When the Shit Hits the Fan

It’s Thursday.  I completely forgot until about an hour ago.  Sure, every time I look at my phone it tells me the date but I never made the connection that it was Thursday and that Thursday is when I usually post on my blog.  Oh boy.  Zombie alert!

Well, let’s see.  I started a second job this week.  Unpaid.  Also part time.  It is very exciting and interesting, but like I said, unpaid.  I guess one could call it an internship, but my official title is “Communications Consultant” which I find much more interesting than lowly intern.  (Lowly wasn’t part of the job description).

I’m working for a non-profit organization called Reach Out and Read which is a youth literacy promotion program part of the Illinois Chapter of the AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics (shameless plug? Yes. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!)  I get to be innovative and creative which is great.  I have always been a huge book lover so this is a great fit for me personally.

The paid job I currently work is going well, but I have to start at 7 am in order to get downtown for the afternoon for my other job.  This must be what adulthood feels like; getting up ungodly early, pushing through work, commuting, getting home and wanting to do absolutely nothing but knowing you have to get ready for the next day and also go to bed at a decent time.  Also, having no idea what day it is.  Ok, so adult life without kids at least.

The company that owns the chain of stores I work for announced last week that they are looking to pull out of the industry by the end of the year.  They’re going to sell their stores individually so we don’t know if our store is going to be picked up by a buyer or if it will close and we’ll all be out of jobs.  On top of all of us wondering, the company (Safeway) selling is making front page news regularly because this decision is so abrupt and potentially devastating.  Yay!

I got in my first car accident this week.  Thankfully no one was hurt and my car is repairable, but not as cheaply as I could hope for.  At least I’m alive, well, etc. etc. but I’m also poor.

Also, I’m developing a large zit on my nose that is red and makes me look like Rudolph.  I think it might be stress-induced.

Usually I try to tie together my post with a theme or advice or just a thought for the week, but honestly I’m having a hard time pulling this all together.  I guess my conclusion is yes, sometimes life can suck.  Sometimes the shit can all hit the fan at once, but your attitude can make a difference.  I personally am not nearly as freaked out about all of this week’s events as I would expect myself to be.  I think I can attribute that to being forced to be positive and polite to customers on a daily basis no matter how rude they might be or if they’re interrupting me.  You learn to just roll with it and a little perspective can help you realize what’s worth spending your energy on.  If you’re having a shitty week, I hope it gets better.  If you’re not, I’m glad!  Try to stay positive people.

Grown Up Things

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Earlier this week I spent my morning before work budgeting.  Yes, budgeting.  Typically I try to write or read during that time, but I chose to write out an itemized list of expenses.  “Woah, that sounds like too much fun!” you might be thinking; who would have thought I would get so excited about realizing I have enough in my budget to buy a gym membership?!  Huzzah!

I’ve always been a financially conscious (all I can think of after saying that is the “fiscally responsible” Kmart commercial) person and saver, especially since I grew up in a house where money was always mismanaged and lacking.  I even started working as soon as I legally could in high school so that I could be more independent financially.

Over the last year especially I have really buckled down.  I have started breaking down my purchases into categories and using a budget sheet and monthly spending sheet.  Confession: I am a list-maker.  I make lists for everything; check-lists, to do lists, shopping lists, packing lists, you name it.  Of course tracking where my money needs to go and how much I have is another list I make.  I’ve stepped up my list-making and budgeting this past year especially; last year I budgeted well enough that I had all of my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving.  Plus, I wasn’t broke or in debt because of it.  I know, I know, I’m sure there are plenty of people that do that, but how many were college-aged?  (Just let me have my moment of pride please).

I think it is important to save and be aware of how much money you have to spend.  Those numbers let you have a solid idea how much money you’ll have left for “luxury” items and fun stuff.  Personally, I love exact numbers because then I don’t feel like I’m just looking ahead into the void of the unknown.  Will I have enough money?  Oh, a bill came and I don’t have enough to cover it because I spent my money already.  When that bill comes, the person expecting the money will not be interested in an excuse that the money is already gone because of this expense or that expense.  They just want their money.

I did some research before deciding on a specific budgeting style (yes, there are multiple ways to categorize your budget!).  I’ve read some articles and there are some people out there raising families of six on less than $28,000 a year.  If those people can make that work, I can definitely make my income work for one person.

All this being said, I feel like this is one of the “adult things” that make us realize we can’t be financially irresponsible teenagers anymore.  Whimsy and spontaneity are fun, but if you need a place to live, that reality of bills and rent will catch up to you at least once a month.  Some people might even find budgeting attractive, because it means you have your shit together and could potentially support someone besides yourself.

I read an article in Chicago’s RedEye about a dating site called datemycreditscore.com where you can list your credit score on your online dating profile.  The site is described in the article as “whoever you meet there will be financially responsible—or at least skilled at playing the labyrinthine long game that is credit scoring.”  The site doesn’t seem to be hugely successful according to the article, but it does seem like a different approach to dating, especially since it has seemed like excessive purchases and overspending have been such popular messages to society before.

