I recently read a facebook post where a debate was taking place in regards to bankruptcy. A strong opinion about the word came from a guy who said that people who have filed for bankruptcy are irresponsible. I am not one to engage in a debate on facebook so it took everything in me to bite my tongue.
Why do I say this? First, our bankruptcy dropped off December 6th of 2012. Most people are unaware that we filed when we lived in Minnesota seven years ago. I didn't shout it from the rooftops but I wasn't embarrassed either. Most people assumed the worst, assumed we were negligent with our money which, is far from the truth.
Our experience over the years is that people hear the word Bankruptcy *gasp* and attach an incorrect stigma to it. Was I happy about filing for bankruptcy? Absolutely not. It was decision we didn't come to overnight. We did our homework, consulted an attorney, and understood that our credit would be less than stellar for the next few years.
When Logan was born, he was extremely sick. He was in and out of hospitals for years. We almost lost him twice. Our medical bills tipped our financial scale. We were sinking in Minnesota.
The day we went to the courthouse in St. Paul to have the judge approve our bankruptcy, I wanted to vomit, and our attorney was awesome and tried to calm me down as much as he could. There was couple in front of us, the sweetest people I had ever met, and this was their second time filing. She had cancer (second bout) and she was dying. She appeared weak but I saw strength in her eyes. She took my hands and said “Sometimes it’s not your fault, don’t let others shame you.” I will never forget that.
Life happened. Logan was sick. This was our only option. When we reached the judge, she smiled at me, I immediately starting crying. She whispered “It’s ok.” I for sure thought she was going to yell at us, scold us, and shake her judicial finger at us. But she didn't. I wanted to tell her that we had almost $100,000 in medical bills and that didn't include the $30,000 loan we had to take out in Sioux Falls for the first round of medical bills that we had to pay monthly for. We didn't buy luxury vehicles or ATV’s or boats or anything like that. I wanted to tell her that we were going to sell our house, we were going to figure this all out, we wouldn't touch a credit card, and we would never borrow money from family. I wanted to tell her that my marriage was fractured and that we were going to fight for it, we weren't going to become a statistic.
Through these seven years we built our credit back up, we made smart financial decisions, we have an emergency fund, and though Phil calls me frugal I admit it, I’m just cheap. Cheap. Cheap. Cheap.
Now, that’s not say that life hasn't kicked us in our tushes. Moving to Florida from Minnesota was a God send but a year and a half in Phil’s company, Friedman’s Jewelers, went under and everyone was laid off. I remember that day vividly. It was February, cold and rainy, and I had just dropped Logan off at his 1st grade class. Phil got the call and our lives changed. He received severance but you can’t live off of that forever. I was so proud of my husband, he felt sorry for himself for about five seconds and then started making calls.
We struggled for a couple more years. It wasn't until Phil started working for LensCrafters that things turned around. We’re renters and we have been since we left Minnesota. Not so much because of the bankruptcy and housing mess but we relocate every handful of years and we would lose our shirts purchasing a house. I know renters get a bad rap, yet another stigma attached to us. Anytime we would fill out an application we would explain our bankruptcy to them, pretty much 9 times out of 10 all was good. One woman did say not so awesome things about it when we lived in Florida so we rented from her competitor.
Yes, were bankrupt renters *GASP*. I can tease about it because I live it every day. Phil and I toasted the end of our bankruptcy. Stigmas are dangerous things. People assume, they form their own conclusions, and never ask questions.
Bankruptcy is public knowledge so I’m well aware that some people attached to us were speaking to others about our situation without the facts. And that’s alright. We know who supported us. And we know why we had to file. We aren't ashamed. It happened and we got through it.
We all go through times of struggle; a stigma was attached to us in some way at some time. Remember that when someone you know is going through a hard time. No one has frolicked through life fancy free. Don’t assume, ask questions, ask questions, ask questions.
I know there are people out there that filed because they were irresponsible with their money. That's why they tightened the laws.
It was a learning experience for us. We aren't less because of it. We are wiser. And because of that we are instilling that in to Logan. You can’t predict medical emergencies and health insurance can only go so far. My child went through hell and back and though we have gone through so much, I wouldn't change a single thing. It has made us who we are today.
Before you open your mouth to judge, remember, you haven’t walked a mile in their shoes. In fact, you haven’t even placed a pinkie toe inside.
I’m just keepin’ it real peeps, do the same. Happy 2013!