It’s not that I have four kids. That’s been the case for over 11 years now. It’s not that I’m happier at home, curled up watching movies with a glass of wine on a Friday night. Or that I’m more conscious about the things I put in my body every day because I worry about stuff like heart disease and diabetes. Or that I think about things like leaving a mark on this world that is more positive than negative. Or that I’m tired most days, even when I get a solid 8 hours of sleep. Or that my bones creak and grumble when I get up from sitting too long in the same position. It’s not (just) those things that make me feel old lately. But I do feel old. Well, older, anyway.
It’s funny, because I look younger than I am, I guess. Most of the time, people don’t believe me and think I’m joking. The conversation replays itself over and over again, with different people. It goes like this:
Person: How many kids do you have, Tye?
Person: Whoa! Wow! How old are they?
Me: My oldest, Jordan, just turned 20. Jessica is 17, Bryanna is 13, and my baby boy, Zachary, is 11.
Person: What?! You don’t look old enough…
Me: I suppose, technically, I’m not. At least by most standards. And yet…there they are.
Person With Math Face Now: Wait…how old are you?
Me: I’m 38.
Person: SHUT UP. I would have pegged you for [insert way-too-young-age here]. You’re joking, right?
Me: *sigh* No.
That’s the basic word-for-word conversation I have almost daily with some random person. And I get it. I’ve always looked younger than my years, and I suppose now it’s paying off. I won’t complain. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve seen every single one of these 38 years. Honestly, sometimes it feels like more.
I was at a bar the other night having drinks with friends and there was this moment when, in my head, everything slowed down for a minute and it all seemed to go in slow motion. People were laughing, talking, drinking, and having a good time all around me. I caught snippets of conversation and smiled appropriately, but I couldn’t help wondering what in the world I was doing there, and feeling like I didn’t belong at all. They all reminded me of the person I might have been, years ago, when I could still stay out all night and bounce back in the morning for a long day of work. I had to ask myself why they were hanging out with me, why I was hanging out with them (because they’re awesome, duh), and where we all fit together in the grand scheme of things. I have never felt so out of place in a space like that before, and it was a little jarring. But, at the same time, I absolutely adore the people I was with. I wanted to be there. Strange feelings were afoot, indeed.
Since then, I’ve been trying to find a balance somewhere. I don’t believe age necessarily dictates much, but I also believe we live our lives in seasons. Maybe my season is changing, and I’m lingering somewhere in the crisp, cool air that sets in at sunset in the fall, hinting at the cold winter just around the corner. Or maybe I’m just that cool breeze blowing on an otherwise sweltering summer day. Whatever it is, I’m left wondering where I fit these days.
It’s not a bad thing, necessarily. Just another bump in the otherwise quite-lovely-lately road of life.
Yes, It’s A Real Job, And No, I Won’t Do It For Free
There are a couple of things that have driven me a bit bonkers lately when it comes to the work I do, so I’m just going to vent all over this space for a minute. Bear with me.
My job – that is, the thing I get paid to do every day – is writing. After spending several years unemployed and searching desperately for a job (ANY job), I eventually spent the better part of a year (maybe more) busting my ass to build myself a career doing what I love. It took a lot of hard work, make no mistake. There were the seemingly-endless searches for gigs that would actually pay me, instead of expecting me to work for free, despite my lack of tangible experience or a college degree, so I could build enough of a portfolio to be taken seriously. There were the countless writing tests, the no-pays, and the promises of “exposure.” And then there were the places that would ask me to write something first, and THEN decide whether to pay me or not. Those ones, more often than not, did not pay me, but used my work anyway. The world of freelance writing can be brutal, indeed.
But I did it anyway. I stumbled my way through the muck and mayhem that is freelance writing, and I came out on the other side with two real jobs that pay me real money to do the thing I love. Win!
Please note there is no mention of me stumbling onto some great, but somehow still secret, way to fill out a form and make a bunch of money online. I didn’t sign up on some random website one day and find a goldmine just waiting to be tapped. I worked hard. I stayed up nights, writing my ass off and hoping I’d actually get paid when it was all said and done. I sent out query letters and cover letters and jumped through all the hoops I could find, and I dealt with clients that made me want to claw my own face off – all so I could turn the thing I love into a real career. Make no mistake – I did not come by any of this easily. I did not stumble, randomly, into any of it.
