I’m in the Pursuit of Happiness

I’m in the Pursuit of Happiness

Have you ever put off things when you’ve really wanted to do them? How many times have you said, “Oh, maybe next year”? How often have you wished for the financial freedom to live out your dreams?

I can tell you that my answers to those questions are probably not surprising. They may even coincide with yours. If I had a dollar for everything I wish I could’ve done in life, I probably would have had enough money to have done them. I’m not even talking big trips or vacations, but small excursions that someone else may take for granted. One example: Each year I see a list of concerts coming to Pittsburgh, PA and I list out all the ones that I’d love to go to. I check ticket prices, I check sales dates, and I mark my calendar. And do you know how many I go to? I’d say, on average, 1-2 per year. (And that is only because last year and this year I’ve gone to more than usual.)

Here’s another for you. I often get too lazy to see my friends. I rationalize to myself that it will cost too much in gas, plus then we meet somewhere to eat, plus a drink or two, and before you know if I’m crashed on my couch pants-less eating Cheetos and Twizzlers for dinner having canceled on my friends yet again.

Does that ever happen to you?

I hope so, because if I’m the only one that does this, that’s pretty embarrassing. Well, me and Ron White

In any case, I’m going to operate under the assumption that I’m not alone since I know plenty of procrastinators and putter-offers. You don’t have to admit it here, or even to others, but for the sake of your own mental health you must at least admit it to yourself.

We all have different ways of doing this. Some people fill their schedules to the point of bursting until they have a mental breakdown. Others feign being busy so as to rest, watch TV, or Netflix and chill (alone). Still others just ignore problems until they no longer can, which in my opinion is the worst approach to take.

I’ve been guilty of each of these at different times, but at least I know it now. I know that when I put off doing my dishes for the third straight day to watch reruns of “Law & Order” that I’m not being productive. I know that when I wake up earlier than usual and waste that time on Facebook rather than getting ready or taking out the trash that I’m not making good use of my time.

So why do we do this? Why do we procrastinate? I’m guilty of it, obviously, and in many more ways than I mentioned above. But why do we do it?

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One theory I have is that we always assume that we’ll improve our circumstances by next week, next month, or next year. Much like our oft-forgotten and ill-begotten New Year’s Resolutions, we assume we can change our lives without making much effort