Have you ever had one of those moments where you are looking for something and stumble across something completely different that you needed to read or see that day? Well, just last week that happened to me. I had typed a keyword in my email search box looking for some specific emails I was working on purging. It was then that I stumbled across an email from my husband. This email was from September 2016. Now, if you're not sure what we were doing 3+ years ago, let me offer some perspective. My husband sent this email just two weeks after our second daughter was born. At that time, we were about five months from the end of our debt-free journey. It was a long email. Logan's work had kept us apart and he was desiring communication with his wife, so in true Logan fashion, he sent me a VERY long email.
As I re-read this email last week, quite a slew of emotions flooded my mind and my heart. I felt anxiety for all that Logan was facing in his job at the time. I felt joy thinking about where God has taken us in the last 3+ years. I felt overwhelmed by being reminded of all that we were navigating during our debt-free journey. By the time I finished reading the email, I was teary-eyed. I was proud of all that we had accomplished since that email, but I was also reminded of the very real and numerous challenges we had endured.
There was so much emotion in this email. It was raw. And it shared more of the reality of our debt-free journey. Sitting in front of my laptop that day, I knew that, with the permission of my husband, this email needed to be shared with all of you. (Luckily, he said yes!) Now, I have no intention of sharing the entirety of this email. I won't bore you with all of the fine details of his job and I'm keeping his praises of his wife to myself. But, I want to share a few portions with you that relate specifically to our debt-free journey.
"As I let my mind wander and started thinking how sore my back was, I realized my neck is also very tight and very sore. Now that I think about it, my feet hurt. My sciatica is beginning to flare up and my stomach is reminding me that coffee and ramen will not sustain me for an 18-hour shift. My eyes are becoming dry from a long day of either looking at screens or being in the trucks."
Ramen, coffee, tired eyes, and sore muscles were my man's reality. He worked tirelessly for our family. He was exhausted ALL THE TIME. But, he had his eyes set on a goal - the goal of becoming debt-free. He knew the freedom that would come from achieving this goal and he felt convicted to provide that freedom for his family. It was hard. Stinking hard. But, it was just 26 months in the big picture of life. 26 months of focus and determination put us 21 years ahead in life. (23 years is the average time it takes to pay off undergraduate and graduate student loans. We finished in just over 2 years instead.)
"As I focus on work I begin to grow tired of being away from you. Tired of hoping that 'you got this' while I am away. You and I both know the intensity is temporary and you more than anyone else knows how ready I am for our snowball to reach the bottom of the hill."
You guys. There were times we spent entire weeks apart! I was at home alone with a newborn who had awful acid reflux and a 17-month old, getting no more than three hours of sleep per night, and longing for at least one evening with my husband home. Logan was working long hours, exhausted and wishing he could just be home with his three favorite girls. But, even through the exhaustion, you can see from his words that we remained fixated on our goal - often reminding one another of our desire to just keep that snowball rolling.
(Side note: If you're reading this and you're confused about why we are talking about snowballs amidst a story about our finances, please know that we were using the Debt Snowball principle to pay down our debt quickly. For more on the Debt Snowball, visit the Resources page of our website.)
"It’s funny the amount of pressure I have to get rid of this dumb debt. Something so small as a 20k student loan has me all bent out of shape. I have realized it isn’t about being debt-free. It is that you left your world of security to join me in this crazy world of EMS pagers. The crazy world of an impulsive husband who is fully prepared to pickle 6 dozen eggs 1 hour after a phone call that you found an old canner at a garage sale. The last thing I want is your security to be threatened and I know that debt-free with $8K in the bank sounds very comfortable to you."
He wasn't wrong. I had walked into the marriage with no debt. And, I will admit that there were days I struggled walking this journey, questioning why I had to sacrifice for someone else's debt. But, I didn't need him to thank me for leaving my world of security to join him. We were in this together. I had married him. We had taken on more debt together. And we were responsible for paying off this debt. It was ours. Every bit of it. What I did need was for him to understand my needs and that's exactly what he demonstrated in his writing above. He recognized my desire to have savings beyond our seemingly tiny (and slightly terrifying) $1,000 emergency fund. He acknowledged my fears and by simply acknowledging them, he demonstrated his love for me - a love that he was proving each day as he worked diligently to move our family to a place of financial security.
"Your extrovert husband is excited for a padded budget. Why? Because I want to be able to travel with my wife and give her the relaxed environment that she wants. I also want you to have the jewelry you want, the clothes you love, and the pampering you deserve. Some day."
Although I didn't believe then that I deserved pampering and I still don't believe I deserve it today, I do appreciate what he wrote here. You see, in every step of our financial journey - before our debt-free journey, during our debt-free journey, and now after - we have always taken time to dream. Dreaming is important. It reminds you of why you are committed to your current path. It fuels your passion for remaining diligent to your plan. It keeps you focused. It drives you. And, this might sound crazy, but it keeps you dreaming. What's the point of a whole bunch of money in savings and no dreams? There's not! If you neglect to dream now, one day when you're retired and have time and savings to spare, you won't know what you want to do with it.
"I’m sorry for being off and stressed. We haven’t had time to talk so this was the best I could do in the meantime. It’s where I am at. I love you and appreciate that you respect me. We are on the same page. We are okay. Our children have what they need and our families love us and support us… well okay, my mom thinks we are crazy for wanting to pay off everything but other than that they are all on board."
People did think we were crazy. At one point, I was literally selling everything in sight, and my grandma asked me if I was going to sell the kids too. I think she was joking. I don't think she was actually worried, but I'm not totally sure. Yet, no matter how everyone thought we were crazy, we were in it together. We had to give each other grace and at times apologize, but those things come with any healthy marriage. We navigated this debt-free journey as a team and I truly believe that our teamwork played a big role in shortening the length of our debt-free journey. We made choices together, we worked hard together, and we paid off debt together.
I love this email from my husband. Not only was it a demonstration of his love, but I feel that it, in such intimacy, details many aspects of our debt-free journey. I love how it shares the hard stuff - the days and weeks spent apart, the exhaustion, and the longing for something better. But, I love how it also sheds light on the teamwork, the understanding of one another's fears, the dreams we were constantly dreaming, and that we ultimately navigated this all together.
I don't know where you're at in your journey. I don't know if you're drowning in debt or if you're retiring tomorrow with a fully-funded retirement account; but wherever you are, I want to encourage you. I want to encourage you to see the big picture. These hard stages (the "stinking hard" stages) don't last forever. It may feel like forever at the time (it felt like forever to us too), but in reality, it's often a very small blip on the radar of life. And while certain stages are hard, I want to encourage you to never stop dreaming, to remain fixated on your goals, and to always (I repeat, ALWAYS) work together with your spouse.