I am about to tell you a story that probably only 5 people know. After hearing your stories of bitter divorce, child custody, and financial ruin, I wanted to share the moment when I almost lost it all.
There have been three times in my life that I have experienced utter hopelessness and/or defeat. The first was when my brother died. The third is what is happening to our family right now. The second is this story.
In order to explain it properly, I have to go back to the beginning. The beginning of mine and Ben’s (my ex-husband) relationship. I was 27 years old. I had just quit my corporate job, had my own place in Harbor Town, had just opened my women’s clothing store, had a healthy savings/ financial situation and was completely living the life.
I met Ben in Nashville on New Years Eve 2012. That story is quite the entertaining one, one in which Ben and I still laugh at to this day, but maybe that can be a post later down the road.
Ben was very different than most guys I had dated. He road a motorcycle, had lots of tattoos and really lived a carefree life. One of my favorite memories of that time period was popping in my earbuds, turning on Lana Del Ray’s ”Let’s Ride”, and cruising down the interstate on a Sunday with 10 other motorcycles. It was also during that time that I gotten my very first tattoo. Later I would go on to collect 6 tattoos. I had waited until I was 27 to completely let loose and try new things in life. It was a great friendship until we had to grow up.
We got pregnant with Jack, got married when Jack was 6 month’s old, purchased a home and were thrown into complete adulthood, in that order. I guess most would argue that I was 27, it was definitely time to grow up, and I can agree. The problem was, Ben and I quickly learned that we had a great relationship as friends, but not as husband and wife. Sometimes, people are just not compatible for life.
The typical arguing that happens before divorce ensues. Screaming, name calling, leaving the home, the type of denigration, from both sides, that is unfortunately common when two people are about to call it quits. We ultimately divorced in 2017. I kept our home and we settled on 50/50 custody with no child support. Unfortunately my healthy financial situation and savings had dwindled due to unforeseen circumstances in our marriage, so I was essentially living paycheck to paycheck.
Before going forward, I want to state that Ben left the home with nothing as well. We were both on a sinking ship.
Like everything I had conquered before, I was confident that I could be a single parent, a divorced mother and never skip a beat. I was motivated to get my savings account back to pre-marriage levels, build my business into a mini empire, and get my life back in order. Boy was I completely wrong.
My father must have had an idea that I was on a financial decline because he called one day and said that he wanted to give me $500 a month since I just got a divorce and will not have another income in the household. I politely declined and told him that I have it all figured out, but when the Apple Pay deposit notification popped up on my phone, I knew I had to accept the money. At this time I was struggling to feed my family and pay for our home. I was so embarrassed. I thanked him and told him I would not need it for long and I would pay it back.
Even with my father’s help, within 4 months I found myself researching chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy and applying for government assistance. I was too ashamed to let my parents in on my situation, ashamed to let anyone in on my situation. I got myself in to this mess and I wasn’t going to burden anyone to get out of it.
While I came up with a plan so that I would not have to file bankruptcy, I did get on government assistance for my children to have health care and food. I remember feeling so despondent. Not because I thought I was too good to have government assistance, but because I had a home, a nice car, nice things. I had perceived government assistance to be for those who were in worse situations than I was, yet I truly could not even afford baby formula, food, or diapers. After researching government assistance, I had come to the conclusion that I have worked and paid in taxes since I was 14 years old, and that these programs are in place for all citizens who truly need them, especially the ones who have paid their part. I convinced myself that I had already paid for this food, diapers, and formula over the years. I had invested into the system not only for others, but incase this exact situation happened to me.
WIC assistance and TennCare really turned my life around. For those of you who don’t know, WIC is a program that helps parents who are struggling financially to be able to get food and formula for their kids. I would go down to the WIC offices every three months. My kids would have to go through a physical, and then the WIC agents would give me coupons. I would then give Ben half of these coupons so that we could both use the program. Once on WIC you are approved for 5 years to stay on the program. We were on the program less than a year. I made a point to bust ass to get financially stable so that I could discontinue the program. These government programs are for aid, not an opportunity. I didn’t want to government money if I had the means and capability to better myself financially, so I devised a plan.
SIDE NOTE FROM EXPERIENCE:
If you are in the grocery store and someone is in line in front of you with paper WIC or Food Stamp coupons in their hands, be patient. I remember dreading going to the grocery store. I even changed grocery stores to go to ones that weren’t as busy, or that I wouldn’t run in to someone that I knew. I don’t know if the program has changed in the last 5 years but when I was using WIC, you had to ring up a separate transaction for each coupon. Checking out at the grocery store would sometimes take up to 30 minutes. People behind me in line would grunt, sigh, and stare me down like I was making their life hell. I would stand there with two kids, fighting back tears and feeling completely helpless. Be kind to the coupon holders. No one wants to be in this situation.
Back to the story…..
I knew I needed a plan that would get me out of this situation quickly. I was already maxed out on work hours, taking every side job outside of my boutique that I could at the time to get by. I started to use some problem solving techniques (ones that I use in business today and teach in my course.) I came to the conclusion that after my divorce, I was completely and utterly “house poor.” In debt, without two pennies to rub together, and all of my money tied up in assets. It was an epiphany. I realized that I wasn’t actually broke, I had assets. All I needed to do was to sell the assets. Also not a fun situation to be in. I loved my home. My boys loved our home. (Jack still talks about our first house to this day.) But as a single mother that couldn’t keep up financially, I had to pull the plug.
I began researching the housing market and learned that my home had actually appreciated by HALF of what I paid for it 5 years prior. If I sold my home, I could pay off all marital debt, have enough to put a down payment on a new home, get off of the WIC program, stop accepting money from my father, and live completely debt free. It was a brand new start!
After 4 grueling months of my home being on the market, we finally sold. This turned my life around completely. Within two years I had my savings back to pre-marital levels, had a beautiful little, single family home, had gone back to school on a scholarship, and was back to working regular work hours with all the time in the world for my kiddos! As for the money my father gave me those months, he insisted that it was a gift. Thank you dad! I love you!!
Life was perfect, but little did I know, it was about to get a whole lot better. In walks Mr. Greg!
So there you have it. The second time in my life that I felt hopelessness and defeat. I wanted to tell this story for a few reasons.
Number one, to encourage anyone out there who is feeling like their life is ruined financially to devise a plan. I have learned through hardships that if you put your mind to it, you will pull yourself through. You just have to have the confidence to get it done and the mentality that NOTHING IS BENEATH YOU!
Number two, I am so so thankful that our government has these systems. I honestly had never even thought about them before. I had always been on top in life. I am embarrassed to say that I never thought about these types of hardships at all. Through this experience, I have been more humbled, and also more aware of the struggles that people go through every day. Life is so precious. We only get one shot and so many are struggling each and every day to survive, whether it be financially or mentally. Be kind and lend a helping hand. You never know who is hanging on by a thread.