The Long Journey

Out of all of the challenging times since I began to turn my financial life around, I may be facing the most challenging of all right now.

It’s not anything immediate or urgent. I have a nice healthy emergency fund to take care of that. It’s also not a temptation to buy anything, nor a disillusionment that I’m not headed in the right direction.

What really has me challenged right now is the realization that this is in fact a very long journey, indeed. I’ve barely paid off $1,000 in principal on my home (after buying it in July), and I’m facing down a combined $29,000 in student loan balances between my wife and myself. Even at a rate of $1,500 a month in overpayment (which is what I’m executing right now), it’s still two years before the student loans are gone and another eight to nine before the home loan is gone.

That’s a long time. I’m looking ahead to my thirtieth birthday this year, and it almost makes me shudder that I’ll be approaching my fortieth and likely I’ll still be paying off debt. Thinking about that timeframe is almost painful – my children will be approaching their teen years and I’ll still be paying off this debt load.

It’s the long wait that’s difficult. I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to be vigilant about it, from earning more money ethically to being more frugal. Widening that gap between earnings and income means more money that I can put into my student loan debt and, eventually, into investments and the home loan.

My personal attitude is to tackle things head on and get things done now. I’m fairly organized and when there’s a challenge, my natural attitude is to get it done. When I sense that I’m just sitting around and not making progress, it slowly grates on me.

This long journey takes a different skill. This takes patience, something that doesn’t come as naturally to me.

I keep on focus by defining small milestones and reaching them. I set a goal to either earn or save a certain extra amount in a month, then I apply it to the loan. By doing that, I can focus on that short term goal and feel real progress, something that’s vital to me.

But sometimes that doesn’t quite work either, and I’m left feeling like a person driving down a long, lonely highway across the country in a slow car, and I’m just getting started.

I just keep telling myself that as long as I’m headed in the right direction and I can feel the wind against my face, I’ll get there eventually. For now, I’ll focus on making it to the next mile marker – and then, to the mile marker after that.

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