I’ve owed the Toronto Library 0.80 cents for four years. It’s just a thing that is a real and current presence in my life. I have 0.80 cents in my bank account (I’m rich, rich I tells ya!!), I could totally just pay the fine and be done with it. Even if I didn’t have cash, which I rarely do, the libraries recently joined the rest of us in 2016 and got machines. Welcome guys, have you heard about online banking?! You’re gonna LOVE IT!

On average, I borrow a book a week at my local library, which means that 4 times a month, I am reminded that I owe the library 0.80 cents and would I like to pay now or pay later?
I have hit pay later…maybe 192 times.

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I wasn’t always like this. When I first incurred a debt of $2 for late DVD returns to the library back in 2011 (remember DVD’s guys?) I paid promptly. I even paid promptly when a book I returned on time supposedly wasn’t returned on time and I had my doubts. Whatever man, take my stinking 0.10 cents, yah crims!

But then something changed. And I can pinpoint the moment exactly.

I never had a credit card in Hong Kong or Australia. I had heard too many tales of people going into credit card debt holes, unable to ever pull themselves out of them, always chasing that aloof ‘stuff-the-magic-dragon’.

When I moved to Canada, certain logistical necessities including booking flights became a reality. Canada was not caught up to Australia on the combined Credit/Debit cards (where you can only spend your own money), so I had to put my big girl pants on and get myself a real-deal CC.

The paperwork was intimidating, and for some reason printed on that overly sized “Legal” paper that was folded awkwardly after signing. But there it was, PHT out in the world of Credit Cards, with the whole of Canadian consumerism spread out before me. You own my soul and first born child now yeah? Coolcool just checking.

I was too afraid to use that credit card for the first three months. It just sat there in my wallet, a gentle reminder that I COULD buy stuff I couldn’t afford if I needed to. A retail mermaid singing sweet songs to my bank account.

My purchases began tentatively at first, big things I needed, like a cell phone with a plan. Flights. Electricity bills. I was always very conscious of spending and as SOON as I had the money in my chequing account, I would pay it back.

Until… dun-dun-duhhhhhh: the fateful day payroll fucked up. This threw my carefully stacked pile of almost chaos completely off.

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It felt like an insurmountable mountain. No money was coming in that month, my rent was due, my credit card bill was due (the amount in hindsight was tiny)… it was the first time I’d get “in trouble” for not paying something exactly on time. I was hysterical. I was sure that this was the moment my life would tip, and the late payment was just a slippery slope, next stop Jail. I hoped Big Red and Piper will let me in their friend group, how do I make a shank?

After my initial freak out, I did what I always do when life seems tough, I called my Dad and blubbered to him on the phone. My Dad calmly and kindly loaned me the money to pay off my credit card (which ended up being paid 2 days late and incurred maybe a tiny tiny fee).

When the stress of the moment was over, I felt like a total dickhead.

I was totally naive. Lots of people have debt because of life reasons, including my Dad, a small business owner. I realized that the reality is, you’re not always being in the black, sometimes you’re stuck in the red for a long long time. I had lived such a sheltered and privileged life, so frightened of Credit Cards, interest rates and loans, that I thought that by not paying my debts off straight away, I was destined for the clink.

I’m grateful that my parents instilled the fear of becoming overwhelmed by debt in me, and also encouraged me to value paying people back as quickly as possible. But crippling fear is not good, and not a way to live.

Which is why I now subscribe to the following:

PB & J – Procrastination Balance and Jinxing

What is Procrastination Balance? If an issue gets to X level, I’m okay I can kind of semi-ignore it, if it gets to Y level, I better take notice and potentially do something anything, and if I let it get to Z, well…

If my library debts were to raise to a dollar, I know i’d have to pay them asap because holy shittttt, first its a dollar then its a million dollars and I have to become a slave in the returns room. That’s it, your life is ours now.

Jinxing:

However, I also kind of feel like if I pay my library debt right now, I’ll jinx it and suddenly forget to return a book and I’ll get back from a trip and owe way more.

So 0.80 cents owed to the library is the level of chaos I am comfortable with in that area of my life. It’s not too much, it’s JUSSST the right amount of a thing I can procrastinate from doing/tying up.

PB & J applies to many other situations in your life: dating slightly sketchy men, eating questionable pork, body image, career, and you are welcome to employ it’s teachings in your very own life. Wow! I’m like a guru! Well take a look at me.

Just remember children, if you’re head is still above water, you’re not technically drowning.

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All jokes aside: Don’t be in debt if you can avoid it. Owing the government/a company/the library/a friend money can be super stressful and have a crazy impact on your mental health and general well-being. There are people with way more information about this topic than me, but I encourage you to seek them out.

As much as I joke, there is no worse feeling than being trapped, so even if you don’t have a kindly father who can bail your sorry 20-something year old ass out, reach out to your network and get on the path to finding a solution.

The worst part of being broke/in debt is the feeling of shame, that you can’t talk about it. Don’t let it get to a point where you feel there is no way out, there are always options, please reach out to others.