£4,000 of debt. I had finally added it up to its grand total! With an income at the time of about £50 a week it looked like a long climb to clear it. Initially, it felt impossible.
For so long I had tried to ignore the fact that I was living out of my overdraft, maxing out my credit card, and asking my mum for help with money. I pretended that it wasn’t an issue for me, which means that it had become a habit. When I totaled it all up I was shocked at how much it was - how had I got myself into such a pickle when I’d been in full-time work for ten years?
For a while I felt quite ashamed, but I knew that I needed to move beyond that to do anything about it. Shame can be paralysing, so I had to face my debt, look it in the eye, and accept it. The thing I’ve learned about acceptance is that it doesn’t mean I have to like something. I just needed to acknowledge it instead of pretending it wasn’t happening and hoping that it would disappear.
I think that working towards something slowly each day is really grounding.
Acceptance is like looking in the mirror and really seeing yourself without judgement. It was really important for me not to beat myself up or panic about the situation. Rather than thinking about it as a problem, I moved my thoughts towards appreciation. I was grateful that I’d been able to borrow money for my coaching training, to experience trailbuilding in Georgia, and to support me while I made the transition into freelance work. Through that appreciation I made a decision - to pay it all back this year, while doing work that I enjoy.
Making that commitment was really exciting after several months of drifting. I had different ideas about how I could do it and I felt open to new opportunities. For a few months I did some cleaning work in local holiday cottages which I really enjoyed because it was quite sociable, I listened to podcasts as I worked, and the physical movement was a really nice change from sitting in front of a computer. I also kept my eyes peeled for new freelance opportunities and started doing some regular work that I could easily fit around my cleaning jobs and outdoor adventures.
Gradually things picked up and I started chipping away at the £4,000 figure. There were times that I felt impatient and just wanted it done, but I learned so much through that. Instead of frittering money away mindlessly I was enjoying a beautiful life in the countryside - and truly that felt enough. I think that working towards something slowly each day is really grounding. While my ego was craving the finish line, my heart was saying be patient and enjoy the process.
While sitting at my desk in London, I had this vision of a clear transition into a new career, but the reality is that my experience is still evolving.
It has taken me eight months to pay it all off and instead of it being the long hard slog I had imagined when I was living in London, it has been a wonderful experience. People around me have been incredibly supportive and generous. A couple of years back I was dreading to face it all, I didn’t know that I could find an enjoyable route, but I was open to the idea of trying. There have been times when I questioned whether I did the right thing leaving a secure job while I owed money, and now I have my answer - I did what I needed to do for my wellbeing.
Closing my overdraft this month feels like starting my life again. I’d been living out of it for over ten years so it does feel incredibly liberating. The idea that I can commit to something and then each day take steps towards it, with patience and gratitude, can be applied to anything that I want to do. This is a great revelation for me as I used to always want things to happen instantly. I’d bound in with all my energy and then fall down exhausted and frustrated. This new approach is much more enjoyable and rewarding.
While sitting at my desk in London, I had this vision of a clear transition into a new career, but the reality is that my experience is still evolving. It can be so tempting to want a quick fix but those never last. It’s the small steps that I remember, the kind words of support, the people I’ve met along the way, the simplicity of going for a walk or a run. I think that career change, like any change, is about the adventure.