I could feel the tension in the room building as my mom and sister started arguing again. These arguments happened a lot, but a new behavior emerged this time. My mom started getting physically aggressive.
My 13-year old mind flooded with anxiety. Could I watch this situation unfold and do nothing? What if kitchen knives started coming out again?
I couldn’t leave it up to chance. I grabbed my sister and left the apartment with my sister in tow. We began walking away. Anywhere but here. But, we had nowhere to go. We walked for at least an hour before reality overcame fantasy and we headed back.
As we approached the door, things didn't seem like they’d calmed down yet, so we knocked on our neighbor's door across the hall and asked if we could stay there until things settled.
We found a corner to huddle in and waited.
Is life meant to be this way? Huddling in corners and avoiding my own mom? Will I live my life trying to make sense of these feelings?
Shortly after, we heard a knock at the door. My neighbor was smart enough to understand what was going on.
You see, my mom struggled with dramatic mood swings. She could go from calm and happy, to angry and yelling in seconds. We were experiencing her aggressive side. And I was aware of how bad things could get.
The knocking became louder, and she started yelling and screaming. I don't recall what she was saying.
I was afraid. Not for myself, but for my sisters.
Eventually, things settled down, and we went back to our apartment. What other choice did we have?
I don't specifically recall what happened after that point, but life went on with this memory burned into my psyche.
That day I learned to avoid conflict at all costs.
Do any of us fully overcome our childhood experiences? Are we bound to make the same mistakes over and over again?
I don't know. What I do know is that I don't have many happy memories of being a kid. I felt scared and uncertain.
I also didn't fit in at school. It didn't help that I was shy and introverted. I was reasonably smart, but nothing extraordinary. I wouldn't defend myself against bullies in school, and they took advantage of me.
There was a low period in middle school where I was made fun of in front of the whole class while the teacher wasn't there. The experience was humiliating.
When you don't believe in yourself, the future doesn't look bright.
Over time, I started believing that I was nothing. That my life was destined to be miserable. I not only struggled with social anxiety, but I also would get caught up in my own thoughts when I was alone.
Seeking Peace and Harmony
Growing up, all I wanted was an environment where I could be myself. Where people loved me for who I was.
Ultimately I wanted to experience peace where I lived.
I wanted to feel affection from my family. And I wanted to show it. I wanted to see my family getting along. But I didn't know how that looked.
My parents got a nasty divorce when I was around 11-years old. It wasn't a great household before or after that happened.
I remember there were multiple points in my childhood where I thought:
I would be willing to die to prevent my sisters from experiencing this pain.
Numbing Life with Money
How does all of this relate to money? Well, our childhood experiences shape the way we spend and look at money.
For me, money became a way to numb my anxiety and insecurities.
When I started earning money on my own, I would gravitate towards purchasing things or experiences that provided an escape from life.
Spending more than I made became easy because anything was better than confronting my inner demons.
I quickly learned that money could be used in two ways: 1) dictating how we have to spend money in the future or 2) used to free up our time.
When we aren’t saving money or spending more than we make, we are creating financial habits that must be maintained indefinitely. Instead of freeing up our time, we extend the amount we have to work in the future.
The Shift Began
I don't have to be a high-income earner and a financial loser. I don't have to continue to avoid my problems and cover my inner demons by purchasing shit that doesn’t make me happy.
Instead of focusing on what I don't have, I'm learning to be grateful for all the good things in my life. I'm excited about reaching financial independence and gaining more freedom with my time.
It wasn't until recently that I discovered how low my self-esteem was.
No matter how successful I became in my career, I always felt there was a part of me that wasn't good enough.
Am I a failure destined for destruction?
This perspective made it easy to rack up massive credit card debt. If I was going nowhere anyway, why not?
Even now that I am married to the love of my life, with two wonderful daughters, I sometimes wonder if I have fooled them in loving a person that doesn't deserve their affection.
These lies are not true. But when we believe lies, they can become real.
Low confidence has a way of bleeding into all aspects of our lives. We start to ask basic questions that challenge our self-worth, resulting in depression and low self-esteem.
How I Live With Myself
I could have easily continued to live ignoring the pain from my childhood. But, everything I’ve learned in my adult life has proven that it’s never too late to change, and change was necessary to live a better life.
I can't change my past. The only thing I can do is change my future. Not just my future, but the future of my family.
I decided I was going to change my family tree.
Instead of spending more than we made, we decided to become credit card debt free. Getting to this point was huge for us, and we are going to continue pursuing what matters most.
I don't want my money habits to hold my happiness hostage.
Every financial choice is like a fork in the road; each path leading to a different destination. Figuring out where you want to go can help guide you in making the right financial decisions.
Learning to Trust and Love
I'm learning to open up my heart and soul to Andrea and my kids.
I noticed that like my mom, sometimes I can experience dramatic mood swings. I'm working hard on controlling my reactions. Sometimes I mess up and it is hard, but I'm becoming stronger. I’m confronting my inner demons.
Some days, I want to run and hide from my problems, like I did when I was 13-years old.
But I know that running from my problems won't solve anything.
I want to show my family that I'm strong. I want to work towards the dreams Andrea and I have for our future and not live in the past.
I'm not perfect, but I am loved. If I were gone, I would be missed.
You might be at a spot where you don't feel loved. Maybe you are working through some financial or relationship problems. Know this: the world will miss you if you no longer exist.
Regardless of where you find yourself right now, there is always hope. Your future can look better than your past.
I'm Responsible for My Financial Mistakes
Sure, I had a tough childhood. And there are others who had it way worse.
But the only person I can blame for my bad financial decisions is me. That doesn't mean it will be easy to learn and move on from my childhood experiences. I expect that I will never fully recover from my childhood.
I'm motivated to create the future I want for my family. I'm learning that my family loves and accepts me for who I am.
Every day, I'm learning more about myself and who I want to be. That's all we can really do.
The pain of our bad choices forces us to make a tough decision. Are we going to believe the lie that this is just how things are? Or are we going to do something different to change our future?
“not deterred by danger or pain; brave.”
Definition of Courageous
I started learning that I have a deep passion inside of me. I can use this passion to distance myself from what matters most to me, or I can use this power for good.
When I die, I want my family to know I did everything I could to give them the life I never had.
Face your inner demons and remove the power they have over you. Nothing can stop you when you start believing in yourself.
Are there things you struggle with from your past? How have you learned to overcome your past?