What I Never Thought I’d Be Thankful For

I originally read this post over at Meadow DeVor’s blog and thought it was an interesting concept. When I was trying to think of the five things I was most grateful for, my mind kept pulling on one terrible thing and all of the growth that came out of what was at the time one of the most horrible things that had happened to me.

{and that horrible thing isn’t how when I went to finish this post I discovered the 600+ words I had finished and pictures were suddenly gone and all I had was the above paragraph}

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This will be the time that I talk (once again? I don’t know how often I’ve actually truly touched on this subject) about the time I was dumped and how I let it destroy recreate my life. When you date someone for four years, you are investing the time you’re presently spending with them, but you’re also investing in a future with them. You’re investing in the wedding that you’ve talked about, the houses you want to start looking at buying, and all that jazz that comes with the territory. Unless, of course, you’re us. In which case you’ll pretend to do those things, both be miserable, but then one of you dumps the other out of the blue after a 16 hour bus ride from a conference. Not that that happened (#ithappened). Anyway. Backstory as to what this relationship actually was – a coping mechanism.

I’m not a believer in using other people to heal. In fact, there was a huge purposeful waiting period between wonderful current bf and old bf just so that I wouldn’t accidentally use someone to cope. I began dating old bf about a week after my younger brother (who was 15) died of a cardiac aneurysm. Over the course of that 4 years, my family’s house burned down (and the family was saved by old bf), my 19 year old cousin was hit by a car and died, one of my dear friends died, another was in a major car wreck which left her with her back broken in four places, another friend committed suicide, and then there was the fact that I was already suffering from unmedicated OCD, general anxiety disorder, and major depression. Instead of trying to perform self-care and the like, I used my relationship to fill that hole. It gave me a person to be and tasks to fulfill. It gave me tangible “goals” to reach in the most unhealthy of ways.

In the aftermath of being told that I was a terrible person and the like, and being told that he never wanted to speak to me again (after spending virtually all of our time together), and dating my roommate etc…I had a really terrible time.

The bad: failed all my classes, got fired from two jobs, lost 30 lbs in less than a month, lost my leadership positions, didn’t finish graduate school applications, and disappointed myself and my family. I also went into a deep spiral of depression that I tried to cope with using extreme OCD tendencies that I already had that lasted for about a year. I also lost nearly every friend I had and felt like I had destroyed the reputation I had created for myself through years of hard work, and had destroyed my GPA in the process.

So why on earth would I be thankful for any of that?

  • It let me know who my real friends were There were people that I would have sworn up and down would attend my wedding and that now I don’t even have their phone number. And then there were the people who were stoic giants, even when I was being super crazy. The people who, two years later, are still in my life and are actually active participants in making it better.
  • It got me on a health kick – I realized at that point that I had gained about 70+ lbs dating him, and although a lot of the initial weight loss was not healthy, the difference in the way I looked, felt, and carried myself was drastic, and since then I’m down 40 lbs of that.
  • It forced me to acknowledge what love is…and isn’t – I had to acknowledge that love isn’t turning yourself into someone else to fill the other’s needs. I learned that it isn’t accepting less than what you deserve because you feel affection toward them. I learned that it’s not verbal abuse, it’s not a lack of respect or encouragement. And  I learned that you do not have to completely engulf yourself in a relationship to prove anything. I learned how to love truly and deeply without losing the love for myself.
  • It kept me from committing to a career path I wasn’t actually passionate about and has given me actual work experience – It kept me from just applying to graduate school willy-nilly because I felt like I was going to have to be the breadwinner if anything was to be done. I still haven’t graduated…and will be graduating two years later than even that year late, but in the end it doesn’t really matter. I’ve figured out a lot more about what I know and don’t know and real-world experience.
  • Lastly, it made me rediscover who I actually was as a person after that breakup, I couldn’t have even told you what my favorite color was. I couldn’t have told you my favorite television shows, my favorite games. I couldn’t even tell you what I was interested in. By being really abandoned like that, I had to go on this massive journey of self-discovery, and now I’m ten times the person I was. And instead of giving reasons like “we both like math and watch Chopped!” my favorite person gives reasons like “She knits, she makes bad jokes, etc..” and can actually appreciate the things that make me an independent entity.

So Happy Thanksgiving everyone 🙂 Sometimes it’s the things that seem the worst, and when times seem darkest, that something good is on the horizon.

Talking about the Joys

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As I lie here typing this, I can’t see the screen because Annie has decided this would be the perfect time to lay on my chest and make biscuits on my chest while licking my face (I had just eaten some candy corn, apparently she really likes candy corn). This is a joy in my life. The last few weeks I have been a Grumpysaurus Rex, from the time period of “Way too much to worry with at once.” Through this I have been snippy with my bf and roommates, sleeping way too much, and wearing dirty socks to work. In fact, a patient told me I looked like I needed a … liquid lunch (alcohol) at work today. I have been dwelling a lot on a lot of situations that resolved themselves today. I suspect some of my unhappiness had to do with a lot going on at once, and the rest with adjusting the depression meds I had started back in June. Regardless, I was dwelling way too much in the negatives.

