in the waiting room was uncomfortable.

Those eight thousand dollars were my June and July rent, my monthly bankruptcy payment, and a crapload of other bills that I accrued from two decades of making bad decisions.

When you’re raised poor, your life is a series of negotiations surrounding money. How long can you wait to pay the electric bill before ConEd shuts off the lights? You inventory the few nice things in your home — purchased on the rare occasions when you were flush or when your step-father actually won money on one of his frequent trips to Atlantic City — and wonder how long you should wait before rolling out a sheet on Thirteenth Avenue in Brooklyn to sell them all? You spend a summer subsisting on potatoes. Your fridge is anemic. A box of Hamburger Helper is a victory. When you’re poor, all you talk about is money. How much you have, how much you need, and will there ever come a day when you stop rolling quarters and stealing Polly-O cheese when your mother is making $10 a day in tips in a luncheonette?

I swore that I would not deal with this level of bullshit as an adult. The irony that I spent a pile of money on degrees to get good jobs to buy a fridge full of ORGANIC Polly-O cheese if I wanted it to then declare bankruptcy in 2017 does not escape me. I was so desperate to live a life that was antithetical to my childhood that I ended up living paycheck to paycheck, and wondering how I can move to another apartment without a Sanford & Son-level heart attack. People who used to report to me are snatching up houses and using summer as a verb, and I’m shaking my head wondering what is that life like?

And here I am on a Friday with pain killers and another bill.

Want to scream into a few pillows? One of my former clients is a financial tech company, and my job was to do a market research study on Americans and their relationship with money. Did you know that money is the #1 stressor in our lives, far ahead of our families and healthcare? Of course, you did. Did you know that half of our country is extremely worried about their financial situation, 37% lie awake at night paralyzed by it, and 67% of people who earn over $50K a year are worried about a surprise $1,000 expense? Working on this research study felt like I was writing a follow-up to my memoir. As the kids say, I felt seen.

And while I can tell you I’m a changed person, I’m obviously not changed enough. Work-wise, this is my best year in the past six. I’m booking great clients, getting repeat work, making some nice coin off Medium and my freelancing guides. I’m paying my bills on time, sticking to my budget, buying that which is essential (and no, cute cashmere tops are no longer essentials). It’s incredible how much terror one fucking hazelnut could wreak on an existence that is clearly precarious.

It occurs to me, right now, as I’m typing this on pain killers that I have to make some significant changes. I need to move into a cheaper apartment when my lease is up, and if that means moving to a different part of the state where the cost of living isn’t a cruel joke, then I’m doing it. If I have to take on a few gigs to pad a savings account so I don’t have a panic attack every time I go ten dollars over budget, then I’m doing it. If I have to up my ramen game to bring down my weekly food budget (because eating healthy is not cheap, people), then I’m doing it.

Because I am really tired of being shackled to debt, and I need to take more responsibility, make more sacrifices and changes to get to a point where I can breathe easier. And while I may never know what it’s like to have a home that has two floors and no one blasting old-school Britney Spears on volume ten living above you, I can at least stop regarding the contents of my cupboard as a war zone intent to break all my teeth.

Sign up for my newsletter.