And yet, I am asked, almost daily, how someone can get in on the action. Where they can sign up to make money working from home, too. It’s a question that would never be asked of me if I had what they considered to be a “real job,” which is pretty darned insulting, but I get that people are in desperate need of work and want to know about any potential opportunities. I was there once, too. So, for anyone wondering how I’m able to make money at home, here you go:
My at-home job is not something I simply signed up to do and then started watching the dollars roll into my account. Like any job, I filled out an application, which was followed by a writing test, both of which were then submitted to the HR department of the company I now contract for. After that, I did a phone interview with the HR rep, and then another interview with the head of the Content Editing team. When it was decided I was a good fit, I was sent a contract to sign, and officially added on as a contracted employee for the company. Once it was all official, I participated in a couple of video-conference training sessions and had to go through a trial period, where my work was scrutinized by my boss, so any issues could be addressed before I was given free reign to work on accounts. I’m really good at what I do, so I was released from the trial period after my first account, which is not something they had ever done, or have done since. From that point on, I was able to access accounts from a queue – accounts that needed SEO/SEM writing done, following a strict list of guidelines, including keywords, search-engine placement protocols, etc., as well as general edits on anything the data entry team may have missed.
Then, because I’m really good at what I do, I was asked to take on a role in Quality Control, where I was in charge of reviewing and editing the work done by other content editors on the team, giving the accounts a final review before sending them off to be published. I also still worked as a content editor, so I had two positions. Over time, though, I became the person other people would specifically ask for to help in revising certain areas of accounts, because I knew the back office well enough to do it. They decided to create a whole new queue for me to work out of, called revisions. That’s what I do now.
To be clear: I have a boss I must answer to, an actual job description, a contract, and a set of expectations I must meet.
So, no, it was not as simple as signing up and earning money. It’s a job, like any job, and it’s not something just anyone can do, anymore than web design, photography, or lighting technician jobs are something just anyone can do. FYI: it’s insulting to imply otherwise. I worked hard to get here, I’m really, really good at what I do, and I didn’t find it through dumb luck.
I am just so seriously tired of needing to explain to people why my job is valid and legitimate and that it was damned hard to get here. I’m getting paid for something I’m really good at doing, and also just happen to enjoy quite a bit, which is maybe why people get confused. Who knows? But, that brings me to my second bonkers-inducing point…
No. I will not write something for you for free.
This is the second thing I get asked, pretty much constantly. So, let’s just have some fun with lists.
Reasons I’m not going to consider when you ask me to write something for free:
* I’ll get good “exposure”
* You don’t have the money, but really need something written up
* We’re friends, so I should do it
* It’s for charity
* It’s for a good cause
* You might have more work for me later on, if this works out
* It won’t take me very long
* You said ‘pretty please’
* You just really like my writing style and think it’ll work great for what you need
* We’re family
* You’re not good at it/don’t like it/don’t have time to do it/don’t want to do it
* I’m a writer, so I should want to write all the things, all the time
* You’ll buy me a drink (ok, well, maybe….)
* You’ll be ever so grateful
* Any other reason you may come up with
Now, before you think I’m just an asshole, I’m not saying that I NEVER do things for free. I do. I’m just not the first person you should come to when you want free writing work done, because more times than not, I’m going to say no. This is a stance I had to take back when I first started freelancing, and it was a hard one to take, especially for someone just starting out. I had to learn to place an actual value on my time, and ask for it, to avoid becoming that person with a lot of “exposure” but no food on the table. I couldn’t (and won’t) be known as the writer who works for free if you come up with a good enough reason. These are called boundaries, and they are really, REALLY important in any creative profession. People already think what I do isn’t real work. They already think I’m doing something anyone could do (which, ok, then don’t ask me to do it for you – do it yourself, right?). I’m not going to add to that by doing work for free, basically proving their point that it’s “just writing” and not a valid, legitimate profession, for which I (rightfully) get paid a living wage.
Here’s a good rule of thumb – if you wouldn’t ask your waiter, your mechanic, the grocery store clerk, or your barista to offer you their services for free, then don’t ask me to do it either. If you still feel entitled, I’ll just leave you with this:
That said, here is my list of reasons I WILL write something for you for free:
* I offered
* I want to
* You brought me a bottle my favorite gin or bourbon and got me drunk (I only half joke, here, but good luck on how the writing turns out lol) – which means the writing isn’t REALLY free, so there’s that.
