Tuesday, November 1, 2011

You Are Not Alone ~ A Case Study

Among my many friends, one stands out as having the worst time of it, the it being difficulty paying off debt and student loans. The following is a brief description of what she went through.

Shelley's existence, if it can be called that, is a dramatic study in frustration and poverty. She's about to graduate from Columbia University in New York where she's given her life to a post doctoral program in clinical psychology. Every effort to pay for this degree has been thwarted. All she has to show for her efforts are calluses on her knuckles from knocking on so many doors.

She survives on a $1.44 bagel she buys from the "Hot and Crusty." When she treats herself, she buys a hot dog from the vendor, but puts up with men lurking nearby who steal furtive glances as she squeezes out the mustard and eats her hot dog.

In search of a summer job to pay the rent and light bill, she attacks department stores like Attila the Hun. But all her attempts are shrouded in failure. With only $18.00 to her name, she hears of an agency that will buy fertile ovum for $3,000. This sounds intriguing and worth investigating. But at 41, she discovers she's too old to qualify.

Finally, on a late Thursday evening, a bit of fortune comes her way. Talbots is hiring and the lady likes her. She accepts the application and asks for references. Shelley gives her a few names, but when Talbots calls and asks one of the references if he is Dr. Albert Schein, he says no and hangs up, thinking it's a sales call.

Shelley does not suffer from any apparent mental or physical handicaps. But after two years of duking it out with the fates, she begins to worry about her sanity. There is nowhere to turn unless it's the Park which makes her feel uncomfortable. That leaves her with the steady din of New York traffic and treeless streets. Still, she does have one friend who calls to tell her it might be fun this year to exchange birthday gifts. "This year," she tells Shelley, "I'm going to send you a beach umbrella."

Shelley, who by now has run out of panic buttons, stifles laughter. A beach umbrella?? Her slightly frayed neurotransmitters search to make the connection. Of course, what cardboard box on the street would be complete without a beach umbrella.

By now, she's developed a strange batch of schizo-affective symptoms in combination with a dark sense of humor. She's crumbling before her own image and tells herself she is one with everything, every panhandler, every homeless person, every mendicant. But, she's also one with Donald Trump.

Still, it is her lack of hostility and excessive composure that scares me. She's spending too much time in her 400 square foot studio staring at her beautiful long red hair and threatening to sell it because there's a market for red hair in China.

Her student loans are inching their way skyward and the calls keep coming in.
The student loans are exorbitant and she simply cannot pay them. She knows she will be paying for at least ten or fifteen more years.

Fast forward this case study and you'll see Shelley's picture looks radically different. Her student loans took 10 years to pay off. Did she mind? Not at all. Her goals and dreams were riding sidesaddle along with her debts. Only she reached her dreams long before the student loans were paid off. She now owns a business and is financially prosperous.

What did Shelley do that worked so well? She got out of debt on her timetable.

"Slow motion gets you there faster" ~ Hoagy Carmichael

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