This is not a political post. While I am deeply committed to this country I live in, and am deeply grateful for those who’ve fought and sacrificed for the freedoms I now enjoy, this is not about that kind of freedom. The freedom I am speaking of is of a different sort. It’s the freedom that comes with being able to choose; to chart a course, set out on it and make it happen. I think fewer people experience this freedom than we might think.
If we take a look around, there are many who have and do and experience and achieve so much more than we do. There’s the guy driving the brand new BMW and vacationing in the Cay man Islands with his latest flavor of the week. He seems free to do what he pleases. To enjoy life without hindrances, or financial worries, or what have you. There’s the young, pretty divorcee who somehow made out like a bandit on her divorce; she’s sporting a new car, a new house, a new wardrobe, a new body and lots of new admirers. She seems to be enjoying a great deal of freedom these days. There’s the corporate executive making well over 6 figures; his children are in private schools and his wife can come and go as she pleases every day without having to worry about finding work to help pay the bills…she doesn’t even have to worry about paying the bills. Her biggest concern is how is she going to squeeze in her nail appointment between soccer practice for one child and voice lessons for the next? These people seem free, but I suspect they are not. They all have their own prisons, built by the obligations they’ve created for themselves. But, on the outside, they appear to enjoy more freedoms than those of us who are lower on the income totem pole. It appears they don’t have to think twice about the purchase of a new vehicle or whether or not they can pay for the gas in the car this month. There is also such a thing as financial freedom, but this post is not about financial freedom either…well…not so much.
This year has truly been a journey for me. I’ve visited one disaster after another all year long. I can’t wait for this year to end. As bad as this year has been for me, I would be a liar if I said it was a wasted and worthless year. Enjoyable? No. Memorable and significant? Yes. I hated living this year in many respects, but, I’ve learned so much. I can’t dismiss this year as a total loss, like I can the Durango. (Pun intended, read my previous post if you are new here.)
As I’ve struggled through my own personal challenges this year, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to observe. First, there was the cancer episode lasting the first half of the year. My diagnosis was mild in comparison to others I know. Sure, I had a couple of biopsies, a couple of surgeries, and nearly six weeks of radiation, the out-of-pocket medical bills to prove it, and I’m no longer the symmetrical being I was going in…but there are others who fared far worse. I took my five weeks of six leave. I had my stuff happen. I rode my bike across town to my radiation treatments and back home to deal with children, and, well, we won’t mention him. I survived. I am surviving.
After the cancer issue, or concurrently, there was the entire bankruptcy issue which was the result of me trying to shoulder all the debt of a bad marriage (because I knew he wouldn’t pay a dime) and…well…I had to fold. I hated it. It wasn’t easy, and in other posts on this blog, I’ve shared the trials and tribulations. Enough said. It has been a roller coaster of drama and disappointment for me all year. Several times over, I’ve earned a little “windfall” only to have it taken from me by the system or fate. So, being of strong and courageous ilk, my kids and I made adjustments and persevered. We bought bus passes and learned how to navigate the public transportation system in our area. And then…my daughter gets into a fender bender and wrecks my car. The very same accident in the very same vehicle, in nearly the same location, with the same (no, worse) results, as I experienced in January of this year. My initial thought was, how could this be happening? I’m trying to do the right stuff. How can this possibly be happening? I cannot afford the $500 deductible this is going to cost. Well, as you know, this ended up with a total loss settlement on my 14-year-old SUV.
Turned out to be one of the best things that has happened to me all year.
In less than a month, I’ve exchanged a ’98 Dodge Durango for a 2012 Nissan Altima. The nice thing about all this…is…finally…things are turning around for me. Sure, I have car payments. Interestingly enough, my credit has improved to the point that I can afford this vehicle without making extreme sacrifices to my budget. But the point of that statement is…none of this was my doing. It was all a bit of luck and chance and if you believe in God, divine intervention. And here is what I’ve learned…
“Nothing destroys spirit like poverty.” ~Becoming Jane
This truth has been my year. No matter how I tried, and I did try, I got second and third jobs, I have a graduate degree for crying out loud, I couldn’t get ahead. I’m also a bit surprised by how I’m discovering this truth not due to experiencing poverty, but instead, because I’ve been dealt a nice hand. When struggling, I did what I needed to do to survive and cut financial corners. I was okay with that. Life could always be so much worse, right? But, in a way, I’m a hypocrite. These days I’m sporting a pretty new vehicle, with the luxuries. It’s amazing the freedom that comes with being able to put an affordable amount of gas in a car and then be able to drive for over 400 miles. I don’t have to wait at bus stops for buses that are late. I can chart my own course. I’m independent. I’m relishing this freedom. It’s a freedom I haven’t experienced in years…well…since the financial realities of divorce and an SUV hit. I can come and go as I please and not just across town, but to the coast, to the big city I love, and I can do it without breaking the bank. This is the freedom I’m talking about. It’s exhilarating. This is a good thing. Instead of destroying my spirit, I find my spirit is soaring these days. A nice car, bills paid, money in the bank. There’s hope. The future doesn’t look so bleak. For me, things just might be turning around.
I still miss riding my bus.
And now I’ve stumbled upon another aspect of freedom…choice. Because of my recent challenges and successes, I am in the supreme position to be able to choose not only where I go, but how I choose to get there. I am not relegated to any particular situation, I can choose. This is what I find the most discouraging thing about poverty or financial hardship: it removes our options and relegates us to a position of dependence. In essence, it removes our privilege as adults to choose our own way…to chart our own course. It strips us of our personal freedom.
Posted on November 15, 2012, in Finances and tagged comparing yourself with others, fate, finances, financial freedom, freedom, God, Miz Insomniac, mizinsomniac, poverty. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.