That’s it. Just those reasons. Otherwise, if you want writing/editing/proofreading done, you can ask me to do it for you for free, but please don’t be shocked or offended when I decline.
So, just to review:
* The work I do is real, actual work. It’s a legitimate job (or two, actually) that pays me to do what I am very skilled at doing, not something I just randomly signed up for one day.
* I have reasons for not writing for free. I’m not an asshole, I just have this crazy idea that I should be paid for what I do as a profession.
We good? Good. Glad we got that out of the way.
Oh Hell No.
So, I admit I’ve been working a lot.
I haven’t had much time to sleep, let alone blog. So I might have sort of kind of let this whole thing slide more than just a little bit. I get it. But damn it, can’t I leave this thing alone for a few months (ok, ok, it was long enough to grow a whole baby) without it getting all jacked up? I mean, really.
THIS IS WHY I CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.
The site was kaput when I went to check on it tonight. I mean, as in, everything I ever posted on here, ever, was gone. Good thing I’m a smart cookie and I backed up the database before I ignored it for close to a year. So, I thought – hey, no problem! I’ll just import the database and all will be well again.
[insert hysterical laughter here]
SQL didn’t like the language I was using. Or something. What I DO know is that it took me staring at SQL code for half the night, even though I have no idea how to read SQL code, to figure it out. At last, things are back. Sort of. I’m back to a much simpler layout, and frankly, I don’t have the time or the energy that I used to have, so it’s just going to stay this way. There are posts that used to have images that no longer have them, and right now I’m on my 3rd glass of wine and just spent the past hour forcing my kid to work on math through frustration and tears (his too), and I don’t care about the stupid images. I’ll delete the angry broken squares another time. My posts are back, and that’s what counts. I assume a lot of widgets and other nonsense I no doubt stayed up toying with until the wee hours of the morning during some stretch unemployed time long ago…are also gone. One more glass of wine and I won’t care about those either.
First world problems. I know. Whatever.
You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby
About a year and a half ago, after a 6 month temp job ended, I made a decision.
After being unemployed (with the exception of the temp job) for a year and a half, I needed to do something – anything – to keep myself busy while looking for that ever-elusive permanent and full-time job offer. The unemployment checks weren’t cutting it (and were eventually going end), and a new job didn’t seem to be anywhere on the horizon. I had to do something.
I have loved writing since the day I could hold a pencil in my hand. English classes were always easy for me, and I actually enjoyed learning the rules of grammar. I looked forward to spelling and vocabulary days. For as long as I can remember, my answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was always “A writer.” Writing is, and always has been, a big part of who I am. And yet, none of my previous jobs qualified me for a position as a “real writer” anywhere. My short stint in college as a journalism major and editor in chief at the school paper helped a little, but I never graduated, so it was fluff, at best. Getting paid to write seemed impossible. It was impossible. I needed experience and education I didn’t have. Considering the crumbling economy, and the ridiculously high unemployment rate, even getting someone to glance at my resume was a joke. I couldn’t go back to school without clearing up my defaulted student loans, and unemployment checks didn’t put me in a position to make payments. I couldn’t just create experience I didn’t actually have, either (could I?).
It looked pretty hopeless, but I don’t generally take well to being told I can’t do something, so I set out to change my circumstances. Or at least give it a damned good try.
So, I decided I would dip my toes into the waters of freelance writing. I knew I wouldn’t make a lot of money doing it, at least at first, but money wasn’t really my first priority. More than anything, I wanted experience. Real, tangible experience that I could put on my resume and show to employers. When I first started out, the vast majority of my time was spent searching for work, and very, very little of it was spent doing any actual writing. I spent hours upon hours, every single day, applying to sites looking to hire writers. I sent in writing samples, revised my resume to highlight all of the writing work I had done at my previous jobs in various offices. I applied for a spot at just about every content mill and job board out there, and disregarded the snide comments from experienced freelancers who tuned up their noses at the idea of writing for so little money. I sent off letters of interest to people looking to hire writers for small, one-time projects. I put myself out there, full force, into the freelance world.
