Story 25: When Life Hits You All At Once

Cameron Laird

Cameron Laird

Published on: 01 September, 2022

Amanda Heyliger

Calamity, Debt & Reinvention

Back once again for another episode of The Chirp! If you missed us last time, well you missed some piping hot drama and tea. Last episode we spoke with one of our in-house writers, Rachel Curry, about her troubles and tribulations that she had to face when dealing with the world of PPP loans. Nearly having to shut down her freelancing career, Rachel had to endure quite a lot of stress, angst, and emotion in trying to get by financially while her only glimmer of hope was being ripped away from her. It's a story for the ages, so if you haven't already check out Story 24: PPP Gone Wrong before you dive into this week's conversation.

Our story this week is certainly an exciting one. On The Chirp, we welcomed Amanda Heyliger, a mother, painter, project manager, baker, cybersecurity junkie, and best of all - a speed walker! Having a world filled with many passions, Amanda does it all, but at one point in her life, just like the things that bring her joy, a multitude of struggles forced her life to a screeching halt. With commentary about the current status of debt in America, and how she was able to navigate financial struggles herself, Amanda walks us through the virtue of what it means to keep going, whenever the going gets tough.

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This Episode In A Nutshell

Sometimes, life can get overwhelming, and suddenly at that. One day you may be planning to start a new dream job in your dream city, but without notice, all of that could change in an instant. Our guest this week, Amadan Heyliger, is no stranger to this reality. A lover of pretty much everything; art, music, technology, real estate, travel, and best of all, speed walking - Amanda walked us through the journey she had to undergo both financially and mentally during a time at which all of life's struggles came crashing down on her all at once. An awesome tale of resilience and being open to life's opportunities, Amanda reminds us that despite our struggles, there is a little bit of fun, beauty, and positivity in everything.

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Have a story to tell and want to be on our podcast? Let us know by sending an email to claird@pigeonloans.io.

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Audio Transcript of Story 25: When Life Hits You All At Once

Opening Monologue

Hello everyone, Cameron here with another episode of The Chirp: A Podcast By Pigeon Loans where we bring you fascinating conversations with interesting people about relationships and money. I’m currently outside at a lovely resort in the south of Spain bringing you some sterling conversation with my awesome guest this week. 

Amanda Heyliger is a connection of mine on Linkedin who, having seen her profile, I thought would be an awesome guest for us here on The Chirp. She is building up an impressive resume in tech and I thought it would be interesting to hear about her life and how she got into tech.

Talking to Amanda made me realize quick that her life story was far more interesting than what her Linkedin presented and I learned about her struggles in life, how she has improved her life, not just financially but in other ways as well, and while she’s not exactly where she wants to be, she’s certainly on the right track.

I also got her opinion on a big American matter at the moment with the student loan relief and it was great, as a European, to get an American’s point of view on what’s happened there at the moment. 

Laughs and life stories shall ensure so hope you all enjoy episode number 25 of The Chirp - Let’s go!

Cameron Laird 

Amanda. Thank you so much for joining me today on The Chirp. How are things with you? 

Amanda Heyliger 

Very well, thank you. Just had a really great weekend and enjoying my Monday. I like Mondays. So...

Cameron Laird 

Me too. I don't NOT like Mondays. Brilliant, Amanda. We had a call there a couple of days ago.

You've some very fascinating stories to tell, but before we get into them, would you mind telling our listeners a little bit about who you are and what you're doing at the moment? 

Amanda Heyliger 

So I am a mother of two. That's my first job. I work in tech, a little bit of consulting and cybersecurity, project management.

So that's what I currently do as a career. On the side, I create art and I love my garden and I enjoy kitchen stuff! Everything from baking to different cuisine and experimenting and trying things. So those are my hobbies. I love the outdoors. I'm an avid cyclist and a speed walker! 

Cameron Laird 

Very good. And tell me, what art do you make if you don’t mind me asking?

