Getting Out of Debt: Lessons learned from my sister getting stuck in a pit of clay

clayA lot of words come to mind when thinking about debt. Stuck. Mired. Drowning. Buried. The images these words conjure up remind me of a story from my childhood.

As a kid, my youngest sister Meghan would often join my brother Nicholas and me on our adventures to the “Death Cliffs”. Admittedly, a bit of an exaggerated moniker. The Death Cliffs were in fact a section of high muddy banks along the Nine Mile River near our hometown of Port Albert, Ontario.

In the springtime each year these cliffs became a sloppy mess of mud and clay. During this time they also became our favourite playground. We would make frequent trips to jump into the clay pits that had formed, often returning home from our muddy adventures with a boot or two missing. Covered from head to toe in clay, we were blasted with the garden hose before being allowed back in the house.

Me and Nicholas returning home from a muddy adventure.

Me and Nicholas returning home from a muddy adventure.

During one such outing, we found ourselves a particularly sloppy clay pit and were having a blast jumping into the mud. Before long, however, Meghan found herself waist-deep in the clay, unable to free herself.

Since our Mom had eight kids, it crossed our minds that she may not even notice if we returned home without Meghan. In the end though, we decided against abandoning our sister and set out to free her from the mud. With a slippery grip on her wrists we hauled with all our might.

Another unfortunate reality for children at the tail end of a large family is the hand-me-down clothes. That day Meghan wore a ratty pair of hand-me-down sweat pants with a very un-elastic waistband. As a consequence, the more we pulled Meghan from the mud, the more her pants would fall down.

Quickly snatching her hands back to hoist up her pants, Meghan would just sink further into the clay. Caught between the total embarrassment of losing her pants in front of a group of her brothers and being stranded in a pit of clay for all eternity, Meghan broke down into tears as we tried to free her.

Eventually Meghan’s survival instincts overpowered her mortification and she stopped trying to hold her pants up while we pulled her out of the mud. In the end I saw more of my sister’s bum than any brother should, but she was free and we were happy because of it.


Like Meghan’s muddy misadventures, being in debt can feel like we’re stuck in a pit of clay. And like Meghan, we are often faced with a choice: let go or stay stuck.

If we want to make the necessary changes to live a life that’s debt free we have to be willing to let some things go. Whether it’s our old spending habits, that second car, that over-sized home, materialism, preconceptions of what we “need”, a standard of living we can’t afford (and in Meghan’s case, her pants), the journey out of debt begins with a willingness to let go.

What are you clinging to that is keeping you mired in the mud?

Got a lesson you learned from one of life’s absurd moments that you want to share? Email your story to Josh.

Josh Martin
Josh Martin is the creative force behind Badge of Awesome. He is the author of "Misadventure Musings: Lessons learned from life's awesome and absurd moments" and "The Overcoming Obstacles Handbook."

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