After a while, acceptance letters and offers started coming in. I got the approval to write for several well-known writing sites that paid better than the .01 cent per word content mill writing I had done before. I landed a gig writing about electronic cigarettes that paid me, on average, about $50 per week. Another gig for a site that paid $15 per published article. Then two more that paid $8 to $10 per article, and it just went on from there. When I wasn’t pumping out various, random articles during the day, I was researching and studying Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and internet marketing. Devouring information on how to increase search engine rankings, drive traffic to websites, and get customers to stay on the site longer. My business, Mod Content, was eventually born, which landed me a few higher-paying gigs. Shortly after that, I realized that many businesses would benefit from a writing/website-setup combo service, so I set out to become an expert in manipulating WordPress (I already had a lot of experience in that area, so it wasn’t a big leap). Eventually, I expanded Mod Content to include website setup and maintenance, in addition to various writing services, and more work came in. I took any and all writing work I could get my hands on. I networked like crazy, and eventually found myself published on the front page of the Seattle Gay News 2011 Pride Guide.
As great as it was to have bits and pieces of work flowing in, however, it wasn’t nearly enough to make a living out of it. In a month, I may have earned a couple hundred dollars, at best. What it did, though, is give me something solid to put on my resume. I now had tangible (and hard-earned) experience to show prospective employers. Writing experience. Marketing experience. Website experience. I had educated myself, sometimes through frustrating trial and error, on the latest trends and technical aspects of online writing. Experience that many seasoned writers still don’t possess. I had, somewhat accidentally, created a perfect cocktail of experience in both writing and technology, a blend that, though I didn’t know it at the time, is a valuable commodity to many employers.
At a time when so many companies were refusing to hire unemployed workers, I now had a current “job” I could confidently list on my resume. I finally had enough real, hands-on experience to get employers to take a serious look at my resume, something that never would have happened before. And after that, I started getting calls for interviews. Real, live interviews for writing positions at companies who were possibly interested in paying me to sit at a desk and write all day long. My dream.
Yes, I worked for pennies. Yes, I was undervalued and underpaid and probably under-appreciated. Yes, I spent hours upon hours of my own time researching, learning, and building my skills to match the current trends in writing, when I could have been working at some office somewhere as an office manager and earning a living wage. And, when this all started, there were plenty of people who would tell me I was wasting my time. I was barely getting by (sometimes not getting by), financially speaking. I sold stuff, including my car, accepted money from friends and family, and went without a lot of things, just to keep from going under. No doubt, it was a rough and brutal journey. But, you know what? I did exactly what I set out to do. I created experience where there was none, through late nights and endless searches for dozens of little gigs that eventually added up to a lot of skill and experience. I like to think of it as a self-created (very low-paid) internship. Because, when you look at it, that’s exactly what it was.
Yesterday, I was offered a job as a full-time writer at a local internet marketing company, one of several companies I interviewed with over the past few weeks. They want to pay me to sit at a desk, 40 hours per week, and do writer-type things. They even want to give me insurance and a gym membership and paid time off. It’s a real job. And when they called to offer me the position, they mentioned how impressed they were with my experience, and how excited they are to have someone with my skills join their team. Of course, I accepted.
Honestly, though, it took me a full 10 minutes to return their call. I listened to the voice mail, and then played it three more times. I was absolutely shaking, in shock and total disbelief. I cried and then I laughed and then I cried again. I just kept saying “My god. I did it. I finally did it.”
I made my dream a reality. And right now, sitting here writing this blog and reflecting back over the past year and a half, I am damned proud of myself.
As I should be.
All I Really Need To Know (I Learned Through Poverty)
In a social climate that is often focused on whether or not we should help the poor, and the 99% vs the 1%, I can’t help but reflect on my life – a life that has always, since the very day I was born, been a life of poverty.
I suppose it’s easy to see why so many people would pity me. On paper, it just doesn’t look good. You name a statistic, and I’m probably right there in them. High school dropout? Check. Teen parent? Check. Buried in debt from student loans, with no usable degree? Check. Grew up in poverty? Check. Still poor? Check. Bad credit? Check.
According to the statistics, I was doomed from day one.
But, then I look at that word: Doomed. And I realize that it implies something that, for me, just isn’t exactly true.
I mean, I suppose it would be true if everything worth value in the world revolved around money, so I can easily see why people who have it would look at me with pity, and even disdain. That is, if they look at me at all. It’s easy to get wrapped up in money, to the point that the very thought of a life without it seems insane. I get that.