Amanda Heyliger 

Well, my medium is like a little bit of acryllics. Sometimes oil. I've bee, really in touch with Georgia O’Keeffe lately and enjoying a little bit of watercolor. So it's a mixed medium. Whatever my heart decides upon that day. 

Cameron Laird 

Very good. Sounds exciting. Well, listen, Amanda, we were talking about how you just recently acquired your new home.

Congratulations, first and foremost. Could you explain a little bit to us about your journey and what led up to your success, the moment about your journey up until this?

Amanda Heyliger 

Absolutely. My home ownership goal was I thought it would happen sooner than later, but, you know, once I started the process of trying to own a home, it was more lengthy than I thought. I had to save and I saved a lot by myself.

My husband at the time was in and out of the country. So we had some savings, but, you know, I started off with my rainy day fund. You know, I was renting, I was moving quite a lot with the company that I was working for at the time. It was like I was moving every year.

So it still afforded me to have a good little savings account. Time went on and I was enjoying hopping, one year here, one year there. It really gave me the experiences that I was longing for. But soon after that my significant other passed away. So, the finances and the debt that I had to deal with really became first precedence at that moment.

So I was back down to zero. And the only real thing I had was deep savings, a 401k. I had a friend who had told me a long time ago to put some money in a Roth account. So I was literally putting little bits and pieces in there. That's really all I had to myself.

So then, you know, fast forward, it just became a situation where I wasn’t gonna be able to purchase a home. There's just really like no way and then looking at the market and everything, I just felt like it was out of reach. Then the pandemic came and my daughter was born. So it was just like, where am I gonna get the money?

But through the pandemic, I really felt like if I have a home, I would be able to do different things for revenue, business ventures, and creative business ventures, it was gonna be a segue for me. So I moved from the city, where I was having this vibrant life and vibrant opportunities to Appalachia and it was affordable.

I felt safe. I felt like my children would be safe here. I felt like I would be safer here as opposed to the city. And I made that move. I knew it was affordable. And I took the little bit of savings that I had and from the savings that I had also gained through the pandemic and I put it together and made it work. 

I made sure I had to move in with my parents which as an adult, that is one of the hardest things. Ummm... 

Cameron Laird 

I know I've been there. 

Amanda Heyliger 

What you can do, especially when you've been living on your own and you have your own vibe and what you spend money on, and then I'm a millennial, so, you know, we're a different kind of people anyway, we're that segue.

So it was hard but we made it through and I'm grateful for that because it enabled me to be in the home that I am now. I'm grateful for that. It was a journey. It took me about eight years with everything that happened in my life. But we're here.

Cameron Laird 

Here we are. Well, congratulations anyway. And can you talk to me a bit over the last few years if you're comfortable with it, of course. What were the transitions like of becoming a single mother financially and all the financial dependency that you had to acquire? What was that like?

Amanda Heyliger 

There are so many different levels because I have always worked. It felt like from high school to college I was in so many different things from college, to after college, I've always been able to work and get my hands dirty at anything I wanted to do, and to be supported by that, by my significant other was great.

But then him being in and out of the country and being a dual citizen, he wasn't always here. So I still had to put in a lot of work actually. But I did have help if I felt like I was not going to be able to make certain bills or needed help with things that I wanted. So to have that disappear was traumatic and I don't have the best relationship with my family, unfortunately.

So it wasn't like something I could go and say, “Hey mom, Hey dad, let me get a loan. Let me get 20 grand. Let me get 10 grand to put down on a home”. So it was literally, you know, budgeting and resources and pulling together. 

Cameron Laird 

And you say you obviously don’t have the best relationship with your family. During this time were you were on your own, did you ask anyone for help? Did you have people there that you could lean on a bit financially or was it just all you? 

Amanda Heyliger 

I'm a strong believer in karma. And I'm a strong believer that people get put in your life at times of need, and throughout my growth, even now, I'll get these awesome people in my corner, and sometimes they only are there for a month.

