Why Being in Debt Won’t Break Me Because I Already Broke Out
When pursuing your dreams costs more than you can afford
I’m currently on the lam. When the day breaks with proof that your hunters are catching up — panic sets in — as you spend hours looking over your shoulders — hoping to stall the inevitable.
Being a fugitive of a system that was already rigged against you is unsettling and quite frankly — annoying as fuck.
Growing up in Nigeria — I watched my parents balance their professional and personal practices with a level of ease — despite the furiously appalling government structure that they were forced to navigate with purpose and loyalty.
When it came to the kids — they had the luxury of carting off their first-born daughter to boarding school for a cost that barely made a dent in the main accounts. By the time my two younger brothers were ready for similar treatment — the mood had shifted in their favor — which gave them permission to be “day students.”
In the midst of these bullet points was the healthy assistance of “house-helps” who were usually distant relatives — brought in from villages to the city — to help run the household while pursuing their chosen vocation. This gave their assigned hosts — guilt-free reasons to ascend the corporate ladder — in an effort to “have it all.”
My parents were lucky enough to get six weeks vacation and that meant spending considerable time re-connecting and re-assessing the home front. The only time that proved to be unbearably challenging was when their time off collided. This happened during the Gulf War — and it was hilarious to observe how we all couldn’t stay out of each other’s way.
The invaluably fond moments that come to mind were shared with my mother — who was more emotionally accessible — compared to my traditionally reserved and preoccupied father.
The fact that I had been born in the United States and spent the earliest part of my existence there — was the never-ending badge of honor that my parents deemed as their most prized accomplishment. Nigeria was a country filled with enough strife and turmoil to convince even the most optimistic soul against the option of contemplating the security of best-laid plans.
Bribery and corruption is still the currency of choice and no matter how expertly you try to evade the landmines — you eventually get trapped in the business affairs of nefarious counterparts — who have the backing of gangster regimes to solidify their fraudulent activities.
Family friends who were grossly wealthier than my parents (and still are) seemed more successful due to the the fact that they worked harder or longer. And then the truth is released on the heels of how they basically surrendered to the requirements of systematic betrayal in order to survive the beast of burden.
My mother was steadfast in her belief that my future was brighter than the sun rays that always bathed us — when we sat in the veranda — soaking one of the few benefits of living in the territory of our discontent. As an American — half the battle was won — and all that remained was my adherence to making my dreams come alive — through hard-work and perseverance.
Now, twenty years later — I can’t help but choke on the irony of my parents naivety as I’m summoned to a reality that I labored almost all my life to avoid.
I had shitty credit in college because that was a rite of passage and I was young enough to fail when it came to money management. Once I officially joined the job market — the goal was to start afresh — which I did. I worked like a dog because when you move to NYC without a trust fund — you pretty much have to atone for your sins of denial and stupidity.
You can be the best person on earth and still not have the good fortune of mentors, rich boyfriends or the opportunity of a lifetime that can alter your thirsty trajectory.
It was stressful functioning on the basis of the knowledge that I didn’t have any source of income other than whatever I was able to amass. It’s also an exceptional lesson in survivalism — especially when you cater to the basics in ways that build up character and leave you overly-prepared for the spills that could take longer than usual to clean up.
By the time I turned thirty — I had not only mastered how to drive — I was also debt free and boasted an above average credit score.
Then — I turned forty and the mid-life crisis set in with vengeance as I not only battled punishing hormonal cycles — but I decided that I had enough fun with assisting privileged executives with the itinerary of their worldly careers. Living in a city that is never satisfied with your output can be frustratingly limiting in terms of flexibility and how much you’re willing to give for a thin layer of an over-sized pie.
I was done writing memos and stylized corporate literature for millionaire clients who never have to contemplate the issue of embarking on a passionate project — out of love and duty — with the rapid fire of bills and the threat of a health emergency.
So, I did the greatest and dumbest thing ever — I quit and pretended that I what I was doing would somehow pay off.
Four years later — I’m stuck in combat mode and the battlefield is even more dangerous than I anticipated. My recovery time is inactive and there’s every reason to believe that I may not make it out alive.
The truth is that being in debt won’t break me because I already broke out back when I had harassed my credit cards — in an effort to ease out of the short stint in New Orleans — that saw me bunking with a former friend who failed to tell me she was a hoarder.
Since that harrowing experience — I’ve been the gypsy that most would admire — until they peep the staggering numbers against me from companies that used to love me — but now really just want my blood.
You are told to dream big and fierce because your ammunition is housed in working hard enough to reap the benefits that will fund your ambition.
Of course that’s blatant lie.
I worked hard as fuck and still got screwed. I never lived above my means and aside from a couple of annual vacation getaways which didn’t begin until my mid-thirties — I was chained to the cubicle. I could barely manage to take advantage of the pride and joy of being situated in the most exciting city in the world. I can’t look back at the past years which accumulated to almost twenty in the Big Apple — and berate myself for being negligent to the point of worthy criminalization.
Yet — I felt like a thug after the call with a credit card company that ended with bad news and another major hit on my already dismal credit score. Tomorrow will be another mental assault — as I dig into the emergency room bill that is over a grand — for a visit that didn’t include any treatment or tests that would warrant such a load.
As a writer — I’ve achieved the minimal hope of knowing that when I croak after hitting “publish” — you will remember me for the words I curated — not the ones I was forced to send on behalf of my asshole boss.
The cost of this realization will probably haunt me for the rest of my life and that truth doesn’t break me.
I know I’m not alone in this whirlwind of bliss and torture — and the only thing to do is to make it clear for those who dare.
The American dream isn’t just about the need to exit the stench of shitholes for the heavenly scent of a country that is generous and fair. It’s also the belief that nightmares never end for those of us who were born to run — until we keel over.
I broke out and I’m running. I simply can’t afford to do anything else.