But, the thing is, there are a lot of things that have come from my life of poverty. Good things. Things that have shaped me into the person I am right now. Things I would not change about myself, even if I could. I have been taught lessons I could not have otherwise learned, I have challenged myself in ways I never would have, and I have gained insights that would have been lost on me, had I lived a different life.
So, when I think about it, I don’t really see myself as the doomed one. Rather, I’m a little bit sad for the people who never learn those lessons, both about themselves, and the world.
With that, here are a few things I have learned through poverty:
Right now, at this very minute, there are dozens of things I know how to do, simply because, at some point, I had no choice but to learn. I can fix the plumbing under the sink, repair a computer, build a website, do minor repairs on a car, cut my own hair (and everyone else’s), repair holes in the walls, and install a stove hood, along with about a million other small tasks that people with more money than I have would contract out to a professional. Between Angie and I, there’s not a whole lot we need outside help with when it comes to fixing, repairing, or building things, and when we do, we can usually call on other poor people (friends or family) who have also learned the art of self-reliance. Not having a disposable income means doing it myself. If I can’t fix it (and no one in my circle of friends and family can), well, then it’s just not getting fixed. So the DIY stuff comes pretty quickly, if you want to keep enjoying the small pleasures in life, like internet and having a vehicle to get around in.
Let’s do some quick math.
844 – 500 – 135 – 30 – 25 – 35 – 200 – 40 = ?
If your answer was -121, then congratulations, you’ve just passed 3rd grade math. You’ve also gotten a glimpse at why I should not have a roof over my head, internet, a car, running water, electricity, sewage, or a phone. At least not all at once. On paper, it’s just not possible.
And yet, here I am, in my home, on the internet, with the lights on, a glass of water next to me, a toilet in the other room that flushes, and a phone that will hopefully allow me to get a job someday. How? Ingenuity, folks, plain and simple.
Knowing my resources and putting them to work for me, seeking out and doing odd jobs for friends and family when I can, along with the ever-fine-art of knowing how to juggle — bills, that is. I can prioritize bills in order of who will cut off service first, who will let me make payment arrangements, and which agencies are available to help me if it just can’t be done — and I can do it without spending hours on the phone or online, because I’ve been doing it since I was 17.
Now, I’m not saying it’s a great asset to know how behind I can get on my bills before I’m sitting in the dark or, worse, in my car because I’ve been evicted. If I had it my way, I would absolutely pay every single bill on time. But, my reality dictates a different tactic, and I have mastered it in a way that allows me to survive. Even when I shouldn’t.
The true value of people (and friendships).
To put it simply, the reason I surround myself with the people I do has nothing at all to do with what they can do for me, who their family is, what their past looks like, how much money they have, or whether we’re in the same economical class. It has everything in the world to do with the kind of people they are. They are good people. Honest people. Kind people. Generous people (and I’m not talking about money here). Loving people. AWESOME people. Truth be told, some do have money. A lot of them don’t. But they all have those crucial things in common, no matter what their bank statements say. I wouldn’t be friends with them if they didn’t. There is simply no room in my universe to place value on a person based on superficial criteria. And, as a result, I am surrounded by love, support, and genuine friendship. All the time.
How to actually be happy.
I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to insert a lecture here on the reasons money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s just too…cliche. What I will say is that being poor actively forces you to look for happiness where you might least expect it. One of the most memorable nights I can think of was spending an entire night wandering the streets of town with Angie, on foot because we had no car, just talking and laughing and being our usual silly selves. We ate breakfast in the rain under a shared umbrella before walking back to my house, and it was positively magical. Or the days we spent bicycling around town (again, no car) to run errands or just get out of the house for a while. I hate bicycling, but I still remember those days as wonderful. Why? Because I was happy.
I was (and am!) happy to have so much love in my life that literally anything we did was awesome and fun and special. I was happy to have a bicycle to get around on. I was happy to live close enough to a grocery store that we could make it work. I was happy to be forced to walk, holding hands, instead of drive, because it’s soul-lifting and romantic and just plain cute. I was happy that we had to split a beer when we went out on occasion, because we couldn’t afford two, but still had a good time.
Would I have been happier with a car? A lot of money at my disposal? Maybe, in a different way. But I would have missed out on some awesome moments. Moments I would not trade for all the world.
