Call back: “What Do You Want To Be?”

When you grow up?

At the not young age of twenty-eight, I finally have the answer: a UI designer and front-end developer. I can’t say I’m surprised.

The problem is technology is very difficult to break into, especially without a degree in computer science. It’s not impossible, but so much harder. Add design on top of it, which is not exactly notorious for being an in-demand skill, and enough said. Coding itself is endless learning, and I can’t see the day I’m ready to make a project, let alone have a job, arriving in the near or far future. Doesn’t mean I won’t try, but like my previous attempts at any job outside of warehouse and customer service so far, it’ll likely prove fruitless. All my plans for the future are made with my current wage because it’s not a good idea to bet on an income you don’t have. And no, saying “I will have X” doesn’t make it happen. I would have an unbroken family, and be an only child, if that were the case.

Coding isn’t necessary to be a UI designer, but it is necessary to be a front-end developer. I have no interest in back-end or being full-stack, so I don’t care about that. Interesting thing about college graphic design programs is most require a portfolio, which is weird to me. If you can make a portfolio, a graphic design program is likely little more than a formality. I’m attending college because I don’t have the skills and am a poor self-learner. Speaking of which, I’m envious of people who can give themselves college-esque structure. Student debt is never a concern for anyone who can learn outside of academics. Yes, I can learn outside of it. School just does it better than I can. In short, I either devote more time or more money, and the latter has a specific number, so I prefer that. Easier to network when you pay for it too. Not a guarantee, but easier.

I don’t even have my certificate from my trade school anymore. I lost it at some point, but considering how the jobs from that turned out, it’s not something I want on my resume anyway. It’s still embarrassing to be ten years out of high school and have nothing to show for it, but it’s not like there’s a reunion, so who needs to know? In truth, I’ll probably be in a warehouse for the rest of my life, but it’s still better than retail, which is a much worse fate. No one is paid enough for that nonsense.

Sometimes, I feel I want degrees and courses only because I don’t know how else to move on. As I said, I am not a good self-teacher, so those are proof I’m capable of something. Granted, bachelor’s degrees are said to be the new high school diploma, and I’m getting an associate’s, so I’m still not on par. But that’s my life in a nutshell from birth, so what else is new?

A Self-Imposed Deadline

I have a new goal: Become debt-free by 40.

Paying off my debts is already a goal, but that’s focused on my credit card debts. I want to have zero debt whatsoever. No, I don’t care about “leveraging”. Owing money in no way makes me feel good. It really serves only to give me anxiety.

Credit cards: $5,210

Community college: $3,629.10

Student loans: $27,800

Private loans: $10,392.40

Total debt: $47,031.50

So, altogether, I am in $47,031.50 worth of debt at this moment. My 28th birthday is in next month, which means I am giving myself twelve years to pay down all of this debt without accruing more.

($47,031.50 / 12 years = $3919.30 per year) / 12 months =$326.61 per month.

I’ll round it up to $330. I must give a minimum of $330 per month to my debts to be debt-free by age forty. In twelve years, that would total $47,520. Not accounting for interest.

Why did I choose age forty? Because I feel like if I don’t have my life together by that age, there is no hope for my life in any capacity. I am embarrassed to not have my life figured out when I’m nearly pushing thirty. It took me too long to figure out what I want to do as a job. It’s not a good look to have the life of a 20-year-old (school, work, living at home) while everyone else your age, older, and younger is getting married, has kids, new houses and cars, travels, and vacations. And no, that’s not an exaggeration. I’m the only one of my friends who will have completed college, and while it is something I want, it really feels like it pales in comparison because they’re in the place someone around my age is expected to be. At thirty, you’re expected to have the career, the marriage, the kid(s), the car, the house, and the trips. Not all of them have all of that, but all of them have at least one. So, what the heck am I doing? Don’t answer that.

