I had no idea when I started writing this series of blogs how responsive, caring, thought-provoking and sharing your readers would be. Following your advice, digesting your ideas of do’s and don’ts, appreciating your support and, yes, listening to your criticisms, got me through one of the most difficult times of my life. easier.
I hadn’t planned on doing an “after” blog post, but I changed my mind to complete the cycle in hopes that my experience and your collective wisdom will be helpful to others. To help people who, now or in the future, find themselves, like me, helpless in the face of debt.
Regarding my day in court, I felt no worries. If anything, I felt a sense of relief. A few years ago, potential bankrupts would have been taken before a judge, but not anymore. With 75,000 people a year in England and Wales taking the plunge, the courts either don’t have the budget or can’t keep up with the numbers.
What a random lot we were future bankrupts – the dream of a cross-section of a surveyor’s population: the South London largeboy; the purple-haired hippie chick in her thirties; the matron of Asian descent; the torn-looking mother-of-three; the businessman in the pinstripe suit with slippery, shiny lapels; and me, the only guy wearing a biker jacket in the whole building.
I gratefully retrieved my piece of paper stamped “Bankruptcy Order” and walked out with the wide boy, accompanied by his mother. He had a hard time not crying. Walking down the stairs, he said, “They gotta stop calling me now, yeah?” A statement more than a question.
I told him they were supposed to, that it’s illegal for creditors to sue a bankrupt. Her mother patted her on the shoulder of her tracksuit. “It’s just stuff, darling. Plasma, many things. Better to let it go.
On the way to the tube, I pulled out my camera and took a picture of London’s most expansive panorama: the view from Waterloo Bridge towards the city, half obscured by a red slash – a bus motion blur sporting a prominent number sign in an advertisement on its side. Beyond apt.
How has life been since this radical step? Better, although it hasn’t changed as much as I expected.
Believe it or not, I’m still being targeted by my creditors’ auto-dial systems. A few days after I went bankrupt, a credit card company sent a credit collector to my house. When I called the card company, furious, they claimed they had not been informed of my bankruptcy. I don’t believe them, but I also don’t understand why they would waste money chasing debts they have no chance of recovering.
Since the day I filed for bankruptcy, I have spoken twice on the phone to the woman designated to review my file. Once during a first interview a few days after my bankruptcy filing, then a few weeks later during the “long interview”. I felt quite nervous heading into the second 1.5 hour interview. Regardless of my counselor’s coaching, which basically consisted of answering all questions honestly, I felt like I was being interrogated and she was just waiting to surprise me. I spent the best part of this interview explaining the circumstances of my financial problems, the process by which my debts became a voracious and unquenchable monster.
She listened patiently, then started interrupting me to ask when I had taken out a certain loan and what I was using the money for; when I made a balance transfer to a new credit card and what I used the money for. All of this, she should have handed over the statements and accounts I had mailed to them, as requested.
I suspect the only answers she really cared about were those to the questions she asked at the very end of the interview: Have you sold any assets in the past few years? ; and have you repaid individual creditors? Both make perfect sense: what led me to bankruptcy is done and dusted off, the only thing worth worrying about is whether I did something “criminal” and whether I or not assets that can be used to repay my creditors.
The day after my bankruptcy, I dreamed that I was sleeping in the street, near railings painted in light blue, somewhere like Brighton. Two fat people in ridiculously striped bathing suits sit on top of me, squeezing the air out of my lungs, preventing me from moving, getting up, or even breathing. And then they get up and waddle. Finally, I can move my limbs and stand up too.
After the bankruptcy, I breathe better. I no longer have this hold in my diaphragm, the breath that is torn from me by debt. I no longer look up to the sky and I wonder what will happen to me, how the hell are we going to do…
The debt is gone, and between the few photo shoots and regular shifts at the bar, we have enough money to last us through the end of the month. I have more energy, enough to get up and go to start rebuilding, exploring new directions for my photography, opening my eyes to see what’s going on.
Last week, I asked the local youth club if they wanted me to do a photography course. They can’t pay me for it – they may not have the funds to keep the place open long past January – but they’re happy for me to do it for free.
But following the advice of more than one commenter on this blog, I decided to set myself a time limit for photography. If after next year’s wedding season I haven’t earned enough to get us through the tough months, then I’ll put the camera away, at least professionally, and seek a full-time position at the bar. .
Is everything positive? Well, my wife says she thought I would be much more relieved after doing the deed. More obviously positive, more spontaneous than I was before. I think what she means is that she expected me to be more emotional.
Well, if you’re reading this, Sally, you might like to know that I collapsed the other day. In fact, that’s why I wrote this blog. At a big toy store in town I splurged for £45 on one of those unbreakable plastic children’s cameras – Simon has been pestering me for ages.
In the grand scheme of things, that amount of money doesn’t matter. But paralyzed by debts, it was not a sum that I could justify. So I went to one of the camera shops in Bloomsbury to sell an old lens that I haven’t used in ages and used some of the proceeds to buy something my kid will love. Now, just thinking about her little face on Christmas Day…