Anyone who has ever needed to choose between rent and electricity, or has had to drive uninsured because insurance falls too low on the priority list, or has had to stretch $20 over two full weeks, knows the stress I’m talking about. The kind of stress that keeps you up at night, staring at the ceiling, computing future money (fingers crossed) against shut-off notices. It’s a different kind of stress. It encompasses everything you do, every day, and there’s no end in sight. You walk around with this looming feeling of impending disaster hovering over you, and there’s no real solution in sight, so it just sits there, indefinitely. It’s the kind of stress that might kill a weaker soul, but not ours. Why?
Because when you’ve been poor long enough, you learn to deal with it. You have no choice. If you don’t, it will bury you alive. So you breathe in, breathe out, repeat. You take long baths. You go for walks. You play roller derby. You spend hours venting to a friend. You exercise. You sing bad karaoke. You knit or crochet or take pictures or write. You clean (if you’re one of those strange souls who actually finds cleaning therapeutic). Whatever you do, you find small ways to let the stress go, even if it’s just for a little while. You give yourself time to breathe and recover for a moment, and then you come back up again, fists flying, ready to fight your way out of this mess. One more time.
When every day is sink or swim, you learn to adapt…and swim.
Repeat after me:
“I am not my job (or lack of a job). I am not my bank account. I am not the car I drive. I am not the house I live in or the neighborhood I live in. I am not my education, or lack thereof. I am not the clothes I wear. I am not the things I own, or don’t own.
These are things, and I am not a thing. They have absolutely no bearing on my worth as a human, and to think otherwise is completely absurd.”
If there is one thing I am always acutely aware of, it’s that things can always be worse. In fact, they have been worse. This knowledge fuels my gratitude, constantly. As poor as I am, I still have a whole lot more than a lot of people do, and for that I am grateful. Every single day.
I know what it’s like to not know where the next meal will come from. I know what it’s like to wonder if you can stretch out that package of diapers just a few more days. I know what it’s like to make a loaf of bread, some cheese, and a quarter carton of milk last the rest of the week. I know what it’s like to not be able to go to a get-together, because you literally can’t afford it. I know these things, of course, because I’ve been there many times.
I also know what it’s like to have someone make dinner for me and my kids, pitch in on much-needed diapers, grab some groceries for me on their next trip to the supermarket and leave them on my doorstep, or offer to buy me coffee just so they can hang out with me. I have been on the receiving end of generosity more times than I can count, and, in turn, I give back as much as I can, when I can. I give my change away when someone asks for it on the street (and I don’t care what you have to say about it or them, so save it), I have made up the difference for a mother in line in front of me at the grocery store, given people rides, even when it’s out of my way, loaned money to friends and never asked for it back, and volunteered my time when it would help someone get through a crisis. And I didn’t do any of those things so I can pat myself on the back or be congratulated. I did them because I have been there and I know what it’s like. Sometimes, even a small favor can make a very big difference.
To me, those lessons are worth more than having all the money in the world. Even if I landed my dream job tomorrow and my financial horizon became bright and beautiful and carefree, I would treasure them and work every day of my life to make sure I never forget them. They are easily the most awesome parts of who I am as a person. Being poor is not easy and it’s not fun. It’s a lot of hard work and sleepless nights and constant stress, being poor, but, then again, that seems to be how the most beautiful things in life are forged.
So, who am I to complain?
Is Your Financial Ship Sinking? Read On.
How to keep your head above water during a financial disaster:
1. Look around you. What do you have? Are you fairly comfortable, even if you’re not sure you can maintain it? Yes? You’re one step ahead, but keep reading. No? Keep reading.
2. If you have children, are they cared for as best you can (as in, they might not have the newest game, but they aren’t hungry)? Fed? Clothed? Warm? Yes? Then you’re doing better than a lot of the world, but keep reading. No? Keep reading.
3. Look around you again. Is there something there you haven’t touched in a long time, but keep just for sentimental value? Is it worth money? Sell it. The sentiment will remain with you, I promise. If you absolutely can’t sell it, pawn it and get it back later (though you’ll get MUCH less than it’s worth).
4. Can you clean? Cook? Sew? Write? Model? Babysit? Garden? Build? Photograph? Use those skills for bits of money. Someone needs them, and you can offer them at a discount, which makes you better than the competition.
5. Do you have family and friends who could loan you money until you get back on your feet? Swallow your pride and call them. Now.
6. Do you have a plan to keep above water after any odd jobs and help from family/friends get you above water? Make one. Fast. These are usually one-time deals.
