So You Want To Borrow Money? What Left Me Lending My Soul Instead: A Window Into A Career That Consumed Me


Wake up. Open eyes. blink off the urge to drift back into the dreamland where I was sprawled out on a beach towel in the tropics somewhere, writing an email and looking into the sand for the rates for a thirty year fixed mortgage… 6:49am. Monday morning.

Roll over. Check phone, sitting, calling to me, six inches from my face. Nine new text messages since I went to sleep at 11:48pm. Open email app. Scroll to work inbox, only thirty seven new emails so far, not bad. Seventeen of them various bank announcements, program changes or enhancements, webinar reminders, training deadline reminders, and of course the daily rate sheets for at least a dozen institutions. The rest of the emails all from clients or business partners.

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Inbox 32,456 emails. 37 UNREAD:

“What did you need from me again?” If you could get back to me before I leave for work at 6:15am tomorrow that would be great. I work a double, and so if I don’t hear from you, I won’t be able to find everything and get it for you until Wednesday eve, or Thursday when I’m off at 5pm because I have soccer practice after work Tues.” Sent 11:52pm. Sigh.

Look at the email chain. Sent the previous email last Thursday morning, attached to this client’s reply sent to me at 11:52pm just after I went to sleep! darn It! is my “List of Items Needed To Complete Your Loan.” Note to self: Call client to explain, again, I cannot move forward and submit their loan until I get ALL items on the list. Gently remind this will make nine days I’ve been waiting. Don’t sound rude. Be sympathetic. Keep her happy, make her proud she chose me. Note: let agent know might need extension once I finally get paperwork from client. Don’t sound rude. Take the blame if needed. Keep this agent happy.

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“Can you call me first thing in the morning please? I know we have not worked with each other before, so I need to get a feel for what I can count on from you with closing this loan. The clients said they have been talking to their cousin who is a banker and they aren’t comfortable with why your telling them it will be another 2 weeks to complete their loan. Oh, and I will be out of the office starting this Thurs through next Fri so cc’ing the agent handling my files while I’m gone. Just let her know what to say to the clients about why you are taking so long.” Email sent at 11:32pm. My email server must have delayed pushing that one through, I thought. I always check my inbox one last time before setting my phone to vibrate on the bedside table and closing my eyes for another restless night- interrupted by the buzzing of the East coast banks sending their daily email blasts in waves, beginning at 2am, and continuing with Midwest banks, and finally those here on the West coast by 8am and ending with my company’s rate sheets by 9am, sometimes closer to 10am if there was a pricing delay, pushing my return calls out to those clients waiting eagerly to hear what interest rate I could pull off for them single-handedly. Sigh.

Note agent will be out. Calm down upset client. Try to save deal so they don’t walk. Show agent you are better than cousin. Keep agent happy. Keep client happy. Possible dead file?

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“Mrs. Buchanan,

I am highly disappointed-   rush of panic rises in my throat, hard to swallow. HIGHLY DISSAPOINTED…

…in the amount of paperwork you seem to want from me to get this deal done. I have already provided you with the only paystubs my boss gives me. We don’t get anything printed with the amount of pay, it’s just a payroll log since I get direct deposit, I can ask the bookkeeper to print out something, but my direct deposit might not match because my boss pays me under the table for all of my overtime, I’m not sure if I mentioned that before, but it shouldn’t be a problem right? I don’t know what else you want from me, but my friend I was talking to today said he just bought a house and never had any problem with this sort of thing. Also, I can’t find the checks for my rent for months March-June. I think that is because I lost my wallet so I just paid with cashier’s check, except in May, that month I was late with the rent, but my landlord said it was cool, so that shouldn’t be a big deal to explain. He can write a letter or whatever to explain he didn’t care since I’ve paid the other months. Again, I am not sure what you want me to do, but this is starting to stress me out that you keep asking for more things. My landlord needs to know when I am moving out, and I need to know if this is happening or not. PLEASE get back to me asap. I will be at work all day tomorrow, but if you could please call me on my lunch hour to sort this all out, that is the only time I will have all day to talk. 10-10:30am. Thanks.” Sent at 5:41am. Sigh.

Check my calendar. Mandatory company training meeting from 9-11am today. Notes for this file: Last Tuesday: “Third request to borrower’s HR for verification and breakdown of employment and wages.” Last Friday: “Still no response. Call again Mon see if I can get someone else to help.” Call borrower to calm him down, explain again why we need paper trail of all income and all prior housing payments or we can’t qualify him for repayment of a home loan. Possible dead file?

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“Hello Julie, hope this email is finding you well.

