This summer, I bought a new car. This was major feat for me because over three years ago, my home went into foreclosure. I knew it would not be easy to get a loan, but I had no idea it would be such an emotional undertaking.
My fiancé, Thomas, convinced me it was time for a new car. It was time to give my 2005 Honda Accord with over 148,000 miles to my 17-year-old daughter, now a junior in high school. She, of course, was eager for this, as well. I, however, did not relish the chance to relive my sordid financial past. A divorce at the worst time during the current recession, along with outstanding student loans, and previous jobs with failed start-ups left me crippled and feeling less than worthy of a new car. But I also knew deep down that it was time.
I had been in my current job for nearly three years and business was good, as a matter-of-fact thriving. I was also in love for nearly two years and still shouting it from the rooftops. My Accord, which had by this time seen three teenage drivers, was tired and ready for a new owner, as well -- Audrey, my daughter, concurred.
The moment of truth came when Thomas forced me to make and keep an appointment at a local Honda dealer. Honda had been very good to me and I had my eye on a grey CR-V with the green Econ button and a glorious sunroof. I sat nervously at the dealership, waiting for my dismal credit to be run. I knew it was bad, I dreaded the completely expected, "I'm sorry, Ms. Thorn... , but we are unable to extend you any credit at this time."
I drummed my fingers on the desk, Thomas threw me a sideways glance that meant, "Stop worrying." I shifted my wait numerous times. I wanted to throw up. My head was aching and I needed a coffee or a drink or chocolate or anything that would alter my current mood. It was a tortuous 15 minutes that seemed like 15 years. How had I let this happen? How had I lost control of the one thing my mother had incessantly warned me about for my entire youth... Save your money, do not over-spend. Know your limits and her most favorite: "Do not sweep out the back door more than you are bringing in the front."
I ached with fear of a no, of rejection, of denial.
Then he appeared. The sales manager, a sloppy ink pen in hand, asking for my signature. "Your request has been accepted, but barely. It is only because you were such a good Honda customer in the past that your loan has been approved with our financial department." I had paid my previous five-year car loan off in only two years. That wonderful Accord that I nearly drove into the ground would be why I was able to secure another loan. God bless that car and every ding in it.
This story doesn't exactly have a picture perfect ending, for this particular dealership didn't have my dream CR-V on the lot and fibbed that they would be able to get it right away. I breathed a sigh of relief thinking there would be no signing the next five financial years of my life away that day. But Thomas, much to my chagrin, pressed on and found another local dealership with my exact dream car sitting on the lot, waiting for me to drive it away to its new home, my home.
I did end up with a new car that day, but not without enduring another gut-wrenching 15 minutes (that felt like 15 years) along with the back and forth haggling that drove my fear and madness closer to the surface with every passing minute, while waiting for the latest loan approval. I know I gained twenty new grey hairs and twenty old years waiting for my grey new car.
I must say, however, it was worth the wait.
I am finally on the road I have been ferociously driving toward: the road to recovery. It is been long, it is riddled with potholes and unexpected pain, but it is passable. I know this now.
Hello debt and goodbye shame.