Getting Into Debt And How We Got Out

I have decided to tell a story about what Corbin and I have been up to over the last 22 months.  Not many people know that we have been working feverishly to pay off all of our consumer debt.  I think the reason we haven’t shared that is because we were somewhat ashamed of the situation we got ourselves into; at least I was.  Over the next several posts, I plan to share how we, like so many others, got ourselves in over our heads with debt, and the plan we followed to get out.  We may have lost several battles along the way, but as of Friday, we won the war!  We are officially debt free except for our house and I could not be happier!  In this post, I will share a bit of background information about how we got in the situation we were in.  I know initially this blog was going to be about updating our new home, but this debt story is really a massive piece of that and I will explain how along the way.

Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom, (or domestic engineer as I heard someone say on the radio the other day. No, I’m not joking) I had career plans. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Duquesne University in 2010.  As some people know, it’s not really simple to find a career in Psychology. In order to get hired in the field with a bachelor’s degree, you must have experience, however, you cannot gain experience without having a job. Or can you?  Enter internships.  That is the best possible way to gain job experience in any field while you are in school. Some of the best things about internships are finding out if you actually enjoy your field of study, networking, and learning about your field in a hands-on setting. Most of the time, internships are unpaid monetarily, but the experience and resources gained are priceless. (Side note, “gained” just autocorrected to Gaines. Apparently my phone understands my obsession with Chip and Joanna!) Fortunately and unfortunately for me, I was a dual-sport Division I athlete in college. In the fall, I played soccer and during the winter and spring, I was on the track team. With the commitment to both teams taking up my entire academic year, I did not have the opportunity for an internship.  If I’m being honest, I wasn’t terribly upset about not having time to complete an internship mostly because I was unsure of exactly what area of Psychology I actually wanted to pursue. I certainly had some thinking to do upon degree completion.Dukes

When I started at Duquesne, I was a secondary education major with a focus in English.  I kind of thought I wanted to teach, but my reasoning wasn’t well-founded. My thought process was that if I was a high school English teacher, it would be convenient to already be at the school so I could coach soccer and track. I loved reading and writing, so I chose English as my subject area.  I admit, it wasn’t a well thought out plan.  When I got into the classroom freshman year to get my observation hours in, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I was in a kindergarten classroom, though, which was clearly not what I had signed up for with my major.  I began thinking about switching from secondary to elementary, but never followed through.  Sophomore year when I observed a high school English class……I WAS BORED OUT OF MY GOURD!  Now I fully understand that it could have simply been the teacher’s approach and that I needed to observe someone far more outgoing.  The bottom line for me, though, was that I just could not see myself standing in front of a class lecturing all day, every day.  I give major props to all teachers having experienced that revelation.  I don’t know how you all do it and I have MANY teacher friends and family members!  After figuring out that I did not want to be a teacher, I made an appointment with an adviser and after talking through my options, I decided to major in Psychology.  

Once I made that change for my junior year, I really started to think about what I wanted to focus on as a career.  I decided that with Psychology being such a broad field, I needed to narrow things down a bit.  The books I started reading for pleasure changed to psychology and I stumbled upon the book A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. For those who do not know, this book is nonfiction about James’ struggle with drug addiction and recovery.  It was eye opening for me!  I finally thought I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.  I wanted to work with addicts and aid in their recovery.  Then, I read some books about counseling and decided I wanted to be a family and marriage counselor.  After that, I read information about eating disorders and I wanted to work with patients working through recovery from an eating disorder.  Clearly, I had not actually made a decision, but I was passionate about what I was studying.  Finally!  I was on the right track.  I loved studying all aspects of psychology and felt like I had found the right fit.  This is the reason I wish I had time to do an internship.  I feel like I would have been able to find my niche a bit better if I had been able to complete internship hours in all of those different subject areas I mentioned.  Senior year, as I approached graduation, I had a decision to make.  I looked into graduate school at Duquesne, but they only had a Clinical Psychology program and I knew I didn’t want to commit the next six years to it.  I loved Duquesne, but most of my friends were graduating and moving on while I felt stuck.

I decided to move home and start looking for a job in New Jersey.  The only problem with that was the fact that Corbin and I had started dating a few months earlier and we would be further apart than we were while I was at Duquesne.  It didn’t take long for me to realize while I was living at home that he was a big piece of my future and I needed to make a move.  During the summers, Corbin worked for the City of Ann Arbor and he spoke with his boss and his parents.  I was able to move to Michigan, live with his parents and work for the City of Ann Arbor while I figured out my plans moving forward.  Grad school was put on hold while I got settled into this new living environment and I started feeling great about making some money even if it was in a field I had zero interest in (civil engineering).

Here is where the debt starts coming into play.  I had graduated from Duquesne debt-free.  This is why I was fortunate to be a Division I athlete.  I did not have all of my school paid for through my athletic scholarships, but it covered a large portion.  Throughout mine and my siblings’ upbringing, my dad had worked his butt off for many, many years to put myself and all three of my siblings through school.  It was the greatest gift I could have ever received had I known what the heck I actually wanted to do with my life.

While working in Ann Arbor, I started to think again about what I wanted get my graduate degree in.  I realized that my high school counselors did a terrible job helping me find an area of interest to major in.  They were more than happy to send my transcripts to the colleges I applied to, but they really did not do much else.  There was zero career counseling.  In addition, I knew I wanted to pursue athletics going into college, and yet, there was no encouragement from them to work toward that dream.  I started to notice that all along, I had a lot of ambition, but no guidance from the guidance department.  What an oxymoron!  That right there was my AHA! moment.  I was going to get my Master’s in School Counseling!  I started looking around and landed upon Siena Heights University.  They had a program and it was close by.  It was also a Catholic school which had always been important to me because I have only ever attended Catholic institutions.  I met someone in the program and talked with her and decided it was definitely the place for me!  And so begins our journey into debt….