Things Change, part 2

Four years later.

When I browse through my archives, I feel like I barely know the person who wrote those entries. I have a diary blog on Blogger I haven’t updated since December 2014, but keep around for the sake of looking back when I want to read my old stuff. I pity my younger self for a lot of the hopes and ideas she had, despite I had no way of knowing they’d become a disaster until they did. There have been a lot of changes, big and small. Of course, the one thing I want to change hasn’t and I’m not hopeful it will. But there are many things I couldn’t picture until they happened.

One of the biggest changes is my desire to own a house. On my diary blog, I mention wanting no less than a three-bedroom house, and no less than a five-bedroom house if I have a partner. I even entertained the thought of having a six-bedroom house! Much like my childhood dream of being a veterinarian sputtered out because I grew up to realize how much schooling is needed, my dream of owning a house died because I learned about mortgage, loans, household repairs, property taxes, and most annoyingly, HOAs. Actually, this opinion is seven years old, but at the time, I only knew about HOAs. I am not buying a house, only to be told what I can and can’t do with it! People argue renting is bad because “you’ll have nothing to show for it at the end of your life except a bunch of rent receipts”, but I don’t care about having “to show” for strangers. If how I live my life bothers you that much, that’s your problem. I’d rather not take out a loan for the sake having a boring house to show off either. If I buy a house, I should be able to do what I please with it. If HOAs make that impossible, home ownership isn’t worth it. And no, I wouldn’t care what the neighbors think. They wouldn’t be the ones paying the mortgage or living there. If I want to paint my house with rainbow polka-dots, there should be rainbow polka-dots on the outside paneling! No arguments! I wouldn’t paint my house with polka-dots, but the point is I should have that freedom.

So, yeah, I’m cool with renting for life. May as well with all the restrictions HOAs have.

Something funny I came across in one of my early 2015 posts is referring to my boyfriend as a friend, and insisting I won’t let any more relationships go beyond friend. I sure failed at that! In my defense, I had good reasons. Nevertheless, I have no regrets, but should we ever break up, I will not enter the dating world again. As I said in that linked post, dating sucks.

On my diary blog, I claimed I wouldn’t return to college if I had to take out loans, and when I did return to college, I wouldn’t study IT. Do I really need to say that proved to be a huge falsehood? It goes without saying! No regrets about that one being wrong either. I hate I have loans, but $12,000 is manageable. It was worth that certificate.

Above all, I think what makes me really different from the person started this blog and my old diary one is I don’t feel so hopeless anymore. Perhaps not here, but many of the diary posts and Tumblr posts are about how I constantly feel depressed, hopeless, and want to kill myself. I think that’s what’s really unrecognizable. Of course, I still have bad days and bad times, but I no longer wake up to wish I had died overnight. I travel when I need to, I work, I spend time with people I love when I can, I stay out late, I have money, and I now have a certificate. All of that probably makes a big difference.

Among the smaller changes: I gave up drawing to focus on writing because I never was passionate about the former, I’ve had Cities: Skylines for four years and don’t play it anymore, I don’t care for Pokemon anymore (I didn’t enjoy the Let’s Go games, and the price jump from $40 to $60 didn’t help; I like Pokemon, but the games aren’t worth $60, and I don’t like the eighth generation starters either, meaning the last generation I liked was the seventh), and I refuse to allow my retail job to take over my life anymore. Maybe that last one isn’t a small change, but for me, it was as simple as not going in extra every time I’m asked. I remember when I was so excited to have my first job. Now, I’m yearning to leave it for a higher-paying one that isn’t retail.

I can’t think far ahead, but I look forward to the next changes that will happen over the years, assuming they are positive. I mentioned in a recent post I’m studying to finally get my driver’s license, so that’s one change I have my hopes up for. It’ll still be a long time before I can get a car, but having the license is the first step. I think at the moment, that’s the change I’m looking forward to.

 

Graduation

April 9th was the night of my graduation ceremony. My boyfriend, my best friend, my mother, and my sister attended. The latter two invited themselves, but I didn’t want to argue and they behaved. The ceremony was no more than an hour long. I didn’t receive any awards, but I did walk across the stage and receive my certificate in the end. One of my classmates (who did receivpe awards) told me not to feel bad because the awards are superficial anyway. I suppose she’s not wrong, but I still wish I got something for a special achievement.

Minus that, it was a proud night. Pictures were taken, and I got one with my boyfriend and best friend together, which is my favorite. I said I wanted to graduate college. Trade school is close enough. And I didn’t have to go for four years (or two)!

That said, though I’m glad I finished and went back despite the mishaps, I am very happy it’s over! No more school! Ever!

I am really not photogenic. Cameras hate me.

Life: The Most Complicated Race

“Life isn’t a race. Everyone goes at their own pace.”

I never found either of those phrases comforting. To me, they seemed like something to say for the sake of making someone who’s behind feel better. After all, why would anyone say those things to someone who’s ahead? It’s like telling someone whose life is going great at the moment that everything will be okay. They don’t need to hear that because everything already is okay for them.

If life were a race, it’d be an extremely complicated one.

