You might remember my series about my friend Courtney, and how she and her husband paid off a lot of consumer debt. She’s still plugging away at her student loan and building savings. I’m guessing we’ll have an update from her still from time to time.r
Today I’m launching a new series for another friend. We’ll call her ‘Dorothy’ to protect her privacy in case a future employer happens to google her and come upon my blog or some such. All of her details and numbers are true, it’s just her name that we’re changing.
Her story, in her own words:
So I guess my story begins with graduating into the worst economy ever (2009) into the worst field ever (journalism). After a summer internship, I moved home to Chicago where I freelanced, nannied and furiously looked for jobs. I couldn’t find anything, but my parents were giving me an allowance and I was living off my aunt, so I still felt very “college.” At this time I had a boyfriend deployed to Iraq. We’d been together for quite some time and I spent most of that year waiting by my computer for him to appear on Facebook or Skype at 3 a.m. It was physically and emotionally taxing.I decided to follow my heart and accepted a temporary position in Kansas (where he would be returning to after the deployment) at a small newspaper, I made about $10 an hour for about three months. Most of that just went to rent and getting by. While I was at that gig, I scored a full-time job with a university in the same town that he was going to be returning to in a matter of weeks. It was bliss: My first job, the love of my life, a salary, my own apartment – everything I wanted.
And then it all went very wrong.
The same day I signed a yearlong lease, the day after he returned from war and it seemed everything was finally going my way, I found out I was being cheated on. With more than one woman. And then lied to about the cheating for weeks after the initial confrontation. What happened next is what I believe they call a downward spiral. I developed severe anxiety problems, heart palpitations and, in retrospect, an eating disorder.
Everything I knew to be true had been a lie and I was stuck in Kansas completely alone. I’m from downtown Chicago. You can understand how difficult living here was/is for me. As much as I longed to drop everything and run into the arms of familiarity, I stuck it out. I had a job and a lease, neither of which I could turn my back on. I can’t really fully understand the psychological affect that all of this had on me. All I can explain is that when someone does what he did to me, you completely lose your sense of worth. I’ve always been relatively confident in my appearance and intelligence. But suddenly, I wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough for him, much less anyone else.
And so I shopped. I shopped to make the hurt go away. I shopped to feel thin. I shopped to feel attractive. I shopped online to give me something to look forward to when I came home from work. I’ve always loved clothes, but somewhere I lost the ability to differentiate between want and need. I would (and still do, as I’m not cured) see a dress and think, “Wow, I need that. Everything will be better if I can just get that dress.” Forty dollars here, $100 there. Repeat. My walk-in closet is home to more than 80 dresses, a number I am not proud of. Karen mentioned to me that I need to work on addressing WHY I shop, well here you go. I was cheated on by the man I thought I was going to marry and then left alone in the worst state ever. There, it’s out there. I also think it’s a relatively common symptom of giving a single girl her first salary, but I may be wrong.
In January, my insecurities were taken advantage of when the salesman at the gym I joined convinced me to shell out $700 for a personal trainer. Charged. Looking back, it wasn’t a waste of money, but I am getting just as good of a work out by taking group fitness classes. I regret it, but I’m mostly concerned about how easily I was able to justify $700.
Today* marks the year anniversary of finding out he was cheating on me. Next week* marks one year since I began my job. Over the past two or three months, a switch has happened: I’ve started feeling bad about shopping – returning stuff, or resisting buying it in the first place. I feel like I have all the clothes I need (which is obviously a metaphor for other senses of completion). I obviously decided to publically address my problem online (well, as public as my private Twitter gets) and I really want to make this right before I become one of those awful twentysomething clichés with a mountain of debt and a bad credit score. As of April my credit score was pretty good, 730 or so according to my credit union.
The reason I want to get my stuff straight is that I’m officially working on moving back to Chicago. My romantic life is on the upswing, because I’m finally opening myself up to the idea that there are people who do find me desirable and won’t treat me poorly. My lease has been switched to month-to-month, at no additional costs, but I can’t move somewhere until I have enough REAL money to pay for an apartment in Chicago.