(Some of you have already heard this news, and some of you haven’t. Either way, I’m going to share some of my thoughts about our journey to becoming debt-free. Enjoy!)
6 years ago, when Fred and I got married and had almost $100,000 in debt, I didn’t know when we would ever be free. Despite the large amount of money we owed to both the Canadian and American government, we have paid faithfully every month, and on July 1 we made our last payment on our last debt. We’re debt-free!!!
Paying off our debt has felt like a marathon – ebbs and flows of feeling energized (“I’ve got this!”) to feeling defeated (“We’ll never finish…”) and moments of steady perseverance, one foot in front of the other, thinking about something other than how tired we felt and how much I wished it was over.
In June, I ran a 5K race – not a lot to some people, but to me it felt like a big accomplishment. I was never much of a runner before January: I would get winded running for a few seconds. However, I decided that I wanted to participate in a charity fundraiser on June 11, so I got a free app to help me build a running plan (shoutout to Runkeeper!) and I started running. It was slow at first. I stopped a lot and felt like I would never be able to run for 1 minute, much less for 5K. Slowly, over time, I gained endurance. I was able to run for the length of a song before getting winded. Then 2 songs. Then 10 minutes. It was working – I was becoming a runner!
I admit that some days I walked more than I needed to because I didn’t want to run, and on race day, I didn’t run the whole thing. I ran most of it, but stopped to take breaks as needed, and tried to focus on the finish line. One step in front of the other, asking my running friends to tell me stories, anything to get my mind off the fact that I was hot, tired, sweaty, wanted a drink of water, wanted to stop running…
And then I saw it. The big red arch and the words “Finish” in big white letters. “I see it!” I called out breathlessly to my two running companions. “We’re almost done!” With a new burst of strength I ran towards the finish line and crossed it, pumping my arms over my head like I was in a movie.
“I did it!” I called out. “I did it!” And then like a true millennial, I shouted, “We need to take a selfie! I need to gram this!” I wanted to share this moment with the world – I did something that was something out of character for me, something I had been working on for months, and people needed to know about it.
We snapped our picture, we high-fived people who had finished before us, we ate apple slices. We stretched. We chatted with friends. I went up to people and told them triumphantly, “I did it! I didn’t think I could run 5K, but I did it!” I couldn’t believe it. I knew that I had just finished something I never thought I could. Even though I didn’t run the whole thing, and it took me 42 minutes when it took others much less, I was proud of my pace. I was proud that I did it.
Reflecting on this experience, I can’t help but think how much it reminds me of our debt repayment journey. There have been some seasons where we have chosen to fly somewhere to visit family or to celebrate an event rather than pay off debt. We’ve given to charity when we could have put that money towards our student loan. We didn’t cut out fun money, we gave ourselves date money every month. We jogged or walked some moments when we could have run in our budgeting. But we did it. We accomplished something great.
Looking back at our journey, I am proud. I know we could have paid off our debt in less time. I know we could have cut out some fun things, given less, done less trips, not updated our old iPhones, and scrimped more. But we didn’t. We took the time we took and we still feel proud. At the end of the day, I know we ran the race and we crossed the finish line. We’re debt-free, and to us, that’s what matters.
Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on what it has been like to be debt-free, and some exciting upcoming life changes!