I am going to share something that I still feel an incredible amount of shame and guilt over. I have tremendous anxiety and an upset stomach as I sit down to write this, but I do believe that by sharing our stories we help to free ourselves from the past and allow ourselves to heal and move on. So, here it goes…I was forced to begin taking the path to file for bankruptcy about a year ago. This morning, that journey came to an end. How did I get to the point of filing for bankruptcy? Not a very exciting story. I lived off credit cards while I was going to grad school. I lost the job that afforded me the luxury of paying off that debt while still eking out a living. I switched careers. I wound up in way over my head.
This morning I had my 341 meeting, which is a meeting between the bankruptcy trustee and the creditors (if they choose to show up). The fact that I had no idea what to expect created an almost unmanageable level of anxiety. I barely slept last night. I had fretted over what to wear. I wanted to look professional, but all of my nice business attire is designer hand-me-downs from a friend who has the means to buy amazing shirts and suits and then give them to me when she cleans out her closets. I didn’t want to show up looking like I have money. I also didn’t want to show up looking like a slob. I finally settled on a nice pair of pants, button-down shirt, and cardigan. This morning my nerves wreaked havoc on my stomach. I was told to arrive 15 minutes early to meet with my attorney. Of course, despite leaving early, I ran into major train delays. Then, as I exited the train station I had a panic attack. Years ago I got very, very lost in the exact area of Brooklyn I found myself in, despite now knowing the lay of the land, I still found myself having flashbacks to the afternoon I got hopelessly lost. I decided it best to got straight to the courthouse and ask for directions instead of relying on my poor sense of direction.
When I arrived at the proper building it was 8:55am, my meeting was at 9:00am, and I was panic stricken. As I entered the building I was stopped by a security guard who asked me to sit in a waiting area until they officially opened at 9:00am. I found myself seated amongst a motley crew of people also awaiting their 341 meeting. There was the man who looked like he had been wearing the same pair of jeans and flannel shirt for the last 30 years. The woman who had a granny cart filled with bags of paperwork, and a very expensive looking scarf around her neck. The woman who looked to be no more than 20 with her very expensive looking attorney. And a bunch of run-of-the-mill Brooklynites of all ages and ethnicities. I felt a tad calmer.
Once we all got through the metal detectors we had to turn off our phones and turn them in, receiving wooden blocks with numbers coordinating to the cubby they had been placed in. I spent some time helping an older woman figure out how to turn her phone off then headed to the elevators with everyone else. We all met once again in a large meeting room. The trustee was on his phone talking about a birthday party for a 2-year-old that would be held on a yacht. He had no regard for the fact that we had begun filing in. Shortly after I sat down, and just long enough after I had settled to start freaking out that my attorney wouldn’t show up, I heard my name called. My attorney had arrived. We went into the hallway and he briefed me on what would be asked and how to answer. It seemed simple enough, but my mouth was dry and I was a ball of nerves. Several times he offered that there would probably be cases before mine so I would be able to hear the questions and feel more at ease. Despite wanting to be out of there as quickly as possible, I silently prayed to have a handful of people go before me.
Back in the meeting room, the first name called was a no-show. The second name called said his attorney had train delays and was on his way, so he got passed over. Then, my name was called. Only, it was my middle name. The jerk couldn’t bother being formal and using my last name, or at least attempt to pronounce my first name – I was annoyed and shaking I was so nervous. I was mortified as information pertaining to my finances was read aloud in front of a room of strangers. I was so nervous I blundered a major question. I internally freaked out, on top of my already existing nerves, embarrassment, and anxiety. The only other thing I remember is being asked what granola is (I once had a small granola company). Who the fuck doesn’t know what granola is? Then my attorney got scolded for not having submitted some of the forms needed. I simultaneously felt pissed off and bad for the guy. What the hell had I paid all this money for? Why was the trustee such an asshole to this guy?
I briefly met with my attorney in the hallway once again. He explained what had happened with the forms – nothing for me to worry about. I have one more thing I must tend to in the next 7 days to complete my end of the filing. My creditors have 60 days to object my discharge (very unlikely in my case), then this whole ordeal is officially over. Finally.
I am left ready for a fresh start, but feeling like a failure because I couldn’t manage my finances. Despite knowing people who have filed for bankruptcy, despite being surrounded by a bunch of very average looking people at the 341 meeting, I still feel guilt, shame, and an overriding sense of simply not being good enough. As I have been writing this I have continually asked myself, why share this? Well, why not? Remaining secretive about it has not helped me thus far. What will the people who read this think of me (friends, yoga students, colleagues, bosses, strangers, my parents)? I am pretty certain my self-judgment and critique are far worse than anything anyone else could offer up. I have already been horrifically embarrassed by the 341 meeting during which I had no control over what was shared or how. So, here I am owning my story and revealing what I want to and how I want to in an attempt to regain some control over something that has left me feeling overwhelmed and out of control for far too long.