Sometimes they're there for two years, but I'm not gonna say, “Oh, I did all this by myself”. I guess if someone else were to look at it, they'd be like, oh, you're a self-made king person, because I'm still rising. But you know, I would not say that because in every single place I have, I have small children, so who's gonna raise my babies?

Who's gonna help me? Who am I gonna entrust in case I have to work late? I have been truly taken care of because my kiddos are great. They've had a great upbringing. Just because of the moving they're very culturally diverse.

So I'm gonna say absolutely. I had tons of help, but it came from the most inconspicuous places, places I would've never really looked and they would just walk up to me. So, I guess that's divine right for you!

Cameron Laird 

Fantastic. And your professional life at the moment, you know, obviously things are going so great for you at the moment.

Do you enjoy working in tech and do you attribute your success, your life success at the moment to the industry that you're in? Is it financially rewarding for you? 

Amanda Heyliger 

I'll tell you, I had no idea. Okay. My trajectory was anthropology, sociology, and psychology. That was my trajectory.

I started as a music major. So I had no idea I was going into tech, but when the pandemic happened and I was managing a salon spa at the time. So it's very hands-on. And I just had my daughter, so you can imagine all the feelings that I had about this new pandemic and working all hands-on and people getting sick all the time.

I just had to let it go. So, you know, I'm sitting there and I'm like, well, this is an opportunity for me to grow. What do I need to learn more about? And I said, well, since I had left the hair industry, I really didn't feel like I knew as much tech as I should, and going forward I was just reading forums and white papers.

I need to know more about this stuff if I'm gonna last, especially with my husband being gone, I said, ‘If I am going to lead my family and change the narrative, then I need to be versed in this”. So it really started with me getting this job and seeing what I can learn.

And I was like, I'll do it for six months and I'll go do something else, you know, see what the climate brings. And now I'm like two years in and I'm like thinking about my place in tech. Is it gonna be this, that, and I'm moving towards data analytics in cybersecurity. I started researching about the security of having a job.

And then my first number one is gonna be work-life balance. I mean, I work from home. Like I don't have to go stand beside a water cooler and talk to somebody I really don't like. I can instead prep my meal for dinner later. And those things really weigh very heavily on me, especially through the pandemic and learning that it's sometimes better to just slow down a little.

Cameron Laird 

Absolutely. So I have two questions about your college life. Firstly, what type of instrument do you play or are you a singer?

Amanda Heyliger 

It was my voice classically. Yeah, I have a classically trained voice. I started when I was like nine years old and I just kept going until I was about 24. I had won a couple of gold medals in our local classical competition.

And, and then I had gone on to compete in some larger cities and I did fairly well - fourth place and stuff like that. And then I kept on listening to people: “You can't pay any bills with this”. 

I'm sad that I listen to that a little bit, but it's okay too, because you know, some things that are your hobbies are precious to you and they're not always meant to be shared with the entire world.

Cameron Laird 

Or you don't have to necessarily make, make money from them either. Mm-hmm absolutely. So I suppose you're the first American person I've spoken to after Joe Biden has given loan relief for student debts in the United States of America. What is your feeling on that? Did it affect you? Did it suit you or were you happy about it or can you speak to the general population of the country as well and how they're feeling about it?

Amanda Heyliger 

I think there are mixed feelings, I think, for some, and I'll speak generally first of course, because for some, I feel like it's not enough. Because they were told you go be a doctor, you could be a lawyer. You could do these high-powered careers to get the most absolute money. And, you know, you'll be taken care of, or you'll be able to pay it off because you'll have this high income.

I feel like a lot of the people that are upset are faced with it being just a drop in the bucket. They're really not moved by it. Now, somebody like me, I took the European approach to school. I did not go straight to college. I went abroad. I hung out. I did nothing and did a little bit of something.

