You know how moms are always worried their kids will end up in a ditch one day?
Well, my mom found me in one last week.
Ever since I got my full-time job in November 2016, I’ve been doing well with my money. Long-time readers will know my biggest regret is college and my biggest debt from that regret is the student loans tagged on the awful experience. Over the years I’ve struggled to make the minimum payments, which hasn’t helped me pay down my loans at all as most of the money is going toward the exorbitant interest.
But I’ve been able to build my bank account up to a healthy amount and I’ve been able to make extra payments to my loans, which has finally caused the principal and monthly payments to go down. I’ve been stuck for so long and I never thought I’d get out of the postcollege quicksand. And although I’m not free of the muck yet, I can see the light at the end of the dark, dank, depressing tunnel.
Or so I thought.
I like my car. It’s not fancy and it’s not new anymore but I bought it brand new when I first went to college and it’s carried me across many states and many states of emotion. It’s seen me laugh and cry and carry more fast food than a McDonalds drive-thru. It’s been good and although I’ve had to do the usual maintenance of replacing parts and such, it’s been very reliable.
But everything reliable will eventually decline.
I noticed an orange light flash on my dashboard a few weeks ago. I told my dad and he took it to a few places, all which said I needed a certain part. And after each part was replaced, the light went away. But only for one day. And then it came back. Not knowing what else to do, my dad said I’d need to take it back to the dealership and have them take a look at it.
A few days later, I was headed to work and stopped at a red light. When the light flashed green, I pressed the gas pedel and it was stuck. I pressed harder but it would not budge. I checked to make sure I hadn’t accidentally put it in park. Nope. Then I looked over at my dashboard and my orange light had been accompanied by a slew of new, multi-colored lights. The “oil” light, the “battery” light, the “you’re screwed” light. All of ‘em.
My car had stopped working.
As other vehicles switched lanes and passed by me, I didn’t know what else to do other than to put my hazards on. I grabbed my phone to call my mom when I noticed blue lights shining in my rearview window. I have to admit, the timing on this was pretty great.
A cop walked up to my car and I rolled down my window.
“Everything all right, son?” the man asked. He was middle-aged, sagging eyes to match his voice.
“Um, no, my car has stopped working and all these lights just popped up here,” I said as I pointed to the rainbow of warning lights.
“All right,” he said. “Well, I can push you off to the side of the road but I can’t stay as I just got a call.”
“That’s fine,” I said.
He walked to the back of my car and pushed as I steered it off the road. And without checking back with me, the cop hopped into his car and drove away.
I called my mom and she said she’d come pick me up. Thankfully, I wasn’t too far away from home. As I waited, I noticed I was getting colder. I could see my breath although I had the heater on. I pressed my palm up to the vent. Nothing was coming out. Great. At least the radio was working. Thank God I had the same Selena Gomez song on every station to keep me company. And just before a cocoon of ice formed over me, my mom pulled up and saw her baby boy trying to defrost in a ditch. I got into her vehicle, leaving behind my beloved car.
I dropped Mom off and she let me drive her car to work. What a way to start the morning.
My dad had the car hauled away and inspected. After getting more replacement parts, my car was back and I was good to go the next day. No more orange light. But the day after, it was back again. The hell.
The latest parts replacement added up to a lot of money and I’m scared to take it to the dealership and see their price tag. I know it’s got to be done but just when I had finally reached a place of financial stability, I was hit with this unexpected expense. And to salt the wound, a few days later, I got a letter from the company I have my loans with telling me my monthly payment is going to increase due to rising interest. Of course. Beautiful timing.
But I guess that’s the way it always goes. Two steps forward, ya know? I’m grateful that I can afford to have it fixed but it is a small reminder that I’m not ahead, that the plans I’ve made to get my loans paid off has hit another snag. And it sucks because I really want to feel like I have something under control.
The only thing I can do is pay off these extra debts, try. not to spend any extra money if I don’t have to, and once everything is back to normal, go back to paying off those loans. The sooner I can do that, the sooner I can focus on moving out and far, far away.
And then maybe I can actually start living.
I have to say, I’ve been working out consistently and killing it during many of the sessions. Just like I did last year, I started out on January 1st and got up and put my trainers on and poured sweat and shredded muscle tissue.
It was actually a lot easier this time around, too, because I’m used to it now.
YES. I’M USED TO IT.
Prior to last year, working out was equivalent to eating dog crap but now it’s no thang. It’s weird but kind of awesome.