I’m not “young and fresh” anymore. I’m not the future. I’m not a 16-year-old who everyone looks at and thinks of having a bright future ahead. I don’t have all the time in the world. On the contrary, I’m running out of it. If I wanted kids, I have no idea where I would fit them in. I couldn’t imagine where I would fit them in if I went on the standard path, so I can’t imagine how I would fit them in on the unusual path I’m on.

That said, I’ve thought about that a lot, so I want to map it out.

Ages 14 to 18 would be high school.

Ages 18 to 22 would be college.

Work right out of college, so career at 22 (I know that doesn’t always happen, but it’s presumed).

I don’t know when marriage would happen, but I wouldn’t want to marry while in college. No idea when I would meet someone, but I met my boyfriend a few months before my 21st birthday. I would want to wait at least four years before marrying (yes, I know the length of time is irrelevant; it’s a comfort thing), so let’s say 25.

Married at 25, and working for three years. I highly doubt three years is enough to consider yourself “established”. At 30, I would have eight years in the field if I didn’t stop working, but it goes without saying having even one child would interrupt that. I also wouldn’t want to have a child right after getting married. Maybe I wouldn’t wait five years, but I must admit I’m unsure how I’d plan that.

Come to think of it, no one ever says what to do after college. Go to college to get a job. After that, what do you do?

But my point stands, so I repeat: if I couldn’t figure out how to fit a child into my life when I’m doing things right, I have no clue how I’d do it when I am doing everything wrong.

Of course, with 40 being 22 years since adulthood, being debt-free and having a college degree is very little to claim for one’s self. My friends with kids will be halfway done with child-rearing by then, and will no doubt have many more accomplishments (and that of their kids) to their names. And I know it sounds weird to talk about all of this since, as I said, I don’t want kids. But I do occasionally wonder if I’m supposed to want them. The feeling didn’t really happen until one of my friends became a parent, and I sincerely like kids, so it’s not a hate thing. Of course, that would mean I want to be a parent to fit in, not because I want to be a parent, which is a terrible reason to take that plunge.

I also grew up in a family that cared excessively about their image to strangers, absolutely chastised me (and that’s putting it mildly) for not caring, simultaneously sheltered and abused me, and I faced bullying throughout my all of my K – 12 school years. So, that’s probably also influencing my thoughts.

Hopefully, this degree will lead to a job where I make enough money to afford therapy.

Disconnected

I want to emphasize I am not perfect, I never claimed to be, and I know I never will be.

However, I find the older I get and the more I learn about my family, the more disconnected I feel from them. This is especially true of my father. It amazes me how I had the best relationship with him as a kid, but as an adult, it’s the polar opposite. I suppose that’s the curse of losing one’s innocence.

The biggest barrier is my attempts to learn financial responsibility. It really astounds me no one – absolutely no one – in my (immediate) family has any clue about finances, and at this point, it’s now a case of being unable to teach an old dog new tricks. My biggest mistakes – attending college when I wasn’t ready and financing my first car with a co-signer – came out of pressure, but the upside is those mistakes made it abundantly clear my family, no matter how much I love them, are not the people to go to for life advice. Regarding cars particularly, knowing about them does not correlate with having any financial sense.

For the record, I am aware financing a car can be a good decision. However, my father makes barely more money than me (I bring in roughly $2K a month), but his car payment plus insurance nearly equals my household’s rent. And in all the years he had to save money with his late girlfriend paying most of their household expenses (including rent), he never did. Simultaneously, my dad complains constantly he hates living with his dad. Find the problem.

I taught myself planning, budgeting, and saving, and as of late, I’m learning about investing, which a good friend got me started on. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. But I reached the point I’m able to plan out a month’s worth of expenses, and move them around as needed. Though I have a bad habit of frivolous spending I’m trying to kick, I stick to my budget, including savings, and I don’t sacrifice bills for pleasure. The bit of money I spend frivolously is the remainder after all my week’s expenses are paid.