I worked in people's gardens and I was doing the most for a couple years before I even backpacked. All the memories, you know, before I came back to the state, so I was able to get the pell grant, which enables me to be awarded the max amount and how I look at it is I'm grateful for anything you wanna give me, you know, you're literally taking 20k of debt away from me so okay, fine.

But it's like, instead of paying for a luxury car, it's like paying for a full-size car, you know, when I'm looking at it financially. So I'm grateful, but I feel like, in general aspects, a lot of people don't think it's enough. I think some people are happy. For some people, it took care of everything.

But if you're in a career where you went to school for something, and you thought it was going to promise you this large salary, and then you ended up, you know, working at Homegoods or working at Safeway and it's not touching what you need to spend or, or your budget then yeah, I'd be upset. I would be insulted and I think that's where a lot of people are.  

Cameron Laird 

Yeah, I read an interesting Buzzfeed article where this journalist, she interviewed different people of all ages. And there were just some horror stories of people that are six figures $140, $150,000 in debt.

And they don't think they'll ever actually pay it off in their lifetime. Do you think that this is a bit of a political stunt or a political plea for votes from Joe Biden? Or do you think that it's only a drop in the bucket or what do you think that they could be doing more?

Do you think it could be a case-by-case basis in terms of who has the most debt, or is it a blanket thing for all American citizens that they're all just getting 10k or 20k or how's it working over there? 

Amanda Heyliger 

As, as I know, you have to apply for it. So they're not just throwing it away.

It's something that you have to apply for. So I guess in that case it's a case-by-case deal, but the requirement is so broad. And like I said, because I have the Pell grant, I qualify for 10k in addition so that right there is the qualifications.

Now, do I think it's a political opportunity? Absolutely! I watch world news, so I have a vague description of what you guys know about what's going on down here. It's like THIS far away from being like madness in the street. And I think it's a way to coddle us. And in the beginning of Biden’s administration, when he was running for president-elect, that was a promise given to us!

It was supposed to be a lot more, but it was a promise. And he's gotta make due on this promise if he wants to stay or else, what other option do we have? 

Cameron Laird 

Yeah, well we could go into that, but that'd probably be a topic for another podcast! 

Amanda Heyliger 

True enough, true enough! 

Cameron Laird 

And I suppose yourself as well personally, Amanda, when it comes to relationships and debt, what's your opinion on people that are dating and maybe are meeting up with people that have debt themselves.

What place do you think that debt has in dating and relationships?

Amanda Heyliger 

That debt is a huge, huge deal. And I think it's a bigger deal for males for men because so much is riding on the balance in the institution of marriage. Debt is debt, true enough, but there's such thing as healthy debt!

And I think when they're thinking about having families, the men that are ready for families and they're ready for commitment and what have you, I think that they should let it weigh super heavy. I think finances have to be in check if you literally like want or need anything because if not, then what are you doing? 

And then for women it's in the same, right? Especially now where a lot of times women aren't depending upon a male counterpart for children for a home. So it matters for women just as heavy, if not heavier, because we don't afford the same rights as someone on the opposite side of the spectrum.

So it's huge, it's a big deal. And in dating, it makes it almost nearly as impossible because I don't know how many conversations I've had with with a man about them having to progress and needing certain things before they can. And it's a smart conversation to have but we're so weighed down by our debt it's like we can't get on with our lives. 

Cameron Laird 

Going back to your own journey as well. What advice would you give to single mothers that are in unfortunate situations, or were in unfortunate situations, like yourself? What advice can you give to single mothers who are out there on their own looking to survive financially and progress to the same standard of life now that you have for yourself Amanda? 

Amanda Heyliger 

Take care of yourself, take care of your health. Drink your water! I'll also say, be as knowledgeable as you can about your mental status and if you feel any unwavering at any moment, seek help. Therapy's great. And that's your number one - to just take care of yourself, number one. 

And number two, research. Read. Educate yourself. No one's going to do it for you. No one's coming to save you. So you're gonna have to do that for yourself. And I think once you know all this is good and your body's good and you're researching and you're reading. I think everything else will fall in its place. No matter what situation, what situation you're in.

