Your CAREER is Not Your LIFE





Begin Rant:

As a recent college grad (or maybe just as a Millennial, I’m not sure), I am very brainwashed into this very linear trajectory my life should be taking:

College –> Job –> Marriage/Life/Family/Happiness/Etc

All through school, we looked towards the end game.  There was a very specific path I was to follow. Finish college, then get a full-time job.  Earning a job in my career field was the light at the end of the tunnel, the yellow tape to run through, the finish line that I was to cross that signaled that my college career, my degree, and all of the blood, sweat and tears over classes to get to the fancy piece of paper at the end would all be worth it.

So much so, that even before returning to Bloomington this past weekend, I was filled with so much anxiety about not having a definitive answer to the question I knew I was going to get:

“So what are you doing now? Where are you working?!”

And I knew that I would get that question by everyone I saw (which I did) because I asked that very question myself to countless people in the years before— I am so, so sorry about, by the way.  Because, obviously, what else was the point of the college degree if it didn’t equal a job to help pay back the loans you used to get there?

When I answered that question this weekend, most answers were relatively the same:

“I have a few part time jobs, but I’m living at home for the time being.”

“I got really involved with the organization I interned with over the summer, so I’m working with them and have a few other jobs on the side.”

(and my favorite, which happened while I was slightly intoxicated)

“Oh, ya know, I’m just hanging out.”

Each answer got relatively the same reaction: A very controlled, but somber, head-nodding and a sympathetic reply that basically meant that I did not give them an answer that signaled to them that I had my life in order.

But, when I replied simply “I work for a nonprofit” the reaction was a much happier one, and had no head-nod what so ever.  Because they assumed it was a full-time job, one that I had earned with my degree in Public Health.  To them, I had reached the destination on the career conveyor belt (Gilmore Girl’s reference) that we are all on.

It has only taken me a few months out of school in my current life situation to realize that this concept of having a career is what validates you as an adult, or functioning member of society.

And how backwards is that?

Our lives should not be controlled by our careers. My life is not validated by having a full time job.  My life achievements are not measured by my resume.

How many of us have mothers (or fathers!) that have led entirely fulfilling lives while taking care of their children, making a home and a life for their family, but cast their eyes downward when they talk about their work history? “Oh, I’m just a stay at home parent.”

Or, how many people have you met with the most interesting stories who will sit and tell you all about the numerous jobs they’ve had over their lives, intermixed with the life adventures they have had that have shaped them into being the people they are in that moment you are speaking with them?

Or, how many people do you know that are in jobs they currently hate because it’s their career field, and switching to something else or finding a new job is too daunting of a task?

I’m not saying we don’t all do things that we don’t enjoy to help us pay the bills.   I don’t work two part time jobs for fun, I work them because I like food, my phone, my car, and buying lipsticks that are the wrong shade for my face.

It just really sucks to me that this is our approach to things, such as college.  A time when we should have been just enjoying learning, broadening our world views, making memories and growing up, we instead viewed as a gateway to something else.  And I hate that it took me this long to figure it out, or else I would have taken far more electives in school.

I’m not sure if I’m just having a hippie moment, or if a conversation about the future with a friend yesterday just really did a number on my brain, but I think the bottom line is that there is no right path to follow.  Your life does not start after you tick off a task on your “growing up” to-do list. Your life is always happening, and if you love your full time job and that is your life, then great.  But if you don’t, and you’re taking your time figuring out what you want to do, that’s also great.  Just because you’re not salaried doesn’t mean your life has yet to start.

I just know I don’t want to look back on my life and wish I would have figured this out sooner.  I would like to hope my family and friends don’t love me based on my resume, so I should apply the same philosophy to my own view of my life as well.

My happiness should not rest on my job title, but if I am doing something that fulfills me instead.  At the end of the day, if the sum of my experiences makes me happy, then that should be all that matters.

End rant.

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The Budget Binder You Didn’t Know You Needed

For the past few months I have been on a total saving-my-money kick.

And if you don’t count all the Chipotle, clothes, and beauty products I have purchased recently, I’m doing a really good job of it.  (I needed all of those, I swear.)

Around the end of August, I stumbled upon a free printable Budget Binder on Pinterest by the lovely Mique from Thirty Handmade Days (pronounced Mickey).  The pattern was adorable, which immediately enticed me, and I wasted no time.  Using an old binder, the printable, and my online banking, I set down to create a budget for myself and a way to monitor my money. As someone who often lacks organizational skills, this turned out to be the perfect fix for me.