That’s not to say I haven’t had my bad days. I’ll get up and go through the motions sometimes. And I used to feel bad about it because I feel like if I’m going to work out, it needs to count. I don’t want to waste my time flailing around and not burning enough calories to matter. But I saw a quote on Facebook that said something like the only bad workout is one you didn’t do. Made me feel better. Made me realize it does matter. It does count.
But, as I said, sometimes I really put 110% into the workout and by the end, I’m drenched in sweat and my body hurts and when I wake up in the morning in pain, I like it. I know it’s actually not good for you to be sore like that but it makes me feel like I really did something so I welcome the pain.
I’ve made a lot of plans for myself, mostly just little things to keep me occupied, and I’ve mostly stuck to those plans as well. I get up in the morning and make a mental list of all the things I want to do that day and truly strive to do them. I never get everything on my list done but I actually don’t mind because I know I’m at least working toward a goal.
I used to be so aimless and it saddens me to think of all the time I wasted sitting around and thinking about stuff and not actually doing anything to make those thoughts actions and make those actions accomplishments.
But that’s changed. I’ve been working on my book daily and reading daily and working out daily. I’m exercising my brain and body. I’ve been trying to go to bed early and most importantly, I’ve become a frugal mofo.
I’m ashamed to say I used to never check my bank account. I bought things without checking the price and had no budget. Believe me when I say I was not financially secure enough to do those things. In fact, last month, I finally checked my online statement and saw how dangerously low it was. I was shocked to see it a couple of thousand dollars less than what I ignorantly assumed was there. Oops.
But no more.
For the first time, I actually followed through with a resolution. I wanted to lose weight. I did. I didn’t lose as much as I wanted but that’s no matter because I still did it and consistently worked on it all year. I have not conquered my weight and I suspect I never will but I do feel I have a better grasp on it than I used to so I consider that a victory.
But I’m not done. I still want to lose more.
And I want to do more.
For 2013, I want to become more financially responsible. I’m old now and I literally cannot afford to be so careless with my spending.
I want to finish my book (and get published if possible). I’m so close already. I’ve finished writing it and I’ve done a first edit. I need to finish my second edit, write up all the changes, get some “test” readers, take their opinions into consideration, then publish that baby so I can start seeing the ones of tens of dollars roll in.
I’d like to re-discover my passion for drawing.
I want to find God again. This one is a bit ambitious since a lot of people spend their whole lives trying to find God. Not sure I can do that in a span of one year. Maybe I just mean I want to find peace with how I feel about God. Confession time: I don’t think I’m a Christian anymore. It’s not that I don’t want to be but I don’t think it’s fair to the true Jesus followers to call myself one because I would set a bad example to others. But hopefully I can either come around (still waiting for God to come around) or I will just remain agnostic or maybe I’ll go in a completely different direction and become a Buddhist.
I want to accept myself for who I am and who I will never be.
I tried the whole “alive” thing earlier this year and having a pulse hurt worse than withering. I’ve retired the resurrection and have returned to rotting. Sorry to disappoint. I’ve made peace with it, though. I don’t have time to worry about a beating heart when I’ve got bills to pay. I’ll get all that sorted out later when I can concentrate on it. For now, I’ll just continue to coast as a corpse.
Cheers to the new year.
When the store manager called me into his office, I assumed it was for another one-on-one meeting we had every week or so to discuss how my department was doing. But, when I sat down, he told me that the company was phasing out my position next year. I was a little taken aback. He told me it wasn’t because of my performance and that he had no control over the decision. I sat there, trying to process what was going on.
“I’m sure you want to go back to your former department,” he said.
I thought about it for a minute. While I didn’t exactly love my new position, I thought back to my old position and realized I didn’t miss it at all and wasn’t thrilled to go back. But, if I had no choice…
“Yes, I’d prefer that,” I responded.
“I thought so,” he said with a bit of a sigh. “Well, you know I can’t really promise you anything. The only thing I can say is you’ll get to keep your rate of pay but as you know, we’ve already moved everyone around to replace you, so…”
What was he trying to say?
“You still have five months,” he added. “Who knows what could happen in that time. Some people might find other jobs. Others will go off to school, so we might be able to fit you in somewhere.”
