My loans are gone.
I paid off $14,000 of debt in 7 months.
After I scheduled my final payment and then watched it clear from my account, I felt a sense of freedom I hadn’t felt in a long, long time.
For me, my loans were highly emotional. They served as a connection to a time of scarcity, fear and abuse. They were reminders of what I had been put through, but even beyond that, they were a reminder of what I had lost.
Today, the $0 balance is a reminder that I survived.
I made it. It’s done. Over. Finished. Complete.
On April 2, 2016 I smiled to myself as I scrawled in my journal, “Today is the day that a new chapter begins.”
Then something strange happened.
Over the past few days, I’ve started feeling sad, and the sadness has left me confused.
What the heck is wrong with me?
For all intents and purposes, my life is the same. Same job, same partner, same apartment, same salary, same friends. Nothing dramatic has occurred and nothing has been altered.
The only change? My loan balance is now $0.
As I’ve been grappling with these new emotions over the past few days, I’ve reached the same conclusion again and again: my loans were a distraction and a trap.
They were easy to fixate on and in comparison to some of life’s difficult questions (i.e. what’s my purpose? How do I heal from abuse?) they were easy to fix. But more importantly, it wasn’t until they were gone that I could get some clarity and start tackling the hard questions.
At its core, money is simple. We all understand how to add numbers, calculate net worth and earn money.
So why the hell do we struggle with it so much?
The part that makes money difficult (and also fascinating) is the emotions that drive our decisions.
Sacrifice, fear, pride, anger and hope.
Our money serves as a gauge for our lives. If you look closely at your money, it will provide you with a map of your inner self. It will show you what you worry about, what you care about and what you hope to achieve.
When I started this website, I painstakingly chose my URL. I wanted it to convey what I truly believe about money. I wanted it to explain why money matters.
Since launching the blog, I’ve been asked multiple times, “What does ‘The Freedom From Money’ actually mean?”
To me, the answer is two-fold. It means that you are free from the stress, anxiety and fear of overspending and not planning. That freedom also means that you are free to pursue the things that actually matter to you.
When you are trapped in the cycle of debt and overspending, your world shrinks. You are confined by payments, interest and stress.
For the past 7 months, my loans were my distraction, my solace and my purpose. Again and again, I told myself, “If you can pay them off, you’ll be free.”
Looking back, I’m not sure what I thought I would be “free” from—pain? Fear? Stress?
I’m free from the burden of debt. I’m free from accruing interest and I’m free from monthly payments.
But those freedoms aren’t the reason I did it. I did it because I’m now free to focus on the things that truly matter to me. I’m free to tackle life’s difficult questions.
That is why money matters and that is why saving, investing and debt repayment is so important.
When your money is in order, you are free to focus on the things that truly matter. At the end of the day, money is a tool. It’s a tool that can help you create a life you adore. It’s a tool that can help you reclaim your time, energy and life.
For 7 months, I lived in a haze. I was working full-time, picking up freelance work on the side and barely functioning. My life’s purpose could be summarized by a single question: how much money do I need?
When I made my last repayment a few days ago, the fog finally cleared and I was left with a larger worldview. It is a worldview that can finally extend beyond my immediate needs and beyond the stress of money.
The sadness still lingers because I’ve realized that there is an area of my life in which I am deeply unfulfilled. But I’m grateful for the sadness because I know it means that I am finally free to tackle the questions that matter.
P.S. Thank you so much to everyone who has tweeted, emailed and provided support throughout this entire process. I am so grateful for this amazing community and for each and every one of you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.