With having two jobs– and now three, as I have recently been voted into the position of Director of Marketing and Media for the CSAC, hold your applause please– and especially one where my primary income is cash (waitressing), my dad wouldn’t shut up about the need for I wanted something more concrete to keep track of my finances.

I fell in love with this printable, as it not only has a weekly and monthly ledger, but also has a month-at-a-glance sheet where you can keep track of bills, and other expenses like groceries, insurance payments, etc, all in one place.  You can budget your money for the month, as well as see how much you are starting with vs. how much you end with.

I’m not going to share my actual binder, as it seems invasive (and stupid) to me to share details about my finances, but I will break down my routine using the printables and how I organize my binder:

The first tab in my binder is Weekly Ledgers.  I enter expenses on this sheet almost daily.  Whenever I spend money, or deposit money, it goes on this ledger.  Withdrawals are left normal, but deposits are highlighted in a blue highlighter I keep in the binder.   Everything gets entered on this ledger, from stopping for coffee, to cash from dog sitting, paying a phone bill, or depositing my cash tips from Applebee’s.  I have also begun to make a habit of slipping receipts (when I remember to save them) and pay stubs into the pocket of the divider at the front of this section, just in case I need to make a return or need to recall something I did.

The second tab is the Monthly Ledger.  As I don’t have many big expenses, other than bills, this has been mainly used to keep track of money coming in vs. money going out.  Each week or so, I write the date, the amount in my accounts, and the difference between the last time I recorded them.  So I tangibly see how much I am spending/bringing in and how it is adding up.  It’s not exactly what the printable was designed to be used for, as I do leave the “D/W” and description box blank, but it serves my purpose well.

The third tab is the Savings information.  I keep track of savings account information here.  Any withdrawals or deposits in my savings account gets entered here.  The end.

The fourth tab is Month-At-A-Glance.  I do follow the format on this one.  At the beginning of each month, I fill out what I can, such as expected expenses: phone bill, car insurance, car payment, credit card payment, expected budget for gas and groceries, etc. etc.  Then I fill in what my savings started at, and how much money I began the month with.  Throughout the month, I fill in some extras under “expenses”.  For example, September had some eye doctor appointments and purchasing new contacts I wasn’t expecting to get, etc. etc.  Then, at the end of the month, I fill out the ending balance for my savings, and the ending balance for the month.

This one may sound redundant, as I am already keeping track of savings vs. expenses in the Monthly Ledger, but seeing the month all splayed like this is SUPER helpful.  Seeing patterns in my spending and saving has allowed me to budget for “play money” as opposed to being in super-saver mode like I had been all summer.  It has also allowed me to be able to plan for unexpected things that may come up in the future.  Thanks to doing this, I know on average how much “surplus” I have each month after paying mandatory expenses, if (G-d forbid) anything were to happen that requires big money, I will know my capacity to handle it.

The website, Thirty Handmade Days, has a ton of other super cute and handy printables that I intend to use in my own life later on, so I recommend going to take a little browse around.  I seriously got an organizational high off of this, and it made me feel like someone who actually had their sh*t together, so I highly suggest checking it out if you need a little nudge too.

Or, if nothing else, just print them off and leave them around so other people (your parents) think you have your life together.  It’s a win-win either way.

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I Bought a Car: Introducing Beyoncé Weasley

I Bought A Car: Introducing Beyoncé Weasley

After yesterday’s marathon of car window-shopping, I all last night contemplating.  I made pro/con lists.  I looked at websites.  Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds, Google, and Consumer Reviews.

I asked friends for recommendations.  And they were super helpful.

I Bought A Car: Introducing Beyoncé Weasley

Really, just SUPER helpful.

I also tweeted, asking for advice.  Got a few serious responses from friends with much more car knowledge than I have, but also had an awkwardly chipper response from the Ford Service twitter account this afternoon.  He referenced macaroni and cheese.  It was weird.

In the end, it came down to a feeling.  I just had a Thing for the Jeep.

(Not to mention the six recalls for the Ford Escape 2014, as well as other consumer reviews about having problems, plus the problems I’ve had personally with my own 2005 Ford Escape.  But let’s just focus on the Thing for the Jeep.)

As soon as I was sure about the Jeep, Dad and I found our way over to a dealership he has used for other cars in the past, and bing-bang-boom.

Except not really.

Buying a car turned out to be a 5-hour ordeal.  There was a test-drive.  Then there was the realization that that model didn’t have a back-up camera in it, so then there was another test-drive of a slightly upgraded model.  Then there were a lot of intrusive questions about the history of Kitty, my old 2005 Ford that we traded in.