7. Do you have unnecessary expenses? Look again. What is *really* necessary? A roof? Yes. Heat, water, garbage, sewage? Yes. Food? Yes. Internet? No (unless it’s the way you make money). Car? No. (unless you *literally* can’t get by without it. Literally.) Credit card debt? Sorry, but no. A bad credit score is better than homeless. Student loans? See previous. Insurance? Better to pay it than a $500 ticket, but look again at the car issue previously mentioned. Gas? See previous. Now, what is *really* necessary? Pay that first.
8. Can you get foodstamps? Is there a foodbank nearby? Use them. USE THEM.
9. Does your county offer assistance programs for rental assistance? Utility assistance? Most do, and you should call them. Even if you’re put on a waiting list, it’s worth it to get these things paid later rather than never. There are places that offer assistance to prevent eviction, places that will pay your heating costs, places that will pay your water bill, etc. They exist for a reason. Search online for a place that services your county and call them, repeatedly, until you get some help.
10. Talk to your landlord or bank. Will they make arrangements? Can you pay a bit late? Will they waive the penalties? You’ll never know unless you ask.
11. Do you have room for a roommate? Even if it means they get the pullout couch and only pay a tiny portion of what you owe? Capitalize on it. (Note: a lot of landlords don’t allow this. Check first. Also, get money in advance. Just sayin’).
12. Take the minimum wage job you’ve been avoiding since you graduated. Just do it. When you’re without an income, ANYTHING is better than nothing.
13. Going out costs a lot. Unless someone else is footing the bill, stay the hell home. A bottle of wine is way cheaper than a night on the town, and you don’t have to figure out a ride home afterward, anyway.
14. Cook your own meals. From scratch. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass, but you’re not working, so you have the time, right? It’s insanely cheaper. Look at co-ops, local grocers, farmer’s markets, and shop the grocery store ads like a maniac. Buy only the best deals from every store. Make a day out of grocery shopping just to save some cash. No, I am not kidding. I’ve saved hundreds doing just that (even with the gas used between stores). Take a look at Frugal Mom (yes, even if you aren’t a mom or a dad or anything in between).
15. Buy used things. Thrift stores have clothes, furniture, appliances, decorations – everything you need – at a big, fat discount. No, it’s not new. No, it’s probably not “in season” or “in fashion” but you’ll be warm, have a place to sit, and a microwave to cook things. Quit complaining. Also, don’t buy anything you don’t NEED. The price may be right, but a good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t buy it at full price, even if you could, you probably don’t really need/want it.
16. Freecycle, craigslist, etc.. If you can’t find what you need at the thrift store, look at these places. Chances are you’ll find what you need.
17. Network and barter. Maybe you need a ride to an interview and have a friend who also happens to need a new scarf and you’re good at knitting. Deal. Find out what you can get in trade and go for it. Maybe you can cut hair and your friend can babysit or cook a meal or two. Make a deal.
18. Stop trying to keep up with the Jones’s. It’s old and it no longer applies. The current American dream is to get by without going bankrupt, homeless, or both. You don’t need the new iPad as much as you need a place to live. You don’t need a hybrid, no matter how much you care about the environment. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Go read it. Once you’ve got THOSE things covered, then you can move on to other things.
19. Don’t take loans you can’t pay back. If you can’t pay it back without juggling, rearranging, and consolidating, don’t do it. Look at your finances RIGHT NOW, not what you think they *might be* in a few months or a year. If you can’t comfortably pay it back on what you have right now, don’t do it. Period. Adding to your expenses is not a way to fix your situation.
20. Do not turn down a job. Ever. Even if it sucks. I’ve done this and it always ends up being a bad decision. If someone is willing to pay you for something, do it. Period. These are desperate times, after all.
21. Count your blessings. Every one of them. For every one thing you have, someone else has less. You’ve got it rough, and it sucks right now, but people have survived worse. Keep at it.
This Is My Confessional
I have a confession to make.
Well, two confessions, actually.
The first one is that I stopped giving a shit about keeping up with my blog for NaBloPoMo (if you don’t know what that is, click the link), when shit hit the proverbial fan this month.
Bigger fish to fry and all that.
The second one is a little more serious.
