ditch

You know how moms are always worried their kids will end up in a ditch one day?

Well, my mom found me in one last week.

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Ever since I got my full-time job in November 2016, I’ve been doing well with my money. Long-time readers will know my biggest regret is college and my biggest debt from that regret is the student loans tagged on the awful experience. Over the years I’ve struggled to make the minimum payments, which hasn’t helped me pay down my loans at all as most of the money is going toward the exorbitant interest.

But I’ve been able to build my bank account up to a healthy amount and I’ve been able to make extra payments to my loans, which has finally caused the principal and monthly payments to go down. I’ve been stuck for so long and I never thought I’d get out of the postcollege quicksand. And although I’m not free of the muck yet, I can see the light at the end of the dark, dank, depressing tunnel.

Or so I thought.

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I like my car. It’s not fancy and it’s not new anymore but I bought it brand new when I first went to college and it’s carried me across many states and many states of emotion. It’s seen me laugh and cry and carry more fast food than a McDonalds drive-thru. It’s been good and although I’ve had to do the usual maintenance of replacing parts and such, it’s been very reliable.

But everything reliable will eventually decline.

I noticed an orange light flash on my dashboard a few weeks ago. I told my dad and he took it to a few places, all which said I needed a certain part. And after each part was replaced, the light went away. But only for one day. And then it came back. Not knowing what else to do, my dad said I’d need to take it back to the dealership and have them take a look at it.

A few days later, I was headed to work and stopped at a red light. When the light flashed green, I pressed the gas pedel and it was stuck. I pressed harder but it would not budge. I checked to make sure I hadn’t accidentally put it in park. Nope. Then I looked over at my dashboard and my orange light had been accompanied by a slew of new, multi-colored lights. The “oil” light, the “battery” light, the “you’re screwed” light. All of ‘em.

My car had stopped working.

As other vehicles switched lanes and passed by me, I didn’t know what else to do other than to put my hazards on. I grabbed my phone to call my mom when I noticed blue lights shining in my rearview window. I have to admit, the timing on this was pretty great.

A cop walked up to my car and I rolled down my window.

“Everything all right, son?” the man asked. He was middle-aged, sagging eyes to match his voice.

“Um, no, my car has stopped working and all these lights just popped up here,” I said as I pointed to the rainbow of warning lights.

“All right,” he said. “Well, I can push you off to the side of the road but I can’t stay as I just got a call.”

“That’s fine,” I said.

He walked to the back of my car and pushed as I steered it off the road. And without checking back with me, the cop hopped into his car and drove away.

I called my mom and she said she’d come pick me up. Thankfully, I wasn’t too far away from home. As I waited, I noticed I was getting colder. I could see my breath although I had the heater on. I pressed my palm up to the vent. Nothing was coming out. Great. At least the radio was working. Thank God I had the same Selena Gomez song on every station to keep me company. And just before a cocoon of ice formed over me, my mom pulled up and saw her baby boy trying to defrost in a ditch. I got into her vehicle, leaving behind my beloved car.

I dropped Mom off and she let me drive her car to work. What a way to start the morning.

My dad had the car hauled away and inspected. After getting more replacement parts, my car was back and I was good to go the next day. No more orange light. But the day after, it was back again. The hell.

The latest parts replacement added up to a lot of money and I’m scared to take it to the dealership and see their price tag. I know it’s got to be done but just when I had finally reached a place of financial stability, I was hit with this unexpected expense. And to salt the wound, a few days later, I got a letter from the company I have my loans with telling me my monthly payment is going to increase due to rising interest. Of course. Beautiful timing.

But I guess that’s the way it always goes. Two steps forward, ya know? I’m grateful that I can afford to have it fixed but it is a small reminder that I’m not ahead, that the plans I’ve made to get my loans paid off has hit another snag. And it sucks because I really want to feel like I have something under control.

The only thing I can do is pay off these extra debts, try. not to spend any extra money if I don’t have to, and once everything is back to normal, go back to paying off those loans. The sooner I can do that, the sooner I can focus on moving out and far, far away.

And then maybe I can actually start living.

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