So, fellow “adults”, childhood might be over, but the joy and adventure that go with it don’t have to be over; you just have to be smart about your money. I recently came across a quote that instantly reminded me of my grandpa, a financially responsible man who was also the biggest kid I know.  I’ll leave you with the quote:

“A child-like man is not a man whose development has been arrested; on the contrary, he is a man who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle-aged habit and convention.”

-Aldous Huxley

Summer Blues

            July is officially over which means summer is almost over too.  This will be the first year that I won’t be returning to school in August, something that I’ve been doing since my earliest memories.  Part of me is relieved that the stresses and pressures that accompany the school year are not going to be part of my life this year, but part of me feels more anxious because it means that there isn’t a predetermined schedule or structure to my life now.  I will be doing whatever I am able to do this fall, versus doing what my major’s curriculum dictates.  It is a liberating feeling but it’s also terrifying.  Yes, I could technically do whatever I want, but that would probably mean that no one is paying me so I wouldn’t be free to live on my own or support myself or start paying off my student loans in a few months.  Stupid money; unfortunately it’s needed.  My hope is to be working a job I at least like (since I’ve learned the hard way that just because you might love a job doesn’t mean you’ll even be offered an interview for said job). 

            I guess what I’m saying is that when people ask me if I’m excited for the school year and I tell them I graduated in May and they say “Oh that’s great! You can do whatever you want!” they aren’t exactly right.  Yes, I won’t be writing papers and putting together PowerPoint’s for presentations, but I could just as easily be doing tasks just as formal because a boss asked me to.  If someone asked me, in an ideal world, what I’d want to do this year with my life I’d say that I’d like money to be no concern (meaning I have enough for my needs and some wants), and that I’d like to read and write and travel.  And run.  That doesn’t seem like too much to ask for (ha!).  One of the lessons in adulthood though is that you have to make sacrifices to provide for yourself and if you want to do even some of the things you want to do, you might have to work in places you don’t like.

            When I first started my job hunt last December I only looked at jobs that I absolutely wanted, heeding the advice to do what you love, and (somewhat foolishly) thinking that I’d automatically be considered for these positions because I had two degrees and some experience.  Well, February came with almost no contact from these employers so I tried again.  I tried applying for jobs that weren’t necessarily my first choice or something that I indefinitely wanted to pursue as a career. 

            April came, and with graduation fast approaching I became nervous that I didn’t have a job lined up.  I had met with the university’s career counselor a few times and she said I was doing everything right, that I just had to wait for someone to call me for an interview.

“Do you have a way to support yourself or someone that will support you while you wait to hear back about a job?” she asked me. 

Ummm, no.  I needed a job because I have no money; they call it “broke college kid” for a reason.  She did however point me in the direction of a local internship at a TV studio that worked with the university regularly and I applied.  I took the time to write a cover letter specifically for this position, emphasizing that I would be a great fit because of my dual degrees and awesome writing skills and, from what I remember, basically saying HIRE ME!  Maybe I over sold myself, maybe I wasn’t what they were really looking for, but needless to say I never heard from them. 

            The week of graduation in May I had come to terms with the fact that I would have to move back in with my parents, at least for the time being.  As someone who has worked to be remotely self-sufficient these last four years that was a hard idea to just accept.  Then, the day before graduation I was offered the job that I currently had at the university for the summer.  Well, it’s the day before graduation, so I’d have to find somewhere to live and since this is a part time job I probably wouldn’t make enough to afford an apartment. 

            Thankfully something worked out and I’ve been working at the school for the summer.  Because I haven’t been offered anything else though, I’ve had to face the possibility that I might have to move back to my childhood home again.  I’ve been pretty cynical this month, basically applying for anything and everything I come across whether it’s something I want to pursue as a career or not so I can try to stay on this journey to adulthood and the inescapable financial responsibilities I already have.  While filling out all of these applications I’m telling myself I’m not going to get any of these jobs, but why not try at least.  See? Not very positive.  But, I’ve stopped trying to plan out what is going to happen because, once again, I’ve been proven wrong. 

          Yesterday I got a call for an interview with a place I applied a while ago where I’d be very happy to work, and I think it’s because I finally resigned myself to stop trying to anticipate what’s going to happen.  I was so sure that I would get one of the jobs I applied for in December that I didn’t think realistically.  So, I’m going to keep my mind open and keep my options open to the best of my ability.  I think these days, for people who are planners like me, it’s so easy to get frustrated because we can’t control how quickly other people work or if they even decide to respond to a job application we applicants consider so important.  College students seem to be low on the list of people to consider for jobs, unless they are applying for a job with constant/high demand.  It seems like there is a lot of luck involved in applying for jobs too; if you know someone that can help get you a position, you have an incredible advantage over someone applying “off the street”.  I used to think that the city offered endless opportunities because of its size, but I’m learning that unless you have a connection no one really feels obligated to give you a chance.  So, to all of you looking for a job, I wish you luck.  We just have to keep trying, even if things seem like they’ll never work out.