A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

,

Conjuring Up My Financially Carefree Past Self


In 2016, I quit an academic job that I'd tried to make work for two long, difficult, and mentally draining years. My brain was basically silly putty by the end of it; I wasn't ready to jump straight into a new job. Instead, we decided to buy an RV and travel around the country for as long as possible. We sold almost all of our stuff, including our furniture, kitchenware, and most of our clothes. We loaded up what few belongings remained, and off we went to spend a sweltering (but honestly rather lovely) summer in Texas.

Looking back at past me, I'm like

via GIPHY

Our status at the time we got the hell out of Dodge:

-We had enough savings to cover a few months of expenses

-We had lots and lots of debt (see: the title of this blog)

-We had "health insurance" that probably wasn't legit, now that I think about it

-We did not have normal or reliable jobs (Fortysomething had contract work, but if I recall, it was pretty spotty; meanwhile, I was in training to teach some online courses, but since our Internet was really touch and go, I don't think I ever actually did?)

AND YET we bought (financed) an RV, traveled to various parts of the south and west, lived in state parks on the cheap (where we were often the only people there, because who vacations in Texas in July?), subsisted on ice cream and tacos, and generally had a grand old time.

I worried about tire blowouts in the middle of nowhere, the mysterious leak that emerged from beneath the sink, the cat getting carsick, and mold, but I do not remember losing sleep over finances. 

When we rolled into our current town and decided to stay, we didn't wonder whether we could make it work. We just... made it work. I got a job at REI and then at the local college. He found a teaching position. I started this blog. We got our money in order, and it was fine!

via GIPHY

Fast forward to now, the fabulous year of 2020. Fortysomething's planning to quit any day now, but he has multiple freelance contracts in the works. My job is small but steady (knock on wood). We have more in savings than ever before, and we know how to budget. 

Yet, this is me for the past week:

via GIPHY

I AM FREAKING OUT

I mean, I'm completely on board with him quitting given that we're in the midst of a global pandemic featuring a silently spreading virus that has killed more than 180,000 people in the U.S. to date, but the financially responsible me of 2020 is having trouble letting go of regular paychecks and employer-sponsored health insurance.

Although I will readily admit that 2016 me was pretty clueless in many ways, she was also more optimistic than 2020 me (understandable). She had this certainty that things would work out somehow. 

Was she financially responsible? 

Not really. 

Worse off? 

In some ways, no.

Until this past week, I didn't realize just how much my mentality has changed. I've gained a lot of knowledge, skills, and good habits, and at this point, they're pretty ingrained. But while it is indeed great to be in a better financial position four years later, I don't want to lose the part of me that was willing to take risks, either, because risk-taking has generally been a positive experience for me and my family. I also don't want to lose the part of me that was able to look uncertainty in the face and not lose sleep over it.

So, 2016 me, COME BACK! I need you and your carefree, "money isn't everything!" mentality. I can't promise that I'll stop compulsively reworking the budget, and I can't promise that you can go back to vanlife anytime soon, but with your help, I do promise to chill out a little and trust that it'll work out. 

P.S. Part of the reason I'm hyperventilating is that I didn't get that job I interviewed for. Took it a bit hard yesterday. It's probably for the best in some ways, but nevertheless, it's a bummer.

Share:

14 comments:

  1. Sometimes being responsible blows. I feel this post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I mean, honestly, it really does. I feel this comment.

      Delete
  2. I love this post, and I hope you find that side of yourself again. In my experience, things usually do work out (more or less) just fine in the end. I have no doubt you and your H will land on your feet no matter what happens.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I agree - typically things have worked out. I think I'm just extra panicky because of the added complexities and uncertainties of the pandemic.

      Delete
  3. I'm wrestling with much of the same thing to be honest. My job started out as almost too easy, ventured into reasonable territory, then into scramble mode, and is currently in impossible mode. The tipping point was our independent company being bought by a larger but shittier company. It's made me consider starting my own competing company, because I know the formula for success and they're not following it.

    Despite having another successful example of this in another community, I have those same fears you mentioned. Giving up the steady paycheck especially gives me bundles of nerves, even though I have the money to float myself for years. There's a part of me that says "Just stick it out, make it to FIRE, and then you can have the last laugh." Maybe look for a better, higher paying job when the opportunity comes up. But the other voice is growing that's telling me, you can do better than your current company, and you can crush them. You've got the business model to follow. It's quite the tug of war.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd never (or rarely) encourage anyone to take advice from me, but it sounds like you'd be well set up to take this leap if it's something you want to do! It's very hard to deal with a crappy company for years on end (but if you can stick it out to get to FIRE, that makes sense, too).

      Delete
  4. I miss the me who didn't have the slightest thought about saving for retirement, because I could, at some point, feel like I had enough money. Sometimes I was worried about running out of money (although I never have, for which I am grateful), but I could rest in the sense of having enough if I could pay my bills and put a bit away. Now I know I'll never actually have enough money, probably, and it's hard to feel good about the future. I read somewhere that we get happier in our 60s because we have fewer bad things about the future to anticipate. I think I believe this. Right now I am both terrified of what my job may require of me in terms of exposure to an illness I can't see surviving and terrified of not having a job in the midst of such terrible times financially. I can definitely see where you're coming from.

    And yet, not realizing that you were in a bad situation doesn't mean you weren't. Hang in there. The future may be better than we think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comments! I always appreciate your insights. I feel this so much. It IS hard to feel good/hopeful about the future right now, and I'm worried about making a decision that makes a potentially tough time down the road even more difficult. With the pandemic, my sense of uncertainty has hit all-time highs and that's adding to the stress. I think I will probably (maybe) start to feel better once he's actually submitted his notice and there are fewer hard decisions to make.

      Delete
  5. We had a somewhat similar path to Arizona, albeit not in an RV. Mrs. Done by Forty had been accepted to a PhD program but with no funding secured whatsoever. I kept driving in for job interviews for teaching positions, but kept coming up empty because it was 2009 and the recession was in full swing. Still, we made the move with a few thousand dollars saved up and figured we'd find jobs & make it work. I found a job, the school found funding for her, and it all worked out. But looking back, moving to a new state without any real prospects for income seems like something I couldn't ever do again.

    The more money we have, the more risk averse we seem to get with our finances. More to lose, maybe?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I knew part of that story, but not all of it!

      I think you're right. I definitely feel like there's more to lose. Four years ago, my attitude was far more, "Fuck it, let's just go for it" because... we didn't have much. So why not? LOL.

      We've definitely discussed moving back out of state (for lower COL, for better access to healthcare, etc.), but even though we've done it before, it just feels like an impossible task this time around. I think I'd have a VERY hard time doing it unless one of us had a job lined up in the new place.

      Delete
    2. Maybe a move within the state is the answer?

      Delete
    3. LOL I just saw this! YES, maybe! :-)

      Delete
  6. I often wonder if we exist on a bell curve where the X axis is how much money you have or make and the Y axis is your anxiety level. So when we have very little or a heck of a lot, the anxiety may end less. When we make enough but are aware of what we don't have and the risks involved in not having such and such assets, we're in the middle of peak anxiety. It doesn't quite track for me because I had massive money anxieties at the low income/assets and high debt stage too but ... Maybe?

    I wonder how to balance the two mentalities though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That does make a lot of sense. I don't see myself leaving the middle of the bell curve anytime soon, so I hope I learn (re-learn?) how to chill out a little.

      Delete