Wednesday, April 1, 2009

First be who you really are

“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.”

This statement made me ponder how I have lived my life. Certainly, I spent a great deal of time in my younger years trying to accumulate the trappings I thought I was supposed to have. Lately I have faced blame for having been in over my head with my financial obligations, primarily from my parents, who helped me by giving me money and cosigning my mortgage when I was younger.

The part they don’t talk about is that they did this with full knowledge of my (then) husband’s lack of employment stability and a pretty fair idea of his general lack of character. Add to this that I had debt at the time and was only making about $16000 a year. There was no way we could afford the house we bought and when we divorced a few years later I was even less able to manage the burden. But I thought I had to. I struggled for years, miserable and flailing around making things worse, thinking I was a failure, trying on my own and without a clue how things really worked, to fulfill my responsibilities.

What they also don’t talk about is how strongly they stressed the “you made your bed, now lie in it” philosophy, which they conveniently promoted along with the unsaid “do as I say and not as I do” credo. Not to mention the crazy abusive home they raised us in and the way that added to and aggravated my situation.

Which is to say – how come a young 25 year old with a dental assisting job and a looming divorce is solely to blame, but a couple of college graduates in their 50s with so much more experience are not equally responsible for creating this mess?

I am nearing the age they were then, and I would not loan my daughter money when she clearly wasn’t managing what she already had, and I would not help her get further in debt by helping her sign up for a mortgage she couldn’t afford. They always say that they did the things they did because they loved us. It isn’t that simple, and it wasn’t that clean. They were always happy to take credit for my successes and assign blame for my failures, and never acknowledge that they had a part in anything. They will never concede that just like helping someone commit a crime is called being an accessory, they were as complicit as the banks in helping me take on a financial obligation I had no hope of meeting, and probably everyone but me knew it at the time.

I no longer accept all the responsibility for not being able to magically turn things around. My ex-husband walked away without a scratch, my parents’ loss was pretty minimal in the long run, and me? I have three more years until I can really put it all behind me and I will likely never be able to make up the loss. All those years of having two and three jobs at a time, taking roommates, and taking classes to further my education and training did a lot to make me a stronger person, but not a richer one. I worked hard and rearranged it so that the debt was in my name alone, protecting them from themselves. Yes, I screwed up, but I also paid dearly for profoundly bad advice, manipulation, and even some fraud. I learned every single thing the hardest way possible.

It’s funny, but I became a lot happier once I quit worrying about disappointing everyone and finally faced the grim, stark reality of my situation. It is liberating to live in the real world. That is something my parents will never understand. Whatever happens from now on will be better, no matter how it turns out, because my decisions are no longer based on desperation. And that is a wonderful thing.


  1. Great post. You've been thinking about this, it's clear.

  2. You have come a long way.

    Are you sure that you were worried about disappointing anyone else more than you were disappointing your biggest critic? (you.)