Pro Tip from Papa Miklos: They’ll find out the problems with a used car pretty quick, thanks to the Car Fax report, and just using their eyes to see the issues.  Namely, the broken brakes, air conditioner, the piece of the front bumper that was lying the backseat of the car, the rusted door-dings from years of parking it on the street and the years of bug guts caked on to the front grille.  Best answer vaguely and not give them any reason to reduce the trade-in price.

Then came the credit application, which mostly just felt judgmental.  Basically my entire short spending history was coming down to this moment: Would I be paying more in interest for this loan than the actual loan itself, or has the past few years set me up for success?

Following the application came The Wait.  Shoutout to the watered down car dealership coffee for making that go faster.

Thankfully, I got some good news.  Turns out that despite my very short history of actually having any sort of credit, I am apparently a responsible spender.  That is, if you don’t count how much I spend on Chinese food, and McDonald’s Chocolate Shakes.

Following the happy news immediately came all of the paperwork.  The loan contract, the purchasing contract, the contract signing over ownership of my Ford to them, and so on.  The financing woman was super nice, but I kept half-expecting her to dupe me somehow.  She’d explain a big of legal jargon, and then tell me where to sign, but I kept expecting her to be like “LOL, BTW, you just agreed tap dance naked every time the car needs an oil change, and you already signed for it so there is nothing you can do about it, suckaaaa.”

But, as this is real life and not a bad Disney sitcom, that never happened.  So no, there was no naked tap dance clause.  Just a lot of really official looking documents, and SURPRISE: finding out that until I finish paying off my car (in 60 months, LOL), the bank will actually own my car.  Awesome.

Finally, at 3:30pm, after 5 hours of sitting at the dealership, I got the keys.

I Bought A Car: Introducing Beyoncé Weasley

Say hello to Beyoncé Weasley.  Beyoncé because she’s just too damn fierce for her own good, and Weasley because she’s a ginger (duh).  She’s perfect.  I am in love.  The end.

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Say Yes to the… Mid-Sized SUV

Today I spent 6 hours shopping for a new car.

My beloved 2005 Ford Hybrid Escape is no longer suitable for driving.  After an emergency trip to the mechanic (in which they charged me ONE-HUNDRED DOLLARS just to diagnose the beast, but whatever, I’m not bitter) on Tuesday, it has become clear that she cannot go on.  The brakes are malfunctioning, which is SUPER fun to drive, and SUPER expensive to fix.  She also has problems with the “sway bar”– which, believe it or not, is not a ballet reference– and a shotty air conditioning which has created problems with the battery.  And for a hybrid, no battery = no car.

So, much like the 50-year-old man having a mid-life crisis, the time has come to trade her in for a newer, sexier model.

(I’m sorry.  That was inappropriate. I’ll see myself out.)

Thankfully, I’ve been planning on getting a new car for a long time.  Over a year ago, my dad generously offered to help me with a down-payment on a new one as a graduation gift (AKA, a this-is-the-last-thing-I-will-help-you-do-before-I-shove-you-from-the-nest-so-time-to-learn-to-fly-b*tch gift).  But, now that my car is heading towards that wonderful Used Car Lot In The Sky, I’ve actually had to get serious about car shopping.

Which led to today.

Three car dealerships in 6 hours.  I test-drove a Jeep, a Ford, and a Honda, and have come up with a few conclusions:

1. Shopping for cars is like Say Yes To the Dress, but much more expensive and confusing.  A lot of them are great, they feel great, look great, run well.  You may be in love with a design, but there are so many different modifications and models for that design.  Only one is your perfect fit, and you can only choose one (unless you’re rich).  And though it may look great on the hanger (or car lot), when you actually try it on it could be completely different.

2. Shopping for cars is also like sorority recruitment.  You will look at many, and they will all seem like a great fit at first, but each has their own personality.  They have many different looks, different styles, different options and opportunities.  And you should probably take notes after each experience, because they will all start to look the same after awhile.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and be yourself.  It was so nice meeting you, and good luck with the rest of Recruitment shopping!

3. Nothing is more intimidating than trying to turn left onto a street with 5 lanes while you’re test-driving an expensive brand new car with the salesman in the backseat asking you about your preference for leather or cloth seats.  Nothing.

Tomorrow is Bid Day.  The final fitting.  Are you ready to Yes to the Mid-Sized SUV?

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