Why am I in So Much Credit Card Debt?

As some guy once said, an unexamined life is not worth living.

Adeline Dimond


Photo by Blake Cheek on Unsplash

I am in a massive amount of credit card debt. And no, I’m not going to tell you the number. I can barely utter it aloud to myself without spiraling. I say mean things to myself every time I think about it.

But perhaps worse — or maybe it’s a blessing — it makes me wonder if I even know who I am, because I obviously shouldn’t be in this situation. I have a good job and no kids; I’m supposed to be the rich one in this simulation. And because it shouldn’t be like this, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I got here, sifting through the wreckage of credit card statements like an archeological dig.

This is an improvement, because there were years when I just ignored the looming financial tsunami, engaging in some sort of magical thinking that it would somehow all work out. Perhaps a wad of cash would land on my windshield while I was stopped at a red light? During those years I had a recurring dream that I was on beach with a huge wave that was about to crash, wiping away me and everyone else on the sand. I tried to warn the other beachgoers, but no one believed me that the wave was coming. By the end, terrified, I would try to scramble to high and dry land before being submerged in water.

I have this dream less often now that I’ve finally decided to face what I’ve done to create this financial tsunami, and my credit card bills are a living history of my downfall. Obviously, the simple answer is that I spent more money than I have, but that’s not really it at all. My credit card statements tell a story, they are a flotsam of little artifacts demonstrating how how stupid I can be (yes, stupid), how lazy, how delusional, entitled, petulant, how hopeless and hopeful at the same time.

Pouring over my credit card history, I’ve come up with three categories of spending that led me down this path: 1) unavoidable expenses (these, I have decided, are “not my fault”); 2) expenses that result from not knowing how the world works because no one taught me how the world works, so I just stumble through it like a toddler, and 3) expenses I incurred because I am lazy, entitled, delusional, undisciplined, a brat, both aspirational and yet hopeless.