Here are some of my recent joys:

  • I am enrolled at my university and as of the end of this semester, a single class stands between me and my diploma
  • My depression medication is 0$ under my new prescription insurance (it was previously 200$), and the dosage has been adjusted
  • I was able to lower my Discover APR by just asking.
  • The lady who works in our math department told me how good I looked and how she didn’t even recognize me
  • Now that I’ve rolled over, there’s a cat making biscuits on my back
  • I have a boyfriend who truly cares about me and is helping me learn what a healthy relationship is
  • I was able to buy my psychology book for freebies because I bought an earlier edition with a $10 gift card I got from filling out a Learnvest survey
  • The Emperor’s New Groove is on Netflix Instant Watch
  • My hair is long enough to properly hold a braid

Don’t forget to revel in the good in life. It’s there 🙂

PlaySpent

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A friend of mine from high school is currently studying to be a nurse, and they had to “play” the game PlaySpent. I had seen it before, played it, and knew the concept from a few years ago, but decided to check into it again during a slow day at work.

It almost had me in tears by the end of the month. I don’t have a child, the closest thing I have as far as responsibility for someone else’s wellbeing is the cat I share with my roommate, Annie, but despite that some of the situations hit a little too close to home. Five years ago, when I “had my life together” and was in college with a full-ride and knew exactly what I wanted to do (biomathematics PhD at UCLA to study ecological patterns), I never would have seen myself at this point in my life, without my degree, living paycheck to paycheck, -$20,000 in the hole, making minimum payments, and with not a lot decided as far as a possible career. Now this isn’t going to turn into a pity party (it may), but when I saw that yeah, I did have to make these decisions within those last months and that the descriptions of the job, housing, transportation costs, and down to the damn root canal with no insurance (which btw PlaySpent, was $1800, not $400), it caught me off-guard. 

The tearing up primarily came because I figured out I need to get my brake pads replaced…but have exactly $20 to my name until next Wednesday…despite that every penny of that check is already allocated to a bill too. And I thought about how lucky I am that my roommate and best friend is in a place where he can help me financially and truly won’t resent me for it, and how many people don’t have that.

If living like this isn’t motivation to try to work something out and achieve my September goal of finding a part-time job to make getting out of this hole a reality, then I don’t know what could be.

If you have not played this game, I highly suggest you do so. It’s great for perspective, whether it’s for where you are in life, where you have been, or where you’re trying to avoid.

Hobby Hustler

The journey of rediscovering myself since February 2012 has been a long one, and a part of that was discovering and rediscovering the things that I truly love and enjoy. Over time I have picked up and dropped hobbies, but the three main things that I list when people ask me what I do for fun are knitting, yoga, and baking, and as with any hobby, once you get really into it, it can start eating away at your wallet.

Knitting 

At anywhere from $3-$15/skein plus needles, knitting (and crocheting) isn’t the most expensive hobby in the world, but it can certainly get expensive fast, especially if you’re working on a huge project. But for me, I really just make things at random for people, or find patterns I like and then gift them after I’m finished and don’t know what to do with it (or I make things for people who are having babies – like the blanket below!). If you don’t mind, you can also sell the things you make (I’ve sold hats before) or offer to make something in exchange for them purchasing the supplies. For me, because what I made actually didn’t matter as much as the process of doing it, I started looking around for charities. Spoiler: there aren’t a lot of places looking for knit goods in Louisiana. Enter bf’s mom. Her church sponsors an organization that knits afghans and shawls for charity…and the best part? People are constantly donating yarn, so I can go, pick out a few skeins, and then give it all back after it’s been knit into something! So without buying $30 worth of yarn, I’m able to create something that will actually mean something to someone else.

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Yoga

Yoga is one of those things that everyone wants to try at least once, has read about in Eat, Pray, Love and has been around for a billion years. You can practice with work-out DVDs, Youtube, Netflix, with your friends, on the Wii Fit, or, as I prefer, at a yoga studio. But at $17/class, it gets really expensive really quickly. So I did their entry 10 classes for $20 in 30 days and was hooked. Unfortunately, there was no way I could sustainably afford the prices after that, so I started using my Wii Fit and eventually tapered off. Then as I was browsing Facebook, I saw that the studio was advertising what they call an “Energy Exchange,” which are apparently common. You work for the studio in exchange for practicing there, an hour of work for an hour of yoga. I immediately emailed them and interviewed about a week ago and got it! I had my first day yesterday and it was fantastic! The energy in that place is so positive and embracing, but also the work is very straightforward and it flew by. So instead of wishing I could spend $1200/year to practice, I can be scheduled to work the studio and then take classes whenever they fit my schedule. This can apply to a yoga studio near you, or even a gym…just seeing if your favorite place to hang out or exercise or even just be will let you work in exchange for services. It saves them the money of paying someone and you get to practice something you truly enjoy!

