Every milestone is worth celebrating, no matter how big or small. That’s why we partnered with Shane Co., purveyors of timeless fine jewelry, to highlight the unique stories of those celebrating special life moments. Whether they found success in following their passions or are embarking on the next chapter of their journey, we’ll learn how these individuals are commemorating each milestone — and the role their jewelry can play in marking these significant events. Ahead, a journalist and communications manager shares how she paid her way out of $20,000 worth of debt and learned new ways to fulfill her childhood calling.
For as long as Lydia Blanco can remember, she wanted to be a storyteller — though, back then, she didn’t quite have the name for it.
When she was a child, she fantasized about landing a role as prestigious as her idols: the hosts of ’90s daytime talk shows. “My dad would turn the living room into a set for me, my sister and my mom would be in the audience, and I would do the whole thing,” she reminisces. As she grew up, poetry piqued her interest and became a path she thought, one day, she might pursue. Then, she discovered journalism, eventually pursuing media studies as an undergrad.
“I’ve always had this great ambition to just stick with what I’ve really felt I’ve been called to do,” she says. “Growing up, I was focused on specific roles and job titles — host, poet, journalist — but I can now confidently say that my calling is to build community through storytelling, something all these dreams encompassed.”
After deciding that pursuing journalism on a larger scale was her best path to answering her calling, she was accepted to Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, moving to New York “on a prayer and a loan.” She worked hard throughout the program, eager to hit the ground running once it was over — and so she did, landing a role in front of the camera at a major media company, reporting on stories from all over the world. On paper, she had accomplished what she set out to do, tenfold.
But what Blanco wasn’t expecting was for her dream to cost her — and, ultimately, leave her tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
Despite working for a large, renowned company in a public-facing role while also freelancing for extra cash, she still wasn’t earning nearly enough to survive in a city as exorbitantly expensive as New York.
“I would get small pay raises, but I still had to factor in monthly rent, student loans, groceries, and the personal loan I took out to move here in the first place — all while doing the things I needed to do for my job, like going out to network, buying clothes to wear on-camera, and making sure my nails and hair were always done and presentable. All these things began to add up, and I constantly swiped my credit card to make ends meet. Next thing I knew, I was in the negatives, maxing out my credit card, then paying it down a little bit just so that I could max it out again.”
As the negatives in her account continued to rise, so did her anxiety, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that she reached her breaking point. During a time that felt uncertain for most — financially and otherwise — she realized her debt had reached $20,000. “Doing math on my personal finances became unbelievably overwhelming, and I just knew things had to change,” she says.
And, so, she took an unlikely first step in getting her finances in order: She decided to leave her job.
“I thought about all of the things my job had allowed me to do — the interviews, the travel — and I questioned whether or not I was ready to give all of that up,” she says. “But then I realized that living to my full potential and pursuing joy is more important than being this ‘known’ reporter. I asked myself, Girl, are you gonna die broke? And I made the choice not to.”
Quitting didn’t magically erase her debt, of course — the journey was long and began with putting life on pause to prioritize her mental health, something the pandemic lockdowns made possible. She found affordable virtual therapy and began working with a therapist to shift her mindset and work on her relationship to money, all while prioritizing daily walks outdoors and temporarily moving back home to spend time with family.
Once she felt ready, she slowly made her way back into journalism, this time through freelancing, and soon after, shifted career paths entirely and landed a role in tech — one that allowed her to finally start chipping away at the money she owed. “I knew there was money in tech, and then I realized that I could take my journalism skills to pivot into communications — which, in a way, is storytelling for a brand,” she says. Continuing to freelance on the side, she put every other paycheck toward her debt and prioritized making two payments per billing cycle. She cut back on other expenses that she now deemed unnecessary, like getting her nails done and going out to eat. Over the course of six months, she managed to pay off her outstanding credit card balance in full.
But even after digging herself out of debt, she was still in what she considers survival mode. “It’s this feeling of scarcity; you’re not sure how long this period of stability is going to last, so you think you have to do everything you can before it’s too late — there’s a sense of urgency and nervousness,” she says. “I constantly asked myself, If I do this or that, will I go back into debt? I wasn’t able to swipe my credit card without being afraid, despite knowing I formed habits to be able to pay things off.”
It took time — and plenty of therapy — to break free from this scarcity mentality, but she’s now in a place where she’s comfortable spending money on herself sans guilt. “It’s a form of gratitude,” she says. “Being able to celebrate myself — whether with a nice meal or piece of jewelry — is symbolic of the abundance I want to continue living in. I’m putting that gratitude out there, creating that frequency not only for myself, but for those around me.”
To celebrate this particular milestone — not only paying off her debt, but finding new ways to continue storytelling — she opted for a ring with a multitude of meanings: a 14k gold diamond link ring from Shane Co. “When I look at the links on this ring, I’m reminded of this full-circle moment that has taken place; the opportunity to be able to take care of myself while still being able to do what I love,” she says. “I’m also reminded that I’m ever-evolving. I can do whatever I want to do, I’m not limited to one story or profession.” To her, the links also represent her strength. “They’re unbreakable!”
Blanco’s life may look a bit different from what she envisioned in grad school, but she hasn’t fully given up on her journalism dream. While her 9-to-5 makes it possible for her to live comfortably, she still makes time for her passion of reporting — namely through freelancing and her podcast called The Get My Life Tour, where she interviews guests about transformative moments to help listeners, as well as herself, better understand how to navigate the realities and hardships of life.
If there’s anything she’s learned from this journey, it’s that you don’t need to give up on your calling when life throws obstacles in your path; you just need to find new ways to pursue it. “We have to be strategic and figure out more than one way to do what we love — even if it sounds exhausting, it may be the thing that really ignites your inner creativity,” she says. “Things can get challenging, life can leave us discouraged — but we must stay true to our childhood dreams.”