The first time I remember living with failure I was 24 working as a bartender, trainer, team lead in a growing restaurant chain. I was a star employee and respected team member. When upper management visited, they knew my name. I had a bright future in management, and I was finally making some adult decisions. This was the first time since high school that I felt a purpose for the work I did. I loved making people happy even if it was delivering their favorite burger or for remembering the way they like their martini. I was making an impact on people every day and I felt immediate gratitude in the form of dollar bills. I was enjoying every aspect of my life and had no problem living in the present. I was the poster child of live your life girl except I was also in debt up to my eyeballs, which I had ignored for years. Credit card bills, medical bills, parking tickets you name it I had it and it was all unpaid. I thought maybe if I didn’t answer my phone, it would just go away. Well, the parking tickets eventually caught up with me. For a small fine, or half my rent, and the reinstatement of my license I was clear with the law. The credit cards and medical bills were slowing creeping up on me but still didn’t impact my current goals or my lifestyle. They were a “I’ll get to it when I get my big break” kinda thing. We all have those at some point in our lives. I will tell you putting it off until the next paycheck can work but takes more discipline than most of us have, especially when everyone is going out on Friday and you just have to wear something cute because he might be there and finally make his move. Well, that following Monday, my debt caught up with me and he still didn’t make his move. It caught with me before I got my big break, before I could replace the money I used for my phone bill to buy that cute outfit and the cocktails. That Monday my manager and mentor stood at the bar and told me my paychecks were about to be garnished by a creditor. I really didn’t understand this right away, so denial was the first thing I felt, it was a mistake, how, what, who? Oh, wait I thought, it makes sense now. It’s happening, it’s here…the failure. I then started thinking how my failure could ruin everything and I didn’t want this to impact my future as a manager. My future for the first time was more important than any Friday night out or new pair of heels. My mentor and I brainstormed how I could get on the right side of it and after accepting my failure I had to live with it. I filed bankruptcy at age 24 because I believed too much in live your life girl. I didn’t respect my future enough to make good decisions, so I had to live with my failure for the next 10 years.
At 34 I told my failure it was time to move out when I received my first credit report that didn’t show my bankruptcy. I was proud of myself that I learned from my lessons and had worked very hard in those ten years to build what I could for a future I hadn’t imagined yet. Bankruptcy is not an answer for everyone, it’s not a clean slate; it is not a get out easy card, and it is not recommended unless you speak with a professional. I chose to file because I was 24, my debt was too much to recover from, I had the financial support of a great friend and I understood all the risks I was about to face for the next ten years. I saw a lot of failures in that ten years’ time and lived with each and everyone of them. Some have broken me for good while others have given me the strength to become who I am. I will never regret living my life girl or living with my failure. When we fail, we look to others for judgement and then we apply that judgement to ourselves on top of the judgement we’ve already given ourselves. If I could go back and tell myself one thing it would be that any judgment you get from others will never compare to what you have already put on yourself. Leave others’ judgement at the door. If you are afraid to live with failure because of the way others see you then your failure will be lurking behind every corner. Accept the failure, mourn it, wallow in it and then invite it in because failure is about to be your best roommate for the next ten years.
Living with your own failure is a hard lesson, it is not comfortable or pretty. I was embarrassed that I let my debt get so out of control, but I was also proud after I accepted it and recovered from it. Sometimes we all just hope that it will work itself out. I lived in the present and had fun and was care-free, but I was really living in denial for years. Let me tell you…if you are living your life girl but it’s in denial you need to get your cute outfit and get out. Don’t keep those secrets of failure lurking, they will find you one day. Living in failure is a much easier place to recover from than denial. So, c’mon you know it by now…Live your life girl. Live it proud and with failure if you must. Live it with kindness and be your only judge because at the end of the day you are in command of your life.
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You aren’t alone in having money problems. That’s why I’m not retired. But I like your advice. I keep telling myself one step at a time. So let’s hang in there together. As my mil used to say….it’s only money!