Might be able to fit me in somewhere? That was reassuring. If you’ll recall, I wasn’t exactly clamoring to take on supervisor of a new department and after only being given one day to decide, I went ahead and said yes. Then, I went back and told him my concerns about the new position and that I wasn’t sure I really wanted it after all. To that, he told me he had already shifted everyone around to replace me and that I would be “putting him in a bind.” Well, now he was putting me in a bind. After guilting me into taking the job, he was now saying that I wasn’t going to have it anymore, after only two months of doing it? I felt hot. I took the job because I felt bad that everyone else had been moved around to compensate for the hole I made when I left. I didn’t want to disturb anyone else’s new placement and definitely didn’t want to disappoint my boss. So, I tried to be a good employee and go with it, to ride out the mess I had put myself in. Once again, trying to be a good person ended up biting me in the butt. If I would have just told him no when I had the chance, I wouldn’t have to worry about where I’d end up, like I’m doing now. Even though I’m going to get my same pay, he can’t guarantee I’ll get the same hours.
And if that wasn’t a big enough blow to the balls, I got a letter from my student loan provider informing me they are going to raise my payments up three hundred dollars starting this month. After working nearly ten days straight, I was excited to come home and enjoy my three day weekend. I was happy to pull into the driveway, knowing that long stretch of work was behind me and I had a semi-long stretch of rest ahead of me. That is, until I saw that letter. The next day was spent trying to sort the mess out. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be. Turns out, private loan lenders are pretty much a-holes who don’t work with low income losers such as myself. I had already exhausted all of my deferments, forbearances, and interest only payment options. The lady on the phone said my only other course would be to try consolidation. So, after she patched me through to someone else, the guy on the phone calculated what my payments would be if I consolidated. The payments would be two-to-three hundred dollars more a month. Didn’t exactly help my situation or provide any sort of comfort.
The worst part was that I tried to get my mom involved and she’s just about as clueless when it comes to financial matters as I am. The first huge mistake was when she didn’t get involved in my initial loan application. Being the typical dumb-ass redneck family that we are, none of my relatives had moved on to higher education. Hardly any of them graduated high school so the concept of student loans was something that had never crossed anyone’s minds. And being the naive twenty-year old that I was at the time, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew about checking and savings accounts but that was about the extent of it. So when I asked Mom to help me find a good place to apply to, her response was, “Just apply to whoever will take you.” Thaanks.
I looked up a couple of companies my college recommended and randomly selected one. I didn’t know it was a private loan company. I didn’t even know there were different types of loans to choose from. So, I went with the same company all three years I attended college, never truly realizing how much debt I was racking up. My mom and I always assumed we’d just be able to pay back whatever we could. Another dumb assumption. Doesn’t work that way. These people are pretty ruthless and have no sympathy for unemployment or crappy retail jobs. It’s not like I’m not trying to pay back the money. I’ve been paying on it for over a year now. Never late. Never less than what I owed. But the increase will drain me of what little money I already have and I can’t live like that. But it doesn’t matter to them.
The most frustrating aspect was when I asked my mom to listen in on my conversation with the loan people, just to make sure they didn’t rope me into some plan that sounded good at first but ultimately would force me into repaying them with a goat sacrifice and my left testicle. She ended up doing more harm than good, asking inane questions that served to anger me more on top of my already short fuse after learning there was no way I could back out of the increased payments. And at one point, when the guy put me on hold, mom said she was going to take that time to use the bathroom. But she took the phone in there with her. So, I’m sitting in my room listening to soft jazz when I start to hear a soft sprinkle.
“Mom, I can hear you PEEING. On the phone!”
I’m surprised the guy didn’t come back on the line mid-stream. That would have made the whole interaction all the more disastrous. So, I spend the first day of my three day weekend trying to sort out the loan stuff but it was fruitless. I was left feeling worse than when I started. And as for now, I’m stuck paying nine hundred dollars a month when I don’t even make that much. I kind of don’t know what I’m going to do.
It just sucks because when I got my raise, I really thought that I’d be able to build my checking account back up and maybe even try to start saving. I thought maybe I could catch up on my finances and feel comfortable with my money but even with my raise, it was still a bit of a struggle to save. Then, I heard I’d be demoted and that my hours might be cut and then I hear my loans are increasing. It’s the perfect storm of screwing me over. I can’t see any way to get out of this. Unless I win the lottery. Or finalize my death. But even if I did that, my parents are cosigners so if I bite the big one, they’ll be stuck paying for my bad choices. I’d be responsible for them living under a bridge and eating dirt to pay off my loans. I don’t want to do that to them. I can’t escape it. Even in death, I can’t run from the ramifications of my terrible decisions. I can’t seem to get anything right.