“Congratulations! The loans listed on the reverse side of this letter are paid in full. No further payments are required on the loans listed as paid in full. We appreciate your business and wish you success with your future endeavors.”
Wow, thanks, Chase Bank! Mighty cool-a-ya.
“Phew, what a relief” I thought. As a person who came from an economically depressed, rural area with blue-collar parents, when it came time to go to college, I knew I’d be on my own. When my advisor urged me to do a once-in-a-lifetime study abroad program in Argentina my junior year, I knew I had to go. But, already on the wrong side of a Zero Balance, how was I to take that life-changing journey?
With unsecured debt, of course! My Dad used to get the statements each month and tell me, “Myles, you’re gonna end up paying 3 times that loan by the time it’s paid off!” And guess what? He was right. *insert shocked-face emoji*
Life with [a] Zero Balance
So, I paid the motherfucker off. Completely. With the sweat off my back, tears from my eyes, and lots of early mornings and late nights (no, I’m not a prostitute, but I do consider some elements of my job emotional prostitution *insert thinking emoji*)
I’d been paying the minimum payment like a Hedonic-treadmill-running millennial with no end in sight.
“Fuck, Dad was right, wasn’t he?” I thought. “That bastard – probably looking down on me laughing his ass off with that loving and understanding glow of an all-seeing angel, who knows I’m gonna be taken care of beyond my wildest dreams.”
Since I work in sales and entertainment as a 1099 Independent Contractor, my income fluctuates each month. But, after reading the book “Set for Life: Dominate Life, Money and the American Dream” by Scott Trench, I awoke to the opportunity to use my personal power to crush my consumer debt years ahead of my initially proposed timeline. After some careful career transitions, I found myself in a place to swiftly annihilate over 30% of my total debt in one month.
Without going into boundaryless financial details, I made it happen and am continuing on that journey. But all this work mania got me thinking: am I living a Life with Zero Balance?
Life with Zero Balance
What I found as I began producing at new and personally unfounded levels at work was that I was engaging in self-numbing and self-abandoning behaviors that were negatively impacting my life.
I was doing damage to my body, mind and spirit to keep up with the stress of being a highly productive salesperson and regularly booking model. I was a “Yes, Man,” who was coming at the world from a scarcity mentality that said, “there isn’t enough.”
“How can I take a break,” I thought, “when I work in two highly competitive fields where success is like a snowball, which turns into a suffocating avalanche: once you start doing well, you can’t just roll out of it, you have to keep going and going and going and going and going and going.”
Then I thought, “Until WHAT?”
Until I die getting hit by a bus because I’m too glued to my phone to look up?
As a person who’s lost both of his parents suddenly, the ever-present knowledge that any day could be my last never leaves me.
Then, it got me thinking about the consequences of a Zero-Balance Lifestyle:
- Destruction of the spirit.
- Emotional numbness.
- Isolation from loved ones.
- Entrapment in people-pleasing behaviors.
- Active relapse to old, bad habits.
- Complete spiritual resignation.
Who said life had to be so hard? So dismal? So depressing? So empty and meaningless? Just make more and more money, self-destruct and die? I don’t think so.
After all, what will my tombstone say?
“Here lies Myles Ellison: he paid off all his debts.”
Nope. So, what is my solution?
I started the simple-but-not-easy, day-at-a-time journey of putting myself first as much as I can each day. And if that means being selfish, well… *insert shrugging emoji*
How can I let go of the old beliefs and bad habits that feed my inner saboteur?
How can I pay off that debt to myself? I can start slowly, one day at a time, and then when I get the strength and resources, I can take out a whole chunk of it.
As a millennial, I’ve been spoon-fed consumerist culture just like my baby-boomer parents, and my grandparents’ generation before. My grandma used to save everything because, well, she lived through the Depression. My Mom took some of those hoarding characteristics to our childhood home. When I was a kid, we’d have corners of clutter in our house, mostly containing clothes, knick-knacks and Family Circle magazines.
I’ve also inherited the unfortunate belief model of a Linear Life Timeline, one that keeps improving, keeps getting better and better, keeps making more and more money, keeps collecting more cultural artifacts of success to showcase. Until when, though?
Until I’m a 45-year-old addict trying to keep all together, then falling and losing everything?
I don’t think so.
How to Be My Own Solution
- Stop people pleasing. If I need time for myself, I take it.
- Ignore everyone else’s life timeline because most of the “happy people” on social media are struggling with an internal battle in some (or multiple) area/s of their life – I know because I am one.
- Pay off as much debt as I can as responsibly as possible, but don’t screw myself into more unsecured debt just to feel like I’m getting ahead.
- Look both ways before crossing the street and take my face out of the phone. Ya, that one should probably be Numero Uno.
- Make time for the people I love. They could be gone tomorrow.
- If people shame me or lay a guilt-trip on me for sticking to my self-care goals, then I reconsider their role in my life. It’s OK to let people go.
Recovering Adult Orphan
So, here I am, posting a vulnerable, imperfect note for you all to see. Both my parents are dead and I don’t have a trust fund, so it’s just me out here doing my thing. You’ll never understand it unless you live it. My main priority is Living a Balanced Lifestyle. So yes, I want to pay off all my debt, and yes I want to be a millionaire real estate investor, and yes (for better or worse) I still want to be America’s Next Top Male Model, but the beauty is in the journey of becoming.
Thoughts for the day:
- How can I honor myself in mind, body and spirit while still attacking my goals?
- How can I allow grace into my life today?
- Can I say “no” and offer no reasons or explanations when necessary?
- What areas of my life would benefit from Recovery Work?
- How can I laugh, play and have fun in my life today?