My husband knew from day one of dating me that my education was something I took pride in. The fact that I had gone to school for my associates, being a young, then single mama was empowering to me. It was the evidence I needed to push myself to move forward through hard times.
Soon after completing my associates I went back to school for my undergrad. I had a plan, a vision, I was going to do better. My efforts were ultimately showing my daughter by example that you could do ANYTHING you put your mind to. When the opportunity to get my masters came up in conversation I jumped on it. Why not? There was no need to start paying on my school loans yet. Just keep piling that debt up! I’ve got my whole life to pay them off.
Tens of thousands of dollars later, here I sit, fully educated with papers framed and hung all over my office. So.much.debt.
It was December of 2018 and I was already at the breaking point of my mental capacity. My husband and I were sitting down on the couch talking about our goals and our future. My husband asked me the question I had been dreading for a long time.
Exactly how much do you owe in your education?
My response for years had always been to brush him off with the quick “Oh, don’t you worry about it! I’m in that forgiveness program silly. The government is going to pay it all! The number doesn’t matter.” What I was really saying was, “ Let’s just keep ignoring it and living like everything is just fine. There’s no need to communicate about it. It will magically just disappear just like everything else bad and hard in life, right?”
This time he didn’t accept this as the answer.
I thought I was going to throw up. The thing was, I didn’t really know the answer to be honest. I had a rough idea of how much I owed, but was under the impression that while you were part of this program interest didn’t accrue.
I was wrong.
My education came in at $80,000 for all three degrees. When I clicked on the actual number (you know, the thing I had never done before), the owed interest to date (at that point) was additional $25,000 and growing.
He was pissed. It wasn’t so much that I had this debt, don’t forget, he knew that from the beginning of the relationship. What upset him was how naive I was. How I wasn’t taking this seriously, or educating myself on the details of the program or that interest in fact had been accruing the entire time. Here I was with all these framed degrees, but not actually educating myself on the importance of this debt and the cost to our family’s future.
The shame. Ugh. I hit an all time low at this very moment. I started to regret the fact that I went to school. I started to wish that I had never gone back to school. That I would have just been satisfied with my associates. I started to wish that I hadn’t put my family in this position. What was I even thinking? The shame took over. It made everything so dark.
It was a long couple of weeks.
After some time of really sitting in all of these emotions I realized something. I was PROUD of my dedication to my education. I was not going to let anyone, not even my husband, take away the power and strength it took me to push through and continue my education. The truth was, I did not actually regret my education, I just wish I had done it differently. And to be fair, that was my husband's wish too. He was not mad that I had gone to school, he was so proud of me. What upset him was the lack of responsibility around the debt associated with education. I get it.
So with that in mind, I had to get to the core of the true issue. He was right, I should have been more aware of the details of this debt. It was something I brought into our relationship and something I should have been more open and educated with.
We started doing research to determine if this program was legit. If it would make sense to keep going and with the way the interest was accruing, what the total amount of debt would be at the end of the 10 years of the program. We started to look more into it and seeing that the success rate of people actually having their school debt paid off was not high. The program was not doing well. People were getting to the end of their ten years and being disqualified for not following the requirements to a “t”.
Shame. It was getting dark again.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to quit. Why had I been so dumb? Why did I believe that this magical program was going to make all of my debt go away? How could I be so naive?
Though I had done so much work on myself in 2019, this was an area of my life that I shoved down as deep as it would possibly go. This was a topic I felt numb to. It was one I avoided at all cost.
This debt is part of my journey. This journey is part of my story, it is not my whole story. It does not define me. It is not my core, my soul, my purpose. Until now, it has been something that has suffocated me. Today, it is something that is fueling the fire in me. It is something I am owning and learning from.
I used to feel like my husband was pulling me behind him. He was always the one paving the way to our financial freedom, leading the charge. As he pulled me along for all of these years, if you looked back, I was the one pulling the dead weight. That dead weight was what was weighing us all down. That dead weight was my debt. It was the guilt. It was the shame that I had held onto for YEARS. For so many years this is what I allowed to define me.
No more. I will no longer feel as though I am being dragged behind in my own life. I will stand tall. I will stand strong. I will stand with my head held high as I navigate this journey alongside my husband. I will be his partner as he has always been mine. I will no longer allow this to be something that suffocates me, but something that fuels my fire. I will show my girls the power you can pull from the depths of your failures.
Let me tell you something, there is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise. I have recently come to the conclusion that the more you let go, the higher you rise.
I will rise.
I will be sending a weekly email out keeping myself accountable and sharing my journey and lessons learned around creating a healthier relationship with money as I become not only debt free, but am able to talk about money without my palms sweating and my stomach turning.
If you'd like to follow along, you can sign up by clicking here.