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I recently shared my super painful debt story on Chain of Wealth Podcast. This interview inspired me to create this series. Rise From Rock Bottom tells every story from my failure years - and how I overcame each one.
At the age of 25, I moved back home… into my mother's basement. I couldn't afford a bed so I bought a large blow-up mattress for $40.
Imagine a near-empty room, in a basement, no carpet, a blow up mattress and a computer desk.(Sounds, kinda jail-ish, doesn’t it?)
I'm also a single mom so I shared that room with my daughter.
Just one year prior, I lived in a luxury (read:expensive) apartment in a great school district and riding around in my Mercedes Benz truck.
Talk about humbling...
I remember the first time I mustered up the courage to tell my friends that I would be getting rid of my fancy car.
"But why!?" They asked.
"Are you sure?" They persisted.
I didn't have a choice. I could no longer afford my lifestyle.
First, I replaced the fancy car with a car that aligned with my income.
It was a ragged car and the trunk didn't close. A tiny string held the lid down just enough so that the truck appeared closed sometimes.
As I drove, the trunk would wobble up and down and other drivers would stop me to tell me that my trunk was open. Occasionally, the string would break in the middle of the street and I'd have to pull over to re-tie it.
Talk about humbling...
I eventually sold that car to help pay for school and began taking bus everywhere. (Also humbling.)
I lived this lifestyle - in my mother's basement with my daughter - for nearly a year while I went to grad school.
That was the most transformative time in my life that gave me the skills, strength and flexibility to grow into the person I am today
These are the lessons I learned on that journey:
You can deflate your lifestyle and the world won’t fall apart
Lifestyle inflation hit me like a ton of bricks.
I didn't even realize that I was trying to keep up with social norms and expectations by moving to an expensive location (that I really couldn’t afford) so my daughter could attend "the good school."
I always thought that I was doing "the right thing" for my child, even if I was extending my finances too far.
When we did move out and she went to a school that didn't have a 9/10 rating on GreatSchools.org (that really means something to parents) SHE WAS FINE.
I realized that while looking for the “great school” and I completely discounted the work that I do at home as her parent. She still learns. She still gets a well rounded education. She’s still my brilliant little girl. She’s not defined by “the good school.”
The quest to live on less to be able to discover my path meant that I would have to give up some things.
First, I gave up my car, then my apartment, then I gave up my outward appearance, then I gave up the obligations to others. Slowly, but surely, I realized that I had to de-prioritize things that didn’t matter to make myself a priority.
I felt more free every time I made the decision that something didn’t matter. For the first time in my life, my actions were matching up to my core values.
What you really need to be happy
You know, I really thought I needed that Benz to be happy.
I thought that having a luxury car (even though I had zero dollars in my bank account) meant that I was one of the elite. People looked at me differently when I pulled up in a Benz.
I was fancy. And I liked that feeling.
When I got rid of all of my car, I realized I love the feeling of not having a car. I love walking around in the summer and the cold breeze on my face in the winter. I feel refreshed and free.
You haven't lost anything
The second you start to give up on the "nice-to-haves" you start to realize that you can really live without them.
The only things I gave up by not having a car were my car note, car insurance, regular maintenance and the occasional speeding ticket. To be honest, losing those things contributed more to my life because I was more care-free than ever before!
Your "real" friends
Some of your friends will start to remove themselves from your life (you know, the ones that only show up when it’s time to party). Once you stop spending money on things that aren't necessities, you may realize that you don't have as much in common with some folks.
And that's OK.
You’ll also notice that there are your other friends. The ones that cheer you on as you start to pay off your debt. The ones that sit alongside you and study with you for the GRE. The ones that support you by showing up and being present in your darkest hour.
Your rock bottom is only the beginning for your strongest friendships.
You can rebuild your life the way you want
The most beautiful things about rock bottom is that you have nothing to lose.
You've likely suffered a fair amount of embarrassment. You've probably done all of the things you said you'd never do (like move back in with your parents). You may even have given up more times than you’d like to admit.
With nothing left anchoring you to who you were, you have the flexibility and opportunity to build the person you want to be.
You won't do it alone
Poverty has a way of making you feel like you're the only one suffering. However, everyone's been through some sort of pain and suffering at some point. In fact, no matter how bad you feel there's always someone out there who has it ten times worse.
Here's what will surprise you: Your friends and family will rally around you to lift you higher. (That's assuming you're a half way decent person and, therefore, have at least 1 friend.)
You'll Learn To Love It
It can be difficult to make the transition to having a lot to having nothing. Change is hard.
Maybe you feel bad for your predicament in the first week. But after a while, you'll start to notice a shift. You'll start to feel like yourself again. You'll realize that you can now move forward as who you want to be.
You'll see that you're free to become you.
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Chantl founded Thrive Lounge to give women the kick in the pants they need (lovingly, of course) to uncomplicate their goals, stop making excuses, get productive and start living the life they always wanted. Her book, Goal Doing: Practical Advice For Goal Setting, Action Planning and Achieving Your Dreams, gives women a step-by-step guide to create, plan and achieve their grandest goals.