We did it.


A 2007 Mazda hatchback, a 2010 Honda Civic and a mountain of Malone University private, out-of-state student loans strangled us for 2 years and 7 months.


That’s a lot of numbers.


Newlywed life was such bliss. After graduating college and getting married two weeks later, we moved into our cute two-bedroom cottage on Gull Lake, Mich., driving straight from our honeymoon in the Finger Lakes region.


We were chasing our dreams; Keven interned as an audio technician at Gull Lake Ministries and I interned at MLive Media Group with the Kalamazoo Gazette.  Not the most lucrative career trajectories but they are our passions, and we were living in them with each other, in love.


Then the grace period ended. And adulthood knocked our teeth and spirit out with a merciless uppercut. We double-checked our math. Over and again. The sum of only the minimum payments equaled $1535.80 a month.


I couldn’t tame my anxiety for several months. I wept in my formerly leased, then financed basic model Civic with no power locks or center console cover after a night shift at my first full-time job, a dream job, with the Tribune-Review.


The average American household carries a debt of $203,163 for financial baggage such as mortgages, credit card balances and student loan debt, according to a recent NerdWallet analysis.


I guess this was the only positivity I could muster up in this nightmare: at least it wasn’t worse.


After my bitterness toward the situation healed, we rolled up our sleeves and went to work. Any extra shifts, any freelance, anything. Minimal groceries, limited air conditioning, rare clothing purchases. No cable, no subscriptions, no fun (for a while, before we drove ourselves crazy).


We were either all in or chained to an iron ball for a decade. We chose the former for our future.

By far this is the biggest life accomplishment I have ever achieved. And of course, it is the best lesson of discipline, wisdom, patience and contentment we have ever learned.

Although we were the victims of our own decisions, we would not have prevailed without each other’s love, support and sacrifice. We’ve only known of debt in our short three years of marriage, but we chose freedom for the rest of our life.


For richer or for poorer…until death do us part.