Day 175 | $61,994 paid | $28,723 till freedom
As each week unfolds, I keep track of observations and experiences about my NMHD challenge so that I can blog about them on the weekend when I have time. A fairly major component of each blog post has typically been pretty formulaic: “Oh, my frugal life is so hard! I had to sell this or that/look at all of these expenses I’ve deferred/I couldn’t afford to go to this or that event. Boo hoo!”
When I finally found some time to write a post this weekend, I looked at the items on my “to-write” list:
- I’m in a chat group on a smartphone app called Whatsapp that’s comprised of me and my four closest friends here in Austin. For the past two weeks, somebody from the group has thrown out a lunch invitation almost every single day, and at least one of the other guys has accepted it. Some of those days I actually had a smidgen of free-time and could have really used the break to relax and catch up with the fellas, but instead, I ate lunch in front of my computer to save money.
- A girl I met a few months ago was in town from San Antonio and wanted to meet up, and I literally considered not meeting up with her because all I could think about was, “How much is this going to cost me?”
When I sat down to blog this evening, I planned on elaborating on my thoughts and feelings on both of these topics. I started with the lunch situation and tried writing about how it was so frustrating to have to turn down the invitations, but for whatever reason, I just couldn’t get fired up about it. So then I moved onto the dating situation, and once again, no motivation–this is old news; this is nothing new. Am I going to rehash the fact that I’m having trouble with dating on the cheap? Yawn.
I don’t know why, but the other day, I was thinking about what things were like during my pre-NMHD life. I mean, there’s a very, very clear delineation between my life before NMHD and my life during NMHD–sort of like B.C. vs. A.D. on an obviously much smaller scale. I started thinking about the attitude I used to approach my life with before NMHD. I wasn’t always positive, but I at least paid considerable attention to trying to have a positive attitude. When I started NMHD? I threw that positive attitude out the window. I knew it was going to be a grind, so I subconsciously decided that there was nothing to be positive about. I adopted that same attitude when I wrote blog posts–my intention was to give readers a gritty, true-to-life account of a guy going all-out to pay down his debt in a ridiculous timeframe. It would be a no-holds-barred, a no-punches-pulled account, and that included throwing away my positive attitude. “This is going to be tough, and I’m not going to sugarcoat it.”
And what a stupid thing to do. At a time when I needed a positive attitude the most, I instead became a very negative, very cynical guy. “Woe is me” became my new mantra.
Now, there was a time in my life (high school through grad school) when I had a negative opinion on having a positive attitude. I had always heard that having a positive attitude is critical–my own mother is a huge advocate and lives accordingly–but I thought that people with positive attitudes weren’t realists. I thought they were just fakes avoiding the hard truths of this world, brainwashing themselves into believing in illusions. I thought they were all in for a harsh surprise when life would eventually blindside them all. I remained steadfast in my cynical attitude.
Some time shortly after grad school, something changed. I decided that I was being silly. I decided to relax and be more positive, more optimistic. It sounds odd, but I really can’t identify the impetus for this attitude shift.
Having a positive attitude became a focus of my life, and for awhile, I had to force it, I had to pretend. Tricking myself into thinking everything would work out whenever I ran into a problem, putting blind trust in myself to figure things out, not second-guessing myself and expecting the worst at every turn–it wasn’t easy to do at first. But once I figured it out, and it became automatic, life brightened up considerably. Taking pressure off of myself went hand-in-hand with this new mentality. I had been putting a lot of pressure on myself to be professionally and socially successful, but I chilled out, and I decided to trust in myself and believe that things would work themselves out. To a certain extent, I actually became happy-go-lucky–something I never, ever saw myself becoming. But let me tell you something: going through life happy-go-lucky is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than going through it as a Debbie Downer.
And then, when I kicked off No More Harvard Debt, that still relatively new, still somewhat fragile attitude withered in the face of paying down $90k in ten months. My positive outlook shriveled up and blew away on the winds of my heavy sigh. For the past five months, I’ve approached my life more Debbie Downer, less Pollyanna. (BTW, what are the male equivalents of these characters??)
Well, starting today, it’s back. While paying down what is shaping up to be $66k by the end of this sixth month hasn’t been easy, the truth is that it hasn’t been a tremendous hardship, either.
That being said, I don’t have line-of-sight to knocking out the remaining $24k in four months. My savings are gone, many of my major assets are gone, and I’m looking at only $4-$5k in debt paydown per month. Barring a huge bonus, I could very well fail in this endeavor.
But I’m going to revive my positive attitude in my everyday life, anyway. I’ve reached a point where I’m going to stop being angry with myself for issuing this challenge to myself in the first place, and then making such a public spectacle out of it all. I’m going to live with a firm belief in myself and with hope that I can get through this and that everything will work itself out. I’m going to do my best. I’m going to accept my situation and be at peace with it. No, things are not great right now. No, this isn’t how I want to spend my money–I don’t like putting every last penny towards my student loans. No, I don’t like selling this or that/holding off on buying this or that/not going to this or that.
No, things are not great, but they’re not terrible, either. And they could be a hell of a lot worse.
And in some cases, like selling the Murano and motorcycle and roadbike, it was absolutely the right thing to do.
I might have to fake the attitude at first, but it’s better than going through life gloomy all the time.
I’m done with living with a negative attitude, and this inevitably needs to be represented in my blogging. I’m done with complaining. It doesn’t do anybody any good. And while it might make for some humorous reading, I’m just not going to deliver that anymore. If something is so bad that it’s hilarious, then yes, I’ll post about it, but only so that we can all have a good laugh at it. Otherwise, I just don’t want to dwell on it.
So what becomes of this blog? I posted in mid-Janunary about how this blog was making me miserable because it forced me to dwell on my hardships and sacrifices. I half-jokingly threatened to shut the blog down, and there’s definitely still a part of me that wants to do just that and complete the remaining 4.25 months of debt paydown in blissful obscurity. However, I do think the blog still serves a purpose as people continue to cite it as an inspiration, so it will live on. The difference between that post in January and this post is that I really will keep things more positive, which wasn’t my position in January:
“I would like to say that I’m going to try to keep things more positive, more on an even keel, but I don’t want this blog to be some idiotic, artificial, fluffy, evangelistic piece of crap. I want it to be real. So I’ll probably keep whining from time to time.”
High-level, I think the content and the tone of the blog need to change. Focusing on and writing about the sacrifices and hardships simply isn’t good for my mental health. And anyway, at the end of the day, they’re not that big of a deal.
(Well, let me rephrase that. For a certain audience, these sacrifices probably seem like a pretty big deal. But for other groups of people (e.g., starving children in Somalia), the fact that I sold off my second car, motorcycle, and roadbike probably wouldn’t garner a whole lot of sympathy.)
I will likely continue to track “sacrifices and hardships,” especially the ones that have financial implications and pose a risk to my timeline, but on a line-item basis only; I simply cannot elaborate on them anymore.
I have 4.25 months left to pay off my student loan debt. May they be glorious, glorious months.
Talk soon, friends.