I am writing to let you know that I really appreciate all you have done for me this past year in getting my credit in a better shape and teaching me what I needed to do to help improve my chances for a loan. I am sorry to tell you that my boyfriend and I have been talking with his uncle and he is pretty sure he can get us a better deal on the loan if we do it in my boyfriend’s name instead. Sorry for all the trouble, if we have any problems I will be sure to let you know. You have been so helpful and I can tell you really care about your customers. Sorry again. Oh, and can you send me my credit report and also all the papers I think he will need later today? I know our agent said we have to close by Friday, so I am hoping he can get it done in time. Should be easy for him, since we were already approved with your bank, and I think it should just transfer over right? Do you think I should tell agent we are switching at the last minute or do you mind just letting her know? Thanks again for everything! Sorry for the late email and take care!” Sent at 12:12am. Sigh.

Shake it off. Don’t take it personally. Don’t think about what this means to your budget, and to your relationship with the agent. This one was your best referral source.. was. You let her down. You let your family down..Stop the pounding in your heart. What went wrong? What did I do wrong? Should I have answered her call during dinner last week? Should I have tried harder? People just don’t understand I don’t get paid for my time, only closed loans. Reply nicely. She was so nice. I thought I had won her over. She had told me so many times how impressed and thankful she was for all of my help.. Dead file.

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“Good Morning,

I have been looking into the different area programs online, and wanted to know why I am not eligible for the zero down USDA loan that is available in the city where we are buying our condo? I know, or I think you mentioned something before about other loan options for us, but I don’t recall you ever mentioned this one and I’d like to hear more about it. If you have a moment, I’d like to also go over this paperwork you sent yesterday regarding my pay increase when I opened my own practice last year. My dental office has been open for 17 months, but I have not been showing a profit for my taxes until just last quarter. I had to show a loss up until then. Hope that helps but we can discuss this more when we speak. Also, we upgraded our options on the condo with our agent over the weekend and the sales price is now $16,125 more. I am not sure since the appraisal is already complete if that will be a problem for you to just increase the loan amount on your end. That is what we expect to happen as we don’t have any additional funds at this time towards an additional down payment. ” Sent at 8:28am. Sigh.

I am certain the last time he asked me about low-moderate income government loan programs for rural areas I explained to him he does not qualify, nor does his downtown urban condo. Gotta get this guy to trust me and stop running to Google to try to prove me wrong. Remind nicely, I am a veteran in the industry. Be confident. Don’t let him bully you. Be nice. Be nice. Be grateful. Don’t get nervous. Notes: reported taxable income is not going to match what he originally stated, re-run numbers to see if he can qualify based on actual numbers. Make sure agent is aware price change is not ok after appraisal. Be nice, keep all parties happy. Take the blame for not explaining better to client, and for expecting agent to already know this mid-loan sales increase without asking me first is a big no-no. Don’t sound condescending. Be nice when agent or client calls upset if this goes south.  Possible dead file? Shallow breathing.

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“Julie- gotta sec to chat real quick about the Smith deal? Call my cell, I’m on my way to a showing downtown. Smiths blew up last night. After 7 months, can you believe it? They walked, seller won’t pay for the repairs. Sorry. Call and I will fill you in. Not sure I can salvage since they were on the fence to begin with since they are at the top of their price range. Buyers want to know if they can get their appraisal fee back from your company? I told them I would try for them. Oh, and they already found another house they want to write on, its same price, I know you said to pay attention to staying up that high, but they love it. Oh but hey, heads up, seller is offering 5% discount for using their preferred lender, Smiths loved hearing that of course, so might be time to just cut these guys loose and you and I will catch the next one together? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news on a Monday, call me.” Sent at 9:01am. Sigh.

The Smiths were friends of mine. I referred this agent when they had trouble ever getting a hold of their last one. Better call them asap after the training call ends at 11am. Keep all happy just in case, be nice. Don’t be rude. Try to convince to still use me one last time and hope they see enough value in me to stay. What is wrong with me that people don’t think I’m worth their loyalty? Dead file.

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“Morning Jules! I had a sec and wanted to ask.. Did you remember to update my file to show I am at a new job as of next week? I am pretty sure I already told you about this, but I got a call from my old office on Friday saying they had received a call from you asking for verification of employment before my loan funds on Tuesday… I am sure I told you like a week ago that I was changing jobs, but it should be towards the end of my loan so it shouldn’t matter right? Since I’m already approved and I’m supposed to get the keys tomorrow?” I am freaking out now. I took off this whole week to move. Please call me as soon as possible. I left you a text this morning too at like 5am and I still haven’t heard back! Omg, I’m sort of freaking out now! Help! Get back to me!” Sent at 7:14am. Sigh.