kitteh-yogaBaking

This one is trickier. I have found that it takes a large-scale initial investment and then the rest is just replenishing as you go along. But if you don’t have several  hundred dollars to drop on baking supplies, the really simple solution is to bake with friends. You would be surprised at what baking pans people have pilfered off of their families and what they have lying around the house. Plus what, you’re going to eat three dozen cookies by yourself? Puh-lease I do that. And to build up your collection of pans and cookie cutters (why yes, I do have pans shaped like a jack-o-lantern and a heart), you can wait until after the holidays because they go on sale like crazy. They’re also great things to ask for as Christmas presents. Then there are those people who love baked goods but do not have the ability to touch the kitchen without setting the house on fire, so you can always offer to hang out and cook for them in exchange for them providing the baking or cooking supplies.

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Good luck in your endeavors to find a way to do what you love without breaking the bank!

Good-bye Pawpaw

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Sunday will go down as the worst Mother’s Day in existence for my own mom. I woke up to her walking through the living room to get my dad and then heard them whispering in the den. Then, my dad comes to wake me up “He’s gone.” My grandpa was a strong man. He grew up during a time when life was a little harder, and even more so for the deaf community. Almost a decade ago, after losing an alarming amount of weight, we heard the doctors say the phrases no one wants to hear:

“Stage Four” “Spread to his bones” “Maybe five years”

And then, my mom had to explain to her own father how his body had turned on him. Five years turned to seven, and we were very lucky to have him for all of those.

He was a master carpenter. I have a rocking chair, a table and chair set, a little bassinet with a built in rocker that he built for me as a child. He was a force that united the deaf community in his area and beyond, to give them a voice during a time when it was even harder to establish an identity and sense of belonging in a “hearing world.” I am grateful for what his life has taught me, what I learn from my mother through him, and the ripples of positive change that echo in the world because of him.

Good-bye Pawpaw. I am in awe of the life you led and hope that I can accomplish great things like you.

Forward Thinking

72128031501624702_lRSVNnTn_c_largeEasier said than done, but I’m trying to make my heart softer in May.

I was telling bf about how my supervisor tends to jump to conclusions, and he immediately says “You jump to conclusions too.” And although he said it in a soft voice, a morning-tease voice, there was more than a peal of truth to it. And although I playfully replied “But it takes me 5 minutes to get back to where I was!” I thought about jumping to conclusions and the Phantom Tollbooth. And about how sometimes I’m incredibly nit-picky about things, expect people to be perfect, and always assume the worst…because that’s easiest. It’s easy to assume that people are out to be cruel. That they are out to be terrible. That they are sneaky and mean. And it’s not fair. It’s not fair to them. It’s not fair to me. That hardness in my heart that is from it being hurt too often, that scar tissue that keeps it from beating evenly…needs to be healed.

And although it will take time, and trust, and patience, I hope to be able to embrace the idealist that resides in me, and trust that those that I care about and are closest to do have my (as well as their) best interests at heart and do not wish to hurt me.

I know this isn’t related to personal finance, but it’s been something I’ve been struggling with greatly for the last year or so, and I’m finally ready to disassemble the fortress I have up so that I can let others in and quit being too afraid to even give the benefit of the doubt to those I love and those who care about me.

Good-bye 2011

The local news station has proclaimed 2011 to be a “meh” and “off-feeling” year; however, after reflection, it was a pretty good year for me, with only a few bumps.

2011 Year Highlights

Went to Canada! I got to travel to Canada for an internship in June & July. It was my first time leaving the country, my first time seeing real snow, and my first time touching a glacier lake (and seeing an elk!!!)

Intercontinental! Visited a total of 8 states (not including my home state)!

B+ Average! Altogether, I made about a 3.2 GPA this year; I’m pretty satisfied!

BoF was Born! Started Budget or Fudget 😉 (& made new friends) AND started actively tracking my finances 

Car! Got my first car (which has been a bit of a clunker lately, but, irrelevant!)

Career! Kept my job for the year (& got a raise) !!! Got a new job! Plus, I finally decided on a potential career, so now grad applications

2011 Year Bumps

Pets: We lost 2 treasured family pets

Fire: Our family home burned down in Nov. 2010, which isn’t 2011, but many of the repercussions are still being felt.

Injuries: My mom had 3 surgeries on her hands; 2 planned (both hands for carpal tunnel) & 1 unexpected (accident at work). My dad recovered from a combined surgery on his elbow, forearm, and hand. Other members of our family are also sick with chronic illnesses that are not going away.

There were many good things and many bad about this year, but 2012 has the potential to be much better 🙂

So Happy New Year y’all!

Woo hoo! (Actually, I don't really like fireworks. Pretty, but really really loud).