Initially, I didn't like the idea of signing a contract to train at a gym. Sure, I wanted to become a world class boxer, practice jiu-jitsu, and learn to engage in hand-to-hand combat within the confines of a cage. But the cost was $100.00 per month, every month for a year. Even if I decided mixed martial arts wasn't for me (after being punched one or two times), I'd still be paying for the rest of the year. My job as a cook at a local restaurant was not exactly stable, but I went with my gut and signed the contract. It turns out that wasn't a mistake. I took to the sport of "cage fighting" quite well.
After 12 months I renewed my contract with the gym and continued to train hard. After a six fight undefeated streak on the new contract I was offered a "title" bout - the chance to become the lightweight champion of the amateur promotion I was fighting for. Despite my hard work, I lost the fight and didn't earn the champion title. However, I did earn something else. The owner of my gym decided I was good enough to start helping train other fighters. My compensation was that I no longer needed to pay to train at the gym. I could train for free as long as I helped out. I thought the deal was pretty sweet. Money was tight and saving an extra $100.00 per month almost like hitting a lottery jackpot (though, not quite). I was so excited I didn't give it much thought, and I soon forgot about it. That was my mistake.
I would go on to win two different championship fights. All the while my credit was being destroyed. I didn't find out until I started applying for private loans to pay for college. The rejection letters from the creditors were telling me I had a delinquency along with a list of two or three other things you don't want to see on a credit rejection letter. I had no idea what the problem could be - I didn't even have a credit card. I was forced to run a credit check, only to find that the sources of delinquency all pointed back to the same place: my gym. Apparently, the owner of the gym told me that I didn't need to pay anymore, but not the agency responsible for taking payments. For all they knew, I should have been paying all along.
After a long, patience-testing process, I finally got them to stop thinking I owed money. But the damage was done. The blow my credit score took because I failed to confirm my contract cancellation cost me tens of thousands of dollars in lost loans. I am really struggling to get through school even with federal grants and full-time work. Most students resort to private loans in similar situations. I cannot. Bad credit has restricted me from taking out a line of credit from anywhere. In fact, my damaged credit score has even disqualified me from earning scholarships - those based on merit and even some based on need.
Lesson learned: when you think you have debt cleared, always check then double-check where it matters. Don't take someone's word for it. At least I got to become a champion.
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