The title of today’s post is courtesy of my dear friend and fellow mom of a preschooler plus 2, Lorelai (who I hope likes the blog name I’ve chosen for her by the way). And she is absolutely right. Real life is not debt-free. No truer or timely words have been uttered at our Friday Night Club of late. Both true and timely from a financial as well as philosophical point of view.
The following is a snippet from an ongoing conversation that Avril and I have been having about whether or not she should essentially throw caution to the wind and travel to New Zealand (and across the International Date Line no less!) for the first time ever. After much back and forth discussion this is how we left about 2 weeks ago:
Me: Well, what’s the worst that can happen?
Avril: I’ll be in debt.
Me: But you’re already in debt.
Now granted, she didn’t hop right up and book that flight abroad. However, after 10 days of rumination and quoting the above conversation to her inner circle, and knowing Avril, to anyone who would give her proper audience, she booked that flight. Awesome. I should also add that Avril is not one to be frivolous or in any way careless when it comes to her finances. She is a practical, Type A personality and doesn’t harbor debt lightly. She is also adventurous, willful, determined and just about the most fearless person I know. To be quoted by her to family and friends on this issue makes me smile.
At this point in my dialogue, I must point out that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a throw caution to the wind kind of girl. I’ve spent most of my adult life consciously debt-free. I grew up in a family that taught me if you can’t afford it, you don’t buy it. And if you do buy it, you pay it off immediately. My husband also grew up in a family that did, and does, the same. This is a sound piece of advice and philosophy and I do not take it lightly. I’ve followed it to the letter for 38 of my 40 years on this earth. And then my husband, like so many others, was laid off from his job of almost 15 years and our debt-free lifestyle became a debt-tolerant one out of necessity. We did everything we could to avoid credit card debt, including decimating our savings, and it came down to this. Are we going to pay the mortgage or the credit card in full every month? Let’s just say we’re still living in our home of 7 years. My husband is back to work full-time and we’re paying down our debt incrementally. And so it goes…Real life is not debt-free.
I’d also like to point out that I’m getting a big kick out of myself, and out of all of my Friday Night Club girlfriends, who have known one another for 25+ years, and are just now really talking about this stuff. You know, the messy stuff of life including debt, marriage, being single at 40, divorce – you name it, we’re getting big and getting brave and actually talking to one another. And I, for one, feel free and energized and alive!
This is real life, my friends. Real life is not debt-free. And if it is (more in the day to day and philosophical sense, but yes, also in the financial realm) then maybe you’re not doing something right. For years I played by the rules, connected the dots, and lived between the lines of a life that was dictated by rules and regulations that were not my own. They were borrowed and applied from generations of play-by-the-rulers who went before me. And I got a lot of good stuff, amazingly good stuff from that – things like personal and financial responsibility, accountability to myself and to others (most notably to God), and a strong sense of right and wrong. Along with that I got a good dose of strictly black and white thinking that lacked nuance, compassion, and understanding of myself and others. It demanded perfection that caused me to shrink in the face of adversity, scorned risk while simultaneously coveting it, and closed me off from friends and family who love me as I do them. Most strikingly, the “shoulds”, “have tos” and “what ifs” cut me off from myself, from who I am, and from who I long to be.
So if I have one piece of advice to pass along to my beloved son it will be this – Live life and live it with conscious abandon. It is messy, complex, and amazingly beautiful – just like you, my precious, precious child. And God-willing, it won’t just be the words but my life that boldly proclaims, as did Lorelai most succinctly, Real life is not debt-free. Amen and halleluia.