It’s indeed strange to be berated for trying to be responsible, and I feel the more I try to pull myself together and recover from my mistakes, the more distant I grow from my family. It’s truly not something I like, but have no clue how to fix. How do you re-connect with people you can’t talk to, you can’t look up to, you can’t trust with advice? I don’t mean my personal goals. I can’t talk to them about the future, about finance, about feelings, about anything. How do I re-connect without feeling like I’m making myself small?

If you know, please teach me.

“Children Are The Future!”

…until when?

This is an expression I noticed goes in a cycle.

I remember as a kid (age still in single digits) in summer camp, the counselors taught us a song about how “we” (the present kids) are the future.

My 27th birthday is next month. I don’t think I’m the future anymore.

Exactly how long are kids the future?

Legally speaking, childhood lasts until the age of eighteen. But life does not, and it goes without saying people are in their twenties (especially under 25) are considered adults only in the legal definition of the word. One of my former bosses told me I’m a baby after I told him I was 23. Barring premature death, 18-year-olds are still have a long future, but no one is singing about how young adults are the future.

No one idealizes teenagers either. In fact, the teen years are notoriously hated because they’re not adorable cherubs anymore, but they’re still too young to be (legally) kicked out of the house. Nobody gushes about cute teen clothes or posts a thousand pictures of a cute thing their teenager did (that’s a good thing!). So, I’d argue few people consider teenagers the future either. At least, not unless they’re joking the future is doomed, thanks to whatever stupid trend is currently getting attention on the internet.

That leaves kids under the age of 13. That’s a very short future.

I was born in 1994, so I’ll use that as an example. After 2007, I was no longer the future. I still had a (terrible) future, but as far as society was concerned, I was no longer “the future”.

Here’s a hopefully not-too-crazy question: Why is the future always romanticized? Why does nobody care about the present?

Presumably, the thought is the present sucks (and I wholeheartedly agree!), but the future eventually becomes the present. If the future is bright, but the present sucks, and the bright future eventually becomes the sucky present, why do we continually look forward to the future? This cycle never stops, which ultimately means it never gets better.

That was certainly a depressing revelation.

Children are the future in the sense they will grow and age over time. But at 13, 18, 25, 30, they are still the future. I’d argue anyone with at least twenty years left to live is the future. But kids are cute blank slates, so it’s much easier to picture a bright future of them before they reach that future.

Every terrible person in history started out as an innocent baby imagined to have a bright future.

It’s (not really) funny children are considered so important for the sake of the future, yet in the present, they’re treated more as things than people. My existence is the product of two people who went “oops” and didn’t know what else to do. So are their existences. And that’s the story for nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States.

Put the pitchforks down! I didn’t say unplanned parenthood equates to being a bad parent.

My point is one would rationally assume if children are the future, and it’s so important, more thought would be put into having a child than what’s for dinner next week. But until recently, having kids was thought of as more “that’s what people do”, to the point it was considered absurd to not a parent. Not having kids is more acceptable today, but there remains certain groups and people (particularly highly religious, but not always) who believe not becoming a parent equates to failing in life. The most common reason given is it’s selfish not to have them, completely ignoring the only possible unselfish reason for having a child is being forced to. Not to mention it’s completely natural to act in the interest of one’s own life. That’s the point.

The retort to that is usually it’s natural to want kids. Homosexuality is natural too, but that’s condemned to the point of being a crime in some countries. Next!

I strayed far from my original point…

To sum all this up, I agree children are the future. They can’t not be. However, they don’t stop being the future when people stop singing songs about it.

People stop being the future when there no longer is a future – bright or dystopian – to look forward to. Maybe the present sucks because more time is spent fantasizing about what can be done later instead of now.

“What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?”

At seven years old: A veterinarian! (Yes, I could really pronounce that as a small kid.)

At sixteen years old: An artist.

At nineteen years old: An animator.

At twenty years old: A paid blogger?

At twenty-one years old: A livestream gamer?

At twenty-six years old: I have no idea.

My 27th birthday arrives this year. Is it too late?