It is time for me to turn down a glass. I have survived my very first year without my beloved Katie. I have not only survived, I have made some massive changes to my world, changes that have reaped some interesting dividends.
This year was a year for me to cut loose and have fun. I hit the ground running. I gave myself a bedroom, the first proper bedroom I’ve had in over a decade. I even gave myself permission to spend money, and boy did I spend it! I made sure to save 10% of each paycheck (plus all of my book royalties), but other than that, I allowed myself the freedom to do what I wanted.
I had a bit of a panic over that not too long ago but then I realized that I’d not really wasted much money. Instead, I’d acquired things that not only made life more comfortable, but would last for quite a while. I even acquired a few things that have helped me save some money. The air conditioner, heaters, electric blanket, and electric throw have all helped to lower my utility expenses. The car increased my monthly spending (due to the payment), but it allows me to travel to work in bad weather without fear and even allows me to visit my beloved aunt on occasion.
I never imagined that I would be thankful for having a car payment, but I am. It feels incredibly luxurious to be able to hop to a neighboring town if I need something immediately that I cannot acquire locally, and it feels like heaven to be able to make the drive to visit my aunt. I even got to spend Thanksgiving with her and my cousin due to that car.
I am immensely grateful for that.
One of my goals this past year was to increase my income. I managed that in spades. Now, instead of living on the shoestring budget of $500 a month, I bring home close to $3k. My mind boggles at the change.
In order to increase my income I took a job at a local factory. I ended up in a position that is rather mindless. I spend 10 hours a day painting latex onto a mold before I rotate it through an oven. That position has given me time to think.
What do I want to do next? I began to ask myself. Did I really want to spend the remainder of my working years standing on a hamster wheel? My life had fallen into a routine. I work 4-5 days a week, 10 hours a day. My weekends were spent cleaning my home, watching television, and chatting with family and friends. It’s a good life, a simple life. I enjoy it, but do I really want to spend the next decade or so this way?
I don’t want to retire. I’ve realized that, while pleasant in spurts, that I make myself a bit insane when I take time off to stay at home. I need to have that excuse to get out of the house, if only to provide social interaction. I could retire, even now that I have the car payment. I can afford to do so, but the fact is that I don’t want to. Sometimes getting what you think you want helps you to understand that you didn’t really want it as bad as you thought. I’ve realized that when it comes to retirement.
I need a purpose in my life, or what’s the point in living?
The beauty in my mindless job is that it gives me plenty of time to think about that, to ask myself the important questions while getting paid in the process.
I’ve realized that, if I continue on my current path, that I will simply become a mindless consumer. I will work, then I will spend my weekends decompressing with the latest movie or fad, shifting about on a path that will take me absolutely nowhere. While I see nothing wrong with that, it’s not what I want for my life. I’ve spent my life learning, growing, and experimenting. To stop…well, I don’t want to stop.
I want to do something new.
I don’t want to go back to extreme frugality. That’s served its purpose for me. It allowed me to be a stay-at-home single mother, and for that I will always be grateful. I’ve no real desire to write, however. After spending more than a decade knocking out books, blog posts, and articles in order to pay the bills I find myself burned out. I rarely even journal anymore. I find it a chore just to jot down a few sentences to summarize my day in my journal.
So now what?
I would like to increase my income a bit more. I love the security of having money in the bank, of being able to buy what I want, when I want, without fear. I love being able to replace an item immediately when it dies instead of having to budget. I love discovering an item on sale that I want and being able to take advantage of the cost savings. I like being able to buy things that make life better.
I want more of that, but I know that, if I remain where I’m at, that while my income will increase with raises over time, that there is only so far that I’ll be able to go. I also know that in time, the mindlessness of my current job will make me crazy, so I asked myself what I could do about the situation.
I’m too burned out to write. I’ve no real desire to hop from factory job to factory job in order to increase my pay. If I’m to work in a factory, I’ll remain where I’m at because the work is easy and management is good to me.
I came up blank. Perhaps I’ve spent too many years focused upon being a mom, but I could not think of anything else I could do that would not only provide something to occupy my mind, but have the potential of increasing my income over time.
Eventually I turned that question on its head and asked myself what would I do if I could do anything and money were not an object?
That question yielded instant results. As a child, I had two major passions. I loved to write, and I loved playing with computers. I was the child who could happily spend entire days in her room either writing stories or exploring the capabilities of her computer. As an adult, I even went to school for computer repair and ran a service/repair business for many years. Even now I take on the occasional client just for kicks.
I may be burned out on writing, but there are areas of study in the computer field where I’ve barely scratched the surface despite my curiosity due to money and time constraints.
I can make money in the computer field, but even when I don’t make a penny, I still have fun.
So I did a thing. I gave myself permission to delve as deep into computers as I desire. Even if I don’t use the skills to increase my income, I’ll be keeping my mind active and having fun in the process.
It would certainly beat spending my weekends holding the couch down as I watch my latest show.
I thought long and hard as I painted those molds. At my age, the odds of eventually acquiring a job in the field may be slim. The skills would increase my chances of employment in other fields, however, and even if it didn’t I knew I would have fun. It would definitely give me something to look forward to on weekends!
I decided to give myself a good review of the field, in order to ensure that my basic knowledge was current before I proceeded. I invested in a few books and began reading them at night and on weekends. Come spring I would treat myself to something I’ve not treated myself to in ages, a brand-new computer (not used, not refurbished), but a brand-new system that would make my inner geek scream with delight. I would acquire that computer and just play.
Excited at the thought, I began to price my dream machine. Due to space considerations, I settled upon a laptop, a gaming laptop because those are the ones that make me drool. I discovered that it would cost about $2,500 to acquire the machine I wanted to acquire, but since I was planning to use my income tax refund to pay for it (and I’ve already acquired everything else I want), I could afford the splurge.
A friend of mine had decided to invest in a newer system, so while helping him select a computer that would meet his needs, I checked out the sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. To my surprise, I found a laptop that ticked my boxes on sale for $1,400.
I had the money. Even with spending what seems to me an insane amount of money over this past year, I continue to spend quite a bit less than I earn so I had more than enough to make the purchase. I bought it along with a fresh round of books since I’d almost finished the review round I’d purchased earlier this year.
That purchase flipped a switch in my brain. I feel alive again. I couldn’t wait to finish my shift and come home the day it arrived, and I stayed up way too late getting it configured. I delved into the books and began experimenting.
Finally, after a year of hiatus from thinking and planning and struggling, I have a new journey to embark upon, and I am going to have fun with this. I plan to acquire some certifications as I move forward. While I don’t know if I will ever use them to gain employment, they will serve as personal markers of my skill, but at least one of the certifications may improve my odds of acquiring a job I can do from home if I ever get burned out at the factory or a shift in the economy sends me job hunting.
So life is good, and I’ve a new journey to pursue. While in some ways it’s a continuation of a journey I began long ago, this feels like a fresh start all the same.
It’s so easy to get caught in a rut, to do the same things you’ve always done and think the same things you’ve always thought. Mixing it up, allowing yourself to do something that you’ve previously not allowed to do can be good for the soul. Even if you decide that the path you’ve started isn’t for you, you’ve still learned something about yourself.
What do you plan to do with the coming year? Do you plan to start a new adventure? Please share your stories in the comments below.
BTW, I finally finished the adventure of acquiring a new smile. What do you think of the new look?
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I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:
Barnes and Noble