Make a note to cancel file in system, and discuss that I will have to re-run loan with new job, length of employment, new wage. Explain to company why I submitted a file with incorrect employment info. Get hand slapped. Shake it off. Not your fault, you didn’t know.. Still kind of totally your fault either way. Unlock rate lock in system, apologize to manager about the fall-out for the month’s closing numbers, and wait until client can supply 30 days worth of paystubs on new job. Possible dead file? Feeling dizzy.

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“Hey there, just wanted to ask you a quick question- So, I charged our new living room furniture over the weekend, but I promise I only opened the new store card because it was zero interest, zero payments for 18 months, that shouldn’t be a problem right? The whole thing was about $4300 so it was a killer deal and with the credit promo, I just couldn’t pass it up! I hope I didn’t mess anything up on your end. I had them wait to deliver it just in case, but the lady at the store said it won’t show up as a payment or anything, so I just wanted to double check! Eek, I’m so excited to get our keys on Friday! My mom is flying up to help watch the kids while the movers are here! Let me know if my new furniture will cause any issues, I hope not!” Sent at 9:12am. Sigh.

Make a note to resubmit this file pronto with new debt to income ratio calculation. Cross fingers it’s not a decline, credit scores were already borderline due to existing excessive credit obligations.. deep breaths. Be nice to client, keep her happy, important referral from agent. Take the blame for not emphasizing well enough the importance of the “Do Not Open Any New Credit” line that you highlighted in your ‘Welcome To The Home Loan Process’ letter. Possible dead file?

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My chest already felt tight and my muscles were tensed by the time I finished typing out the last note for the last read email. This was going to be a busy day. Just like yesterday, and the day before that, and just like tomorrow. Never-ending stress. Never-ending rollercoaster of emotions and income, hinged upon other people’s choices, past decisions, moods. Weekends don’t exist for me. I had built my business on being “available every day of the week” as, “The banker who doesn’t keep bankers hours.” So, take it in stride. Get out of bed and start this day. That is a lot of dead, or at least possibly dead deals for a Monday, I thought. Clenched teeth. Set jaw. Heart racing a bit. Put on a happy face and get the kids dressed for school.

How much income have I possibly lost for my family with this morning’s emails? What am I going to do if I lose all of them? It could happen. It’s happened before. Sometimes I can perform miracles, but not every time. I’m never quite good enough to manage it all, everything. Was I supposed to pick up a poster board for bug’s science project yesterday? Or was that for tomorrow? Shoot. 

I feel like I repeat myself over and over and it never matters. People do what they want, ignore what they don’t want, and then proceed exactly how they want to anyway. Take the blame, its never their fault, even when it is.  Not the clients and not the agents. Not my company’s fault for having a slow turn around this week because they are too busy with all the other files that came pouring in, and not the seller’s fault for not disclosing that they never permitted that room addition and now the house isn’t financeable. They didn’t have to choose you. Make them happy, make them all happy.  Do what it takes. Suck it up. Be professional. Get to work on fixing these problems and hope some of them will result in a paycheck at the end. Then start all over again tomorrow and next week and next month with a new crop of files, if you can find a new crop of clients , that is. Better prove yourself, keep proving yourself, it doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been at this that means nothing to them today. Fix what is now yours to fix, be nice, hold your tongue, pull out the miracles, or nobody, none of your referrals, will send you another client ever again. Get going!

Most of the time this was how I started my weekdays. Or any day really, but because Monday holds a certain sense of “beginning” for most of us, the fervor of the emails increased on this day. I felt like for every step forward, I had to trip over myself, and then ignore what I had just tripped over- my feelings, my heart and my soul, to move forward and accomplish anything. For every step forward, I had taken at least three emotional steps backwards. A constant battle in my heart and my soul every single day.

Why did I care so much anyway? Why wasn’t I just less sensitive? What did it matter to me if people are users, time wasters and disloyal by nature? Oh ya, because I rely on them not to be, in order to feed my family. Not everyone was this way. There had been some really lovely people with the kindest intentions and the utmost consideration for my efforts, expertise, and time. Those people kept me going. Those people are few and far between in this job, in this life. I was always hopeful to meet them and that the next client would be one, but so often I was disappointed. Cynical. When had I become so cynical? When had my heart learned to skip a beat when I heard the ping of a new email, and when had I learned to respond to bad news by holding my breath? Every day was bad news. Every day was a new crisis. A setback. A misunderstanding, no a lack of understanding. Definitely not a lack of communication, always so much of that. Never-ending communication, tethering me to my work, my worth, at all hours of every single day, weekend, holiday, first day of school, it didn’t matter. Ping! Another text message. Another alert reminder for another deadline for today’s trials. Every day there was not enough time and too much to fix before my head hit the pillow and I dreamed about how to keep it all going.

