When I graduated High School and first attempted to go to college I had no debt, no credit cards and I would not have any student loans for quite a few years. The reason being that I was inedible for student loans. My mother filed zero on her tax return and though she was my legal guardian she had no role in financially supporting me. This meant that the U.S. Government rejected my request for student loans until I was 25. I paid for my first semester in cash, my second with credit card and then I dropped out.
For a few years, I managed fast food restaurants and began to accrue a revolving debt, occasionally charging off one credit card with another. I still wanted to return to college and I made plans to move to New Orleans for college in 2005, then again in 2006.
One of my first jobs in New Orleans was at a major record store, the now defunct Tower Records, I sold music and movies and 4-6 hours a week I was the rental collections agent. I called people and listened and bargained and charged people for rental fees up to the price of purchasing the videos outright. I found that I judged the people as lazy, or shifty, and thought nothing of charging a person if they avoided contact. In fact, if they tried to avoid me and I could charge their credit card I thought of it as a coup. Though I only briefly held the position (only five months) I identified myself as the collector, it temporarily became a part of how I saw myself.
It would be 6 years before I went back to college, with no savings, a car note and a 401(k) that I cannibalized to keep creditors at bay. I was doing fairly well, considering. As I went to school, I ignored the student loan debt I was amassing. I saw it as an expense I should be more than capable of handling when I was a professional. I graduated with approximately $40,000 in student loan debt, perhaps below the national average, and approximately $10,000 in credit card debt.
This is when I discovered that I would not become a professional in my field but would continue to work in retail and live in a system of revolving debt. I began to worry what all the debt I had taken on could do to me and to my future. Worse than all the worry, I identified myself as a debtor, it became a part of how I saw myself.
Through the realization that came with knowing that the debt was not going away came the eventual acceptance of the situation. I began to be able to see it as a situation which was out of my control and through that acceptance I was able to consider it separate from myself. I am a human being, I am not a debtor as I saw myself. I am not the situation that I am in or a byproduct of that situation but a human being. All the people who I hounded as a collections agent were people too, just like all the collections agents who I talk to on the phone regularly are people before they are anything else. I enjoy the discussions I have now with the people who call me, I tell them my story and I thank them for their call. I assume that they themselves are likely in debt as well.