Cameron Laird 

And can you touch on slightly how you educated yourself? What self-education did you do in these areas? 

Amanda Heyliger 

Oh, absolutely. For my industry, I read the white papers. I am active on LinkedIn. I make connections. I network, I talk, I'm at home, but now that things are chill I try to go out and do things in my community.

It's anything that you can get your hands on that it's in the realm and the spectrum of what you're doing so that you can meet people and you can network and you can learn more. So if you're into art like myself, I go to art classes or I go sip and paint, it's fun and I'm painting.

And I get something to throw on the wall, use my artistic expression, you know? So just doing the things that you like and enjoy and will find your network and find your people. 

Cameron Laird 

So your health is your wealth, knowledge is power and follow your passions. 

Amanda Heyliger 

Whoa did I say that?

Cameron Laird 

That's all good stuff! And for the future Amanda, you've achieved so many things. What are you looking to achieve now in the future? Be it for your own personal finance or your family finance or whatever it may be?

Amanda Heyliger 

So, for us, it's really about saving. I have this house it's in great condition, DIY projects for me and saving is what I wanna do. I'm looking forward to purchasing a second property. I wanna do that within the next year within three months, because I have to wait a year, so I'm working on my second property.

I just finished real estate school just so that I can understand the market a little better. I'll take my test and see where that gets me, but I just really wanted to understand the market. So I'm probably going to be dibbing and dabbling in that. 

Cyber security! I'm sticking with my tech even if it's a little side gig or trade, I'm gonna stay with that and loving all things that are beautiful!

Cameron Laird

Fantastic. Brilliant. Well, listen, Amanda, it was a pleasure having you on The Chirp and getting your take on things and listening to your story as well. If people want to get in touch on LinkedIn or add you to their network how can they find you?

Amanda Heyliger 

Oh yeah. LinkedIn, my LinkedIn is great. I would say TikTok, but it's a little controversial! 

Cameron Laird 

Yeah, maybe at the moment!

Amanda Heyliger 

Yeah. So definitely LinkedIn is the best place to find me. It's Amanda Heyliger. That's that is the. That's the place.

Cameron Laird 

That's fantastic. Well, listen, Amanda. Thank you so much for joining me today and best luck in all of your future endeavors. 

Amanda Heyliger 

Thank you. Thanks so much.

Outro Monologue

Great words of wisdom from Amanda and great to talk to someone with a lot of life experience when it comes to looking after yourself and your own. I’ve a lot of time and respect for single mothers, one of the reasons being the financial hardship and stress that comes with, not just looking after yourself, but the responsibility of another also. 

Amanda clearly has a lot of experience dealing with, not just the financial side of things but also how to keep a clear mind and positive attitude when dealing with money and I appreciated when I initially asked her for advice she would give other women in her position, she answered about her mental health; going to therapy, keeping your creativity and hobbies and passions alive. Drinking your water! That definitely resonated most with me! So aside from being wise about your finances and your debt, it’s also wise to look after yourself just as much. 

And I was quite keen to ask Amanda about the current student loan relief that’s happening because I’m quite keen to learn about it myself. Student Debt is a huge issue in America and one us Europeans find quite hard to fathom due to how extreme some of the debt can be. Not for everyone, but I have heard some serious figures.

And it’s hard not to broach this subject without getting all political but it is something I want to explore as it is a debt that affects so many Americans. I would love to talk to an expert in this area in the future about how this debt affects people and how it can be managed, not just by governmental loan relief, but how people can help each other and maybe how the situation could be improved in the future. 

Until then, I shall leave you all for another two weeks. A special thank you again to Amanda for coming on The Chirp. I’ll be back in September with our first Autumnal episode. Be sure to reach out to The Chirp if you are interested in telling your story. Stay safe, stay financially aware and I will see you all soon - Take care.