See, sometimes things get a little bit sticky around here, financially speaking. And also, sometimes, the financial stuff can spill over into the realm of self-worth, and that’s where things can go a little haywire. Well, this month in particular has been especially crazy. With absolutely zero money coming into my account, and about $1500 going out (if I had it, I mean). Ouch, right?
So, here’s my confession:
I actually spent some time wondering why the hell I even bother anymore. I mean, this has been 37 years of straight up crazy shit, year after year, and it makes one wonder if it’s all just a little bit futile.
If you can’t get something right after that many years, isn’t time to just call it quits?
But, of course, life just isn’t that simple.
I used to believe that if a person chose to “quit”, it was their own damned prerogative. No one’s business but their own. No one should be forced to suffer needlessly on account of anyone else’s morals. That’s what I believed for a long, long time, even after I had kids (which, I know, that makes me pretty much the most selfish person to ever walk the earth).
But then I saw this:
And then I thought….
WHAT THE LIVING FUCK ARE YOU THINKING YOU SELFISH BASTARD?!
See, my wife used to tell me that it’s impossible to know how many lives might be affected by suicide, and I used to say it didn’t matter.
But it does.
It REALLY, REALLY DOES.
So, I started thinking about some serious shit.
Like, how much i would have loved to have my mother around to ask her questions about raising kids. Even though she kind of sucked at it. I would at least have a mom to ask, right?
Because I know first hand how hard it sucks to have someone you love (like your own mom) give up and call it quits.
And how sad it would be to not help my kids get ready on their wedding days. Or see my grandchildren, if I ever have any, and teach them all how to make the most amazing tamales in the world.
Because seriously, my tamales are amazing.
And then I thought about how angry they would all be. My wife, my kids, my friends.
All the people who always told me how strong I am.
I mean, I know there would be a few moments of sadness at the loss.
But, after that. Years after. When my daughters are up in the middle of the night with their babies and wishing they had a mom to call to find out what the hell to do to make that kid stop crying.
And when my wife has moved on to love someone else, always wondering why the hell I would go and do something so completely selfish and stupid.
And when the rest of my family and friends all look back, pissed as hell that I didn’t just ask for the help I needed.
So, I realized something that has taken me a good 37 years to realize. This is really important, folks.
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT ME.
I know, I know. Shocking, right?
I mean, shocking that it took me so long to figure it out, anyway.
See, I used to be able to convince myself of all the usual things people standing at the edge of a cliff convince themselves of. Like…
“They’re better off without me.”
It just took me a while to figure out what a complete shithole of a lie that is.
I’m a bit slow on these things, what can I say?
Anyway, here’s my point. Because I do have one.
Yes. Things are downright shitty right now. They suck. A lot. But they also suck for a lot of people. People who aren’t all trying to divert their cars into oncoming traffic or something stupid like that.
And really, if we’re being honest, there are folks who have it a whole hell of a lot worse than I do.
I mean, when it comes down to it, I’m kind of being a whiny little bitch, truth be told.
I have a family who adores me, and who I adore right back. I have a community of friends who are breathtakingly awesome, all the freakin’ time. I have a roof over my head (for a while, anyway) and I have food in the fridge.
Fuck, I HAVE A FRIDGE.
And I think that’s the thing a lot of people miss along the way.
It’s really easy to get all wrapped up in crazy “problems” to the point where we just forget our blessings. And there are a lot of them.
Even when it might not seem like it. Because, heaven knows I’ve been there.
So, now it’s my hope that I can be a blessing to someone who needs it, right when they need it. I hope I can be. Because I’ve had plenty of people who have helped me along the way, many without even realizing it.
Isn’t that kind of the point, anyway?
La Dee Daa
This daily blogging thing is wearing on me. Hrm.
It’s getting to that point where I feel like I need to turn into all those blogs I absolutely hate. The ones that take you through each dreadfully boring day in excrutiating detail.
I mean, generally speaking, I like to blog when I actually have something to say. I think part of being a responsible blogger is making sure you’re not watering down your blog with useless nonsense, you know, just because you happened to sign up for some “one blog a day” thing on a whim. Now I find myself trying hard to come up with something to day, every day, throughout the entire month of November.
Today, I’ve got nothin.
Oh, except maybe my birthday, and why it ended up sucking.
Meh. Even that’s old news.
I will have something more substantial to write about tomorrow, I suspect, but for now I’m going to put this particular post out of its misery before things start getting ugly.