The “right” way to live life is supposed to be finish high school at 18, finish college at 22, start a career, get married, buy a house in the suburbs (why is it always suburbs?), have kids before 30, retire at 65, and… that’s it.

Of course, nothing is wrong with that path of life, but there are too many people in the world to expect that to be everyone’s path in life. “No one size fits all”, especially when it comes to how to live. Even if you did everything in the “script”, you might not do it at the “normal” age. Some people finish high school at 16 (in fact, in European countries, 16 is the normal age to finish high school), some people start college at 20, some people start 18 and finish at 26, some people have kids in their 30s (one of my co-workers had her son at 39), you get the idea.

I’ve always been in a late bloomer in the script. Heck, you could say my script was in reverse because I loved adult shows and looked after children as a child, and I’d set myself on fire before I ever relived my childhood (another part of the “script”; you’re supposed to want to go back to childhood because it was more carefree). I finished high school at 19, dropped out of community college at 20, met my boyfriend at 21 (well, three months before I would be 21), got a soul-sucking job at 22 (that I was naïvely happy about because it was my first job), went to trade school at 24, graduated two months before I’d turn 25. That’s the end so far. My script is all screwed up, and really, it’s writing itself. If things go well, I can add “got my driver’s license at 25” to it. But judging by the “normal” life script, I am very late! I’m supposed to have a ring on my finger by now, and be walking down the aisle in a few months! Or maybe I’m supposed to be buying the house. Did I mention I hate rings, weddings, and am neutral to being a homeowner? Wait, can you build a career in four years? Isn’t that assuming you find a job immediately out of college? How do you fit “marriage, house, child” into four years? I guess, technically speaking, it’s possible, but that’d be way too fast for me.

The perhaps-not-so-ironic thing is I’ve never felt bad about being late. I used to for a while, but I usually got over it because I got something good out of it.

  • I graduated high school a year late because I was forced to transfer school districts. I had the chance to skip 11th grade, but I didn’t feel ready. If I did, I would’ve never met my best friend, who I’ve said more than once is the only good I got out of high school. We met in September 2011, meaning we’ve been friends for 7 1/2 years! That means so much more to me than graduating “on time”. And in the end, nobody cares what age I was when I finished high school. Just that I did.
  • I only went to community college because my family wouldn’t stop pressuring me. Had I stuck it out, I would’ve either flunked out anyway, or had a degree I didn’t care about. I was much more focused in trade school because I wanted to be there and I’d been away from school for a few years, which got rid of the burnout from my previous 14 years of schooling (now, I have retail burnout!).
  • Probably the only thing I’ve done “on time” is meet my boyfriend, but I don’t think there’s any “right” age to meet the person you marry (though the idea seems to be you’d meet them in college; there are people who attend college solely for that reason). However, we are not getting married any time soon. In fact, it’ll be a while before we’ve even under the same roof, let alone walking down the metaphorical (or literal) aisle. I couldn’t care less about that. My view on marriage has always been I’m open to it, but it’s not necessary for me to be happy.
  • My license. I’m currently studying for the written test, and practicing with free tests online, but whatever age I get it, it’s still a license. The reason I didn’t get it earlier is I failed driver’s ed in high school and my family couldn’t afford a car anyway, so I saw it as pointless. However, taking the “adult road” means I don’t have as many restrictions because I’m over 21. That makes me glad I waited.
  • My “career” started in retail, and I quickly discovered I don’t want it to be a career! But it’s still work experience, something I can put on a resume, and it got me through school, so I don’t regret it. Whenever I get an IT-related job, I will definitely be late on the “start a career’ checkpoint. But it’ll still be a career. Just got to find it.

Maybe the better thing to do would be teaching teenagers it’s okay to have an “abnormal” path in life,  and that everyone’s path in life won’t be the same. In the end, what age you check a box off, so to speak, really only matters to you. Yes, I wish some things happened earlier – I wish I’d gotten my license at 21 so I’d have it now, and I wish I’d met my boyfriend in our teens so we’d have more time together – but I’m not upset they happened, or are happening, at the times they did. It’s not worth being upset about. Any person it does matter to isn’t someone I want part of my life. The last thing I need help with is comparing myself.

Besides, my end goal in life is to have a life I’m happy with. That includes my boyfriend by my side, whether he’s still my boyfriend or my husband by that point, us living happily under the same roof, never worrying about money, and having jobs we enjoy and don’t drudge through. As much as I’d like it as soon as possible, I’ll go slowly if it means it’s built stronger and lasts longer.

Three Years Later

I called it.

Happy April Fool’s Day, but this post is not a prank. Counting today, my 25th birthday is in 27 days. That surreal feeling has come back and it is stronger than ever.

Actually, I think about it a lot. How my mother was a parent at my age. My mom’s birthday is in July, so she would still be 24, but at the time, she had a nearly three-year-old child (me) and was about seven months pregnant. I cannot imagine. In that post, I said I couldn’t see where I’d be at 25. I wasn’t sure this blog would still be around. Well, at 25, I’ve finished school and am looking for a job in what I studied while dealing with retail for the time being. I also have student loans and credit card debt.