Hold it all in. Keep it together. Be professional. Prove you can handle it. Don’t let it break you. Appreciate when it works out. Shake off when it doesn’t. Keep your eye on the prize.  Be grateful for Christ’s sakes. At least you are good at what you do, hold on to that. You are good, don’t let them wear you down, don’t let this infuriatingly thankless job, wear you down. You like to help people, you are good at helping people. Just keep helping. Be a better person than the competition and you will win. What am I winning? Oh yes, more days. More emails. more money. Always more money.

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What baby? Mommy wasn’t listening. Sorry, hang on I- uh, ya- just let me finish this text to this last client, ok? I just have to answer this last call and do this one last thing on the computer and then I want to hear all about the bug you saw outside on the playground today- oops, hold that thought love, I have to grab this call, go ask daddy what we should do for dinner, it’s getting late and go see what your brothers are doing please.

I did hear you.  (without looking up from my phone.) I know I need to go buy more milk for the morning. I didn’t have time today. Do you have any idea what I was dealing with today? Do you remember the Smiths? Ya, they walked today. I know, I know. Yes, they are friends. No, I can’t say that to them. They wanted to get a better deal, and they think they will with the lender the seller’s want them to use. Yes I know. I agree. What am I supposed to do, force people to use me? Ha ha. You know what I mean. Well, I guess so. I already do. They already do. I will be there in a minute, go to bed without me. I just have one more thing I need to look up, and then two more emails before I come in.

-Sorry babe. Go back to sleep. What time is it? Well, it’s really late. No nothing’s wrong. I will figure it out somehow. I got a response back on my dentist guy. Never mind. I will tell you about it in the morning.

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My heart slowly faded into a shadow of what it had once been before. Triumphs were closed loans, not lost teeth or perfect spelling tests. Failures were dead files, lost commissions, harsh words from business partners, not my missing face from the bedtime routine for the littlest tucked into his bed and learning to read.

When did money drive my every waking thought? And when did it control nearly every sleeping thought too? When did the vibration of my phone when the volume is off in the movie theater during a movie date with my husband make me jump, wondering if the news on the other end of that vibration would be good or bad? Would it result in money for my family, or an emptiness reinforcing that I am not good enough.

I let my whole world revolve around helping others. Or was I really helping? Who was I helping anyway? I cried a lot during these email sessions. Silent, big fat tears would just roll down my cheeks. Out of exhaustion, frustration, disappointment, defeat, futility, the relentless stress that was consuming me, I don’t know. I told myself it didn’t matter how they treated me, it would all be worth it after, fingers crossed and all the stars were aligned, I earned my check and they got their house.

I am not sure when the money stopped mattering to me. I am not sure when I no longer wanted to open that email app on my phone the second after I opened my eyes. Or take that phone call from another angry agent who is angry at his own life, not at me, I would tell myself. At the futility and uncertainty of his choices just as I was at mine. I’m not sure when my heart just went numb to it all, and also responded to every tiny shift. Ping. ping, ping. What now? Just take it. Let it roll off. When did it stop rolling off? Had it ever? I guess not. Time away from my family, my babies, my loves.  Away from the first moments, so many first moments, traded away forever to help people. To prove I was worth something to a thankless job that mattered more for so long than those precious lost moments with the people who mattered most.


Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t let your heart be hardened by trying to tell it not to feel. My grandfather said to me recently, “Find what you love to do, and then do that.” How simple. How freeing. How loving. How true.

Now to all those who are muttering as they read this, “Good luck.” “Fat Chance.” “How silly.” I say this-

Someday I hope you give your heart the chance it deserves to be better than what your allowing it to be, forcing it to be.  Our hearts can only be hardened by our beliefs, choices, actions, for so long. Love what you do. Whatever that is.

The saddest thing I can think of in this life is to know that unhappiness lives in your heart, slowly suffocating it with its lies- and do absolutely nothing to save it, to save yourself.

It took me a while to teach my heart not to jump every time the ping of a new email goes off. Every time my phone vibrates, or my email loads on my laptop. It took me a lot less time to recognize that same feeling in my heart, each time I see my children smile, tell me a story, or show me a bug they found in the yard. My husband says he is proud of me. I am just glad they waited for me.