Before FIRE, I was a disaster!

I frequently think about what were the thoughts and reasons for pursuing FIRE at 28 years old. Was a wise beyond my years? Was I tired of struggling financially? Did it just make sense? These are questions I’ve asked myself more recently as I’ve gotten closer to financial independence. Honestly I don’t know if I have these answers. What I would like to do is maybe explore what my life was like then leading up to FIRE.

To start I’d like to give context to what my life looked like just before this journey started. I’ll start in my mid-20’s, this is when my world began to spin faster. I was dealing with a father that had mental illness that was causing a disruption to my family’s daily life. Then in 2008 he decided to end his pain and suffering himself. This act set my world spinning even faster. I found myself confused and struggling to make sense of such an act. I began thinking did I cause it and what could I have done differently. All questions I couldn’t answer. Not being able to answer these questions led to drinking more and more. I needed to numb my mind to not think about it because the more I thought about it the more I realized I had no answers and I never would. It was over and it was real. And that was it. To this point I had no control over my life and wasn’t sure how to move on. I was my dad’s next of kin and felt I had to be strong for my family. Drinking was my escape from the pressure. About this time I had the brilliant idea that a vacation was what I needed so I escaped to Mexico but quickly discovered that drinking your problems away isn’t the best solution.

February 2009 was the breaking point. I was mentally broken and drunk in a foreign country. Once I got a flight back home my first stop was a hospital. I was finally receiving the help I needed four months after my fathers passing. This series of events set me up for my future. I found that I could go one of two ways, I could choose the path to recovery or the path toward death. Today I am glad I choose recovery. Part of that recovery was to change everything. Nothing was off the table. I ended a long term relationship, began a program and sought help. I’m telling this story so that if someone else is reading this and think that it is too late for them or they can’t start, I am here to tell you, you can.

Fast forward a year and life looked very different. It was brighter. Recovery and therapy helped set the stage for a new relationship with my now husband. We met in 2010 during the Great Recession, he was unemployed, and I was riddled with debt. What a combo! Jeff had just bought a new car and was fumbling with the radio and landed on an AM station featuring the Dave Ramsey Show. I am not sure when Jeff started to talk to me about FIRE because we had literally just begun dating about this time. Probably not cool to talk to your new boyfriend about putting all your paycheck toward debt repayment. Especially when I was literally living paycheck to paycheck. I had student loans, car loan, and credit card payments. My expenses exceeded my income and I am not sure you could call this living. But maybe it was this being stretched so thin and the world economy falling apart that caused to me to be open to the idea of FIRE.

I do remember Jeff ordering a book by Dave Ramsey and reading it at night. Then mentioning parts and ideas as he read it. I vaguely recall him getting excited and saying I should read it. I think I may have started the book but not sure I finished it. But being in a new relationship it was easy to get excited about a new idea. I mean he could have told me about camping on the side of a cliff in Utah and I would have been on board. I was smitten. So puppy love and the idea of debt free living led us to explore the idea even more. I remember us printing off our credit reports and laying everything on the table. It was actually very freeing to say here I am: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I feel like taking that step established a level of trust that I hadn’t experienced before. We wrote down all our debts and the snowball was formed.

As the ball started rolling we were amazed at how quickly debts were being paid off. It was definitely motivating but eventually the excitement of Dave wore off and the search was on for the next steps of FIRE. Enter the FIRE community! This is community of people who don’t know each other helping one another. They share ideas, tips, and stories to improve lives. What’s not to love?

So was I wise beyond my years? I doubt it. Was I tired of struggling financially? Definitely! Did it just make sense? Not at first. My best guess at why FIRE took hold for me was because of fate. A divine intervention from a power greater than myself. This same fate is possible for you as well. Believe in yourself, seek knowledge from those who’ve gone before you, and know that small steps can lead to a big reward. Your future self will thank you.

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