Musings: Creditworthy...

9:14 AM

The phone rings at 2AM...

...I'm asleep in my dorm style apartment at Cal Poly. I used to leave my phone with the sound on when I slept, since I was 300 miles away from any emergency. However, this night was a different emergency.

This is the call and night that changed my life. It was the night my secret was let out of the bag. I was in trouble, even though I wouldn't admit it AND still have a hard time admitting it now...

Balances that were too high to pay off, missing minimum payments, skipping payments altogether, and then creditor calls. It's way too easy to evade phone calls, when you realize what's happening.

I vividly remember getting my first credit card at Express, when I was sixteen. My Mom added me on to her account and ordered me my own card. With one important stipulation, I HAD to pay any charges off every single month. Once I turned 18, I applied for one at Mervyn's where I worked, then for a Visa at Golden 1 Credit Union. My thought process during that time: "It was so easy to open credit cards, it's like no one cares". Then I started opening them at all the various stores - Victoria's Secret, Best Buy, Nordstrom, etc.

My family is not poor, but we sure as hell aren't rich either. We've lived comfortably and my parents have never lived outside of their means. My Mom is the financially obsessed one, which balances out my Dad's more lackadaisical ways. I say this with the utmost respect, but to emphasize that I'm more like my Dad and nothing like my Mom when it comes to finances. My Lil and I were never without want and we even had some of the cool, trendy clothes and things in school. We also played whatever sport we wanted and had yearly family vacations. We were happily satisfied in all facets of our lives and childhood. As much as my parents tried to teach us about money, I just didn't get it or want to get it. Lil is the complete opposite, she's bailed me out of financial situations more than I can even remember. Although she's younger, she's leaps and bounds smarter financially, probably in general too, than I.

The one nightmare I thought would never happen...did. My Mom found out about my credit card debt. It was 2AM, I was groggy as hell and my Mom had this ice cold tone in her voice asking about one of the many credit card balances I had. The worst part is I had to admit the whole lot. And there was tons. I know I should have a specific number to tell you, but I don't. I'm pretty sure it was closing in on double digits (in the thousands, people).

My stomach was turning, I was shaking, but I wasn't in tears yet. I was afraid of what she was going to say, embarrassed at what she was going to think of me, and mad that she found out. We ended the call shortly after, but nothing was resolved.

I sat wide awake, until the sun came up and it was time for me to get ready for class. I was on autopilot, moving like a zombie. Thinking about what this meant, what would happen to me. Would they make me leave Cal Poly? Would I have to get a full time job? Can I claim bankruptcy?

The rest of the details of the story get a little hazy, maybe out of repressing them or because it's been awhile. However, I remember I had a conversation with them, many tears were shed, and the balances I owed were given to them. At first I didn't know what to do. I looked into bankruptcy, I wasn't opposed to it. I was at the mercy of what my parents wanted me to do.

Through their disappointment and anger, the decision was made by them to pay off all of my bills, through a loan they would give to me. In return, I was to close all accounts, see a therapist, and repay the money I borrowed to pay off the debt. Mom was adamantly opposed to me claiming bankruptcy, for her own reasons, I just agreed to whatever they wanted me to do.

Balances were paid. Cards were cut up. Cal Poly has free resources on campus,a therapist being one of them. I went to see him. From our one meeting he highlighted the fact that I knew right from wrong when I was using my credit cards, I did not have a disorder or condition. I made the choice and didn't care what the consequences were, in fact, I just ignored them. He was very nice and it was an interesting therapy session, it as also my first therapy session ever. I left, immediately called my parents and told them what was discussed.

I also found a 'Shopaholics Anonymous' group to attend. I was way more nervous to attend this, than to see the therapist. I also might have the name wrong, but it was along those lines. The meeting was held at a local church, but I can't even remember if we sat in a circle or in rows in the room. I do remember two things - A.) the people in this room belong in multiple anonymous groups and talk about them a lot and B.) they are trying to sell me multiple $1 information sheets that are religious and helpful in nature, even though I'm here because I spend too much money. I didn't like this group or this meeting, I didn't see any value in it or have a good gut feeling about it all. I told my parents what happened and that I wouldn't be going back.

Shameful, disgraced, and embarrassed. Those are just three of the words that come to my mind when I think about the situation I got myself into. How could I let my parents down so much? What do I have to show for it? Clothes, purses, stuff for my apartment...all material things that would go by the wayside after a year or two. Nothing of value, not even trips or memories that could have at least had some life experience value. I didn't want my parents to think less of me. I didn't want to let them down, I don't ever want to let them down - in any capacity. But I did. I let them down, I let my materialistic greed take over and I tried to own things that I couldn't afford. Traits that I still have, but have dramatically cut back on.

All of this story leads to today. Today my last loan payment will be deposited into Poppa Bears account! I'm ashamed that I even have to write this or share this story with you. I'm embarrassed that it's taken me this long to pay them back. Pay them back without years of interest. I joke with them that instead of interest, I received Mom's harassment of repayment, but I shouldn't have. I should have always verbally showed how grateful I am that they bailed me out. There were years that I didn't pay them back, but they were patient. They were kind and always reminded me that they were disappointed in me, but it didn't change their unconditional love for me. 

I know they felt like they didn't raise me right or teach me properly, but this isn't on them. It is on me, solely me. I am selfish, I am irresponsible.

Thank you seems hollow, it doesn't come close to how grateful, blessed, and appreciative I truly am. It takes a lot to put up with what I put them through, the lies, the deceit, and the non-repayment when I should have been paying them. I know I let them down, but my final payment makes me feel like I'm taking baby steps in the right direction, financially. I know they don't need my payments, but I needed to pay them. I needed to grow up, be responsible, and take ownership of my mistake.

But, then I did it again...

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