I don’t know if my mom had any debt, but I know her circumstances at the time weren’t much different than mine. I try to imagine having one child, but I can never figure it out. People say “you’ll figure it out”, but I genuinely can’t. I’m barely keeping myself above water. My retail job barely covers my monthly expenses. At best, I may have an extra $10 or $20 after I cover my bills from week to week, and that’s far from enough to care for a child. Heck, just if I were pregnant, I’d be in hot water. I have health insurance, but I’ve still had to pay out of pocket for some medical expenses. What about things like pre-natal vitamins and maternity clothes? And what if I couldn’t keep working while I was pregnant? I know many women work up until just days before they’re due (I had a manager who went on maternity leave and gave birth a week later!), but not everyone can do that. Pregnancy itself isn’t a cakewalk, but some are worse than others. And it’s not free to give birth! You get a bill for giving birth in a hospital, despite that’s the safest way (statistically speaking; there is sexism around childbirth).

If I’d be in deep mud before the child arrives, I’d metaphorically drown when the kid finally is here. Sure, I don’t have to spend $300 on baby clothes they’d quickly outgrow and constantly throw up on. But a crib? Diapers? Changing pad? Stroller? Bottles (don’t say breastfeed; the kid wouldn’t be in my care 24/7 because I’d have to work)? Bibs? Formula? Daycare? That alone would be nearly an extra $1,000 a month, and that’s cheap. That’s actually more than my monthly expenses. And these would be the expenses for a healthy baby!

But it crosses my mind a lot because of the way I’m currently struggling and knowing my mom did it over 20 years ago. A popular meme I’ve read is about how having your kids young means you’ll be free in your 40s and be able to do everything you missed out on when your kids were young. The problem is that assumes you’ll be well off by the time your kids are grown, and they’ll move out at 18 and not move back in. My mom’s financial situation is no better now than it was when I was an infant, and my sister and I aren’t well off either. It may be worth mentioning my grandparents also weren’t well off. I think this is what’s called generational poverty.

I know this surreal feeling will pass, but I’ll never not be astounded that people do this. For the record, I know how my mom did it. She had government assistance. And no, I don’t think that’s shameful. But to see in twenty years, her situation hasn’t changed – and to know it’s been this way for two generations, three if I count myself and my sister without kids – is depressing, to say the least. I hear “there’s never a good time” and “you’ll never be ready”. Maybe that’s true, but if I wanted kids, I sure wouldn’t willingly have them when I couldn’t pay rent if I needed to. Maybe there really never is a good time, but I’m sure it’s a bad time when daycare alone would take more than your entirely monthly income.

For the sake of my curiosity, and my absurd enjoyment of creating lists, I’m going to add up those expenses. Let’s say I get what I can what from the store I work at.

Crib? Cheapest they have is $200.

Baby outfits? Let’s go with a set of four. Those usually cost about $8.

Bottles? We have packs of three that are about $4.

Bibs? One set has four, I think, and that’s another $4.

Stroller? An umbrella one is $20, but those aren’t exactly sturdy and probably not good for a newborn child. The sturdy ones are $50 at cheapest.

Changing pad? I can’t remember how much in-store, but according to their website, their cheapest is $15.

That’s all the necessities I could get from my job. My job is near Wal-Mart, so I could get diapers and formula from there. Lowest is a pack of 20 diapers for $5, but on average, a newborn uses around 10 diapers a day, so that’d only last two days. So, that’s $20 for a week’s worth of diapers. Baby formula, for a box of one quart, is $7, and that would last only a day (a quick Google search tells me newborns drink 2 to 3 ounces per feeding every 2 to 3 hours; a quart is equal to 32 ounces). A week’s worth of that would be $49, and that’s for 7 individual boxes. A pack is more expensive!

So, let’s add all of that up.

$200 (crib)
$8 (set of baby outfits)
$4(x2) (pack of bottles and set of bibs)
$50 (stroller)
$15 (changing pad)

Minus 15% employee discount, and the total is $238.85 before taxes. Add in the diapers ($20) and formula ($49), and the total reaches $307.85 before taxes. So, at minimum, I’m spending $300.

“But you’ll only buy one crib, one stroller, one changing pad…”

Okay, but I’ll need more clothes when my baby gets bigger, and diapers and formula for a month still total $276 (again, before taxes). Also, I need to work, so again, daycare. Using a local one here I searched, that’s over $900 a month. Round up, and baby’s expenses are about $1,200 a month, on top of my own and not including new clothes for the baby. If my retail job barely covers my expenses, where am I getting an extra $1,200 a month? Once again, this is assuming the baby is healthy and born with zero health issues.

Exactly. I have no clue and I’m not curious enough to find out. The whole idea makes my head spin. And yes, I know there are people my age and younger who are supporting kids on minimum wage jobs. I have a supervisor who does it. Let me put it this way: just because it’s doable doesn’t mean I want to find out how. And just because one person can do it doesn’t mean someone else can. Assistance doesn’t cover absolutely everything.

I’m sure this surreal feeling will pop up every so often. Maybe near every birthday. I don’t know.

I wish those who are financially struggling, with kids and without, the very best. As for myself, right now, I only wish to find a better-paying job in my field.