Six Strings of Stress

All of those sleepless nights and feelings of utter terror could have been avoided had I just been a bit more of an adult and realized that I didn’t really need any of that garbage.

Starting Debt (01.01.19): $124,310.77
Current Debt: $107,793.15
Total Paid Off: $16,517.62
Income Going to Savings: 1%

Last week I made a joke about buying Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. I have to come clean and say I didn’t *really* buy that model of guitar (nor did I buy a chunk of a President’s brain in a jar), but I did buy a different guitar. This is the true story of that purchase.

I vividly remember purchasing my Les Paul guitar from Guitar Center. I can almost still smell the new strings as I pulled it down off the wall, plugged into a store amp, rotated the volume knob all the way to 11, and ripped into a power chord. The feel of that instrument in my hands (having seen countless guitar heroes of mine play that exact same model) was one that truly made me feel like a GOD.

With just one chord strummed, I knew then and there I had to own that guitar. It wasn’t cheap and I didn’t have the kind of money it took to purchase it outright, so I (of course) registered for a store credit card on the spot. I was not going to be denied such a beautiful piece of hand-crafted ROCK-N-ROLL!

The dopamine drip was flowing that day and I felt like a million bucks. In fact I felt so good I was even considering taking guitar lessons to actually learn how to play my new purchase!

I was feeling that good.

Years later as the overwhelming stress of six-figure debt was crushing my soul like an industrial jackhammer, I felt like breaking that Les Paul in half. And not in the cool Rockstar way where you slam it on the stage for your final encore as confetti showers from the rafters, but more in the way where you take it into the driveway and run it over with your car while no one is watching.

You see, that guitar represented (I guess the correct term would be “represents” as I still own it) everything I did wrong. It represented me not being able to control my desires and purchasing something that I really couldn’t afford. Sure this one purchase was only $2,000 worth of something I couldn’t afford, but that coupled with the countless other times I had done it had led me to six figures worth of an entire home of somethings that I couldn’t afford.

I look around my house today, and I see lots of little reminders of this type of behavior. Lots of little trinkets and worthless garbage that I thought I just “had to have” at the time, without having the actual money to pay for them.

I’ve had serious health problems as a result of this stress. My blood pressure is through the roof, my sleep cycle is all jacked up, and I know I’ve probably shaved at least a year or two off of my ride on this rock because of the mental torture I’ve gone through wondering if I’m going to have enough money to buy my kid a slice of pizza.

All of those sleepless nights and feelings of utter terror could have been avoided had I just been a bit more of an adult and realized that I didn’t really need any of that garbage.

In a later post I’ll share some tips on dealing with stress, but honestly the best way to deal with stress is to avoid it when possible by making good choices in life.

Oh… and that Guitar Center credit card? It had an interest rate of 29.99%. TWENTY-NINE POINT NINE NINE. I paid nearly a thousand dollars more for the guitar than the asking price by time I paid that thing off.

I did not get the call to join Guns N’ Roses. I didn’t get to go on tour and make millions. What I got was yet another lesson in my journey towards financial responsibility. It took me a long time to get to a point where I can reflect and comprehend just how silly some of those mistakes were, and I hope others can read this and avoid them far sooner than I did. Trust me when I say that the stress of debt is no fun at all.

Side Note: I did eventually learn how to play the damn thing at least, so if you know Axl Rose, go ahead and give him my number please.