The few of you who know me personally know that I am not a superstitious person, and these days I'm not all that religious either. I tend not to believe in "signs", believing that if people wanted to contact us from the great beyond, they would choose methods that are a little less open to interpretation.
That changed a bit when I went to see the bankruptcy attorney on Tuesday -- the woman whom I will soon be calling my attorney.
After gathering all the papers I needed, I left work and headed over to her office. It was a small, single-family house which looked like it had been there for a while. Steeling myself, I went over and opened the door to meet her. She greeted me right away, and directed me to have a seat in a waiting area. I obliged, and took note of my surroundings.
The first thing that caught my eye were a series of plates hanging on the wall of the living room-turned-lobby: Star Trek collectors' plates. A Star Trek poster (from Star Trek V, I think) hung on one wall; a collection of large, gold pins covering various insignia from the franchise hung on another. And it didn't stop there: aside from the Trek memorabilia, there was a multitude of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter merchandise hanging everywhere.
My father was an avid Tolkien fan. He even read the Silmarillion and other dense works that many folks are afraid to touch. He also loved Star Trek, having introduced it to me when I was a kid, and had gotten into the Harry Potter series as well. This attorney was the first person I chose, almost at a whim, out of the list I had assembled, and she just happened to have a collection that would've made him pop.
The next odd coincidence: in her office were two big male tabby cats. I own two tabby cats as well, though they're not the mousers these two obviously were. She explained to me later that they were formerly her barn cats, and had saved her horses when they alerted her to a possum nesting nearby. (Apparently possum urine is a deadly neurotoxin to horses; you learn something new every day!) Their reward was to come back and live in her office with her.
After doing a mountain of paperwork, most of which didn't even apply to me (they use the same form for all kinds of bankruptcy, and the majority of the questions enumerated my assets for a chapter 7), I sat down and talked with her. She said that the plan I had drawn up was basically what she would've recommended for us: a Chapter 13 restructuring that would include all debts under my name, except our house. The principal would be paid down, without interest, over the next sixty months in monthly installments. We don't have to liquidate a thing; we keep the cars, house, everything we own. And when those five years are up, my debts -- credit cards, car payments, my student loan, all of it -- will be completely gone.
I'm giving her part of her retainer on Monday to get the ball rolling. Swallowing one's pride and filing for Chapter 13 isn't easy... but I really do think my dad is trying to tell me something. And besides, do you know how liberating it is to tell the credit card companies to take their interest charges and shove them where the sun doesn't shine? The single worst thing creditors due to their clients is to raise interest rates when people near their credit limits... so I'm more than happy to face them and say, "Hey folks, you brought this upon yourselves, and you aren't earning another penny off of me."
Even if it means a black mark on my credit report... I'm getting out of this, and I'm never getting back in. Unsecured debt is slavery, and I value my freedom too much to let somebody else every control me again.