As mentioned in my last post, I want to help people who are suffering with runaway debt problems. Not with a cash hand out, or some advice on budgeting, but with their fear. The reason I need to write about the anguish of deep debt is because I was there myself. I know how frightening it is, and I’ve seen first hand how devastating debt can be at a personal level.
But before I get going, I want to share a story with you that affected me deeply. The setting of this story is in dirty night clubs, and it’s about someone in the music business (big surprise to past readers of this blog 🙄 ). All dialogue is paraphrased because I can’t remember the exact words used all those years ago.
Bruce The Light Man
We used to play night clubs that primarily featured live bands, and most importantly bands that played original music. Needless to say, we never got paid very much and many of the clubs were dives. As a result of the low paying gigs, we had trouble finding good personnel willing to go on the road with us.
But not Bruce the light man.
I first met Bruce when were playing a club on Vancouver Island. We were just in the process of hauling our gear out of the truck and on to the stage when this wild-eyed and raggedy young kid came storming up to us at the side of the stage.
“Hi, I’m Bruce the light man”, he said with pride.
“Well hello Bruce the light man”, I responded with a smart ass tone in my voice.
It was annoying when odd strangers would approach us during setups and sound checks. Usually they just wanted to “hang out with the band”, but once they realized we didn’t really want to hang out, they would be on their way. It’s a pain in the ass because they’re in party mode, you don’t know them from Adam, and they waste your time when you’re trying to work.
But as the setup and sound check went on we were all blown away. Bruce wasn’t just a light man. He helped the sound man immeasurably, and was there like a flash every time we needed something out of the ordinary.
He made sure we had a jug of ice water on a table near the stage. He cleaned up the stage nice and tidy before we even got our equipment on it, which is “kind of a big deal” because they’re usually filthy. He helped move most all the gear out the truck, and he ran to the drug store down the street when one of our guys complained about a splitting headache.
No, Bruce wasn’t just some dude who wanted to party and be cool. He had a heart and he was clean. Shocking and refreshing in equal measure.
After that week was finished (Mon-Sat), we did our gear breakdown and had almost everything back in the truck in record time. All thanks to Bruce. His thirst for work was a god send, and we told our booking agent in Vancouver to make sure he did his best to make sure Bruce worked with us as much as possible.
Luckily for us, that’s exactly what happened. Bruce was with us that entire summer. From club to club, dive to dive, and highway to highway, Bruce was there making sure everything went smoothly. Hell, he even fixed the truck when it wouldn’t start due to a dead battery.
The only thing you could maybe fault him for was his habit of playing the VLT machines. When all the work was done and he was on his own time, he would be off to sit at a VLT machine somewhere. He seemed to be obsessed with it, and whenever he won big he would be on top of world. He would buy drinks for everyone while he drank his Pepsi on ice.
When the summer was over, two of the band members and myself went back to school, and the drummer vaporized into thin air. They’re know for that. One minute they’re with you, and the next minute they’re living in a van down by the river.
Before we went our separate ways, I made sure to tell Bruce how much I appreciated all his work, and that I wanted to stay in touch.
Of course we never did.
Three Years Later
A few years later I got to work with Bruce again. I was playing a female gay bar in Vancouver, called Ms. T’s. It was fun to spend a few days hanging out with these young women. Even though we were never going to “get any”, it was still fun playing their funky club. I remember they teased us mercilessly for being straight white males.
But the best part was Bruce The Light Man was working with us that weekend. Bruce helped us sell our CDs, and promote us every chance he could. He was a real trooper in face of obvious mediocrity.
But he had changed.
His youthful exuberance was gone and he hardly spoke, which was completely out of character. He still had the work ethic, and he still drank his Pepsi on ice amongst all the others getting ripped out of their skulls. But he had a cloud hanging over him.
You could tell.
I felt like I knew Bruce well enough that I could ask what was bothering him. So after the last set of the first night was over, I went out into the back alley for my beer and joint, and as usual Bruce followed me out with his Pepsi on ice. I expressed my concern for him. I told him that his body language was so much different than three years ago, and that he just seemed down.
He spilled out all his grief there in alley. His girlfriend had recently left him, and he had some real money troubles. He had developed a gambling addiction and he owed over $40,000. He admitted to stealing to pay for his addiction, and that’s when he really broke down in tears.
I tried the best I could to console him, and told him it was only money. Not the right thing to say to someone who is deep down the rabbit hole in overwhelming debt.
On the last night of the gig, I went to grab my leather jacket on my way to the alley for my ritual hops, barley, and weed. It was gone, and so was a box of my CDs, and my favorite Shure 57 microphone.
Bruce was gone too.
I was heartbroken. I cared deeply for Bruce and the betrayal really shook me up. I got over it in a few days, and my anger toward him faded into pity. I was worried about him. I knew why he stole from me, and I could tell he was deeply depressed about his gambling addiction, and what it turned him into.
I tried to just let it go and let him go, but I couldn’t. About six months later I called up a sound man who worked with Bruce. They were roommates at one point as well, so if anyone was going to know where Bruce was, it would be him.
I planned to confront Bruce and let him know how angry I was with him for what he did. I was going to let him have it, and then I was going tell him to get his shit together. I was going to give him my nastiest tough love dog & pony show.
I found out from the sound man that Bruce was living with his sister out in Burnaby, so I tracked down the address and made my way there on the bus.
I’ll never forget that night. It was pouring rain when I walked up to the door of the basement suite. Bruce’s sister answered the door and I asked her if I could talk with him. She started to cry as she told me that Bruce had committed suicide.
I told her I was a friend of his, and she let me in to talk. We sat in her tiny kitchen and drank coffee for over an hour. In that time she told me how upset Bruce was lately. She confirmed his debt, and said Bruce owed everyone in their family money. His personality had change drastically, and he was gambling to try and pay off everyone he owed money to.
He felt like there was no way out. He felt isolated and alone, and he finally decided there was only one way to stop the pain.
Not so many years later I would find myself in deep and overwhelming debt too. Although only briefly, I considered the option of snuffing myself out. Luckily for me I was able to get some help, and I had people around me to lean on (the meds helped too).
Don’t Let Your Debt Get You Down
So if anyone out there is reading this and you’re feeling the same way Bruce and I did, please read these five points below and try to let them sink in. Bookmark this and come back to read it again and again.
- You are not alone: you are only one person in a crowd of millions with have debt. People just like you have been falling into debt as far back as when currency was invented. So literally, there have been billions of people over the centuries who have been in your shoes. Don’t ever think you’re alone. Talk to your friends and family members about your money troubles. Let them in, and let them help you come up with a plan to make your future better. They will help.
- Try not to feel ashamed: believe it or not other people don’t spend much time talking, or even thinking about you. Let your ego go, and don’t trust your mind to tell you all the right things. You’re mind and ego are likely the culprits that guided you into the “valley of debt”. They can’t really help you solve your problems now. Just like the advice in section one, your situation is common, so there’s no sense in beating yourself up over it.
- Get humble fast: this is no time for bravado. No time to be a desperado. It’s time to learn how fragile you are. It’s time to be a helpless lamb and not a raging lion. Let your fears and sadness be. Don’t fight the grief. Just tell yourself you are going to find help. You’re not going to go through this alone, and you’re going to seek out financial advice, emotional advice, and lifestyle advice. You are not going to be the expert on anything. You are going to be a lowly student and you are going to listen to others for a change.
- It’s only temporary: just like my byline, debt is only a temporary thing. It’s only a temporary situation that you will get through. Just a stop gap in your life and something you are going to learn a lot from. You are going to learn about debt and money management and those lessons will stay with you for your entire life.
- Having no credit isn’t the end of your world: even if you end up claiming bankruptcy, your life will go on, and you will still manage to have fun and live an enriching life. You won’t have any extras, and you won’t be buying rounds in the pub down the road, but you can be happy. Your lifestyle will change, and so will you, but that’s a good thing. It’s not like the bad old days when people were thrown into an actual debtor’s prison, where they did slave labor until their debts was paid. No sir (or madam). You will be fine. You may not be able to afford a car either. It’s possible you’ll be taking the bus for awhile, and you won’t be able to have an unsecured credit card for a time. But so what. When the sun shines above, you get to enjoy it just as much as a rich person does. When Bill Gates walks down the sidewalk and enjoys the smell wafting out from the bakery it’s not different experience than you own (of course he may be walking in front of a bakery in Monte Carlo, on a street he owns, but you get the drift). You still get to enjoy eating and sleeping like everyone else does. You will still be able to watch T.V. and be entertained. You can still go for walks, enjoy the company of friends and loved ones, and seize your days.
The tired saying, “It’s only money”, is only tired because it’s old. It’s REAL old because human beings have been dealing with financial loss hundreds of years before Jesus was browsing for sandals in Jerusalem (apparently he was nasty haggler too – I read it somewhere – just Google it – he had real problem with money changers).
In the long scheme of things it truly is JUST MONEY. It’s a just a balance created by humans with human minds. We can’t ignore it while we are here, but it doesn’t define you. It’s never defined you, and the only people who define others based on money are unconscious to the realm of reality (or they’re just dicks).
In short….you’re gonna be okay.
Brent Truitt is a full time Internet marketer and part time blogger who lives in Canada and the United States. You can connect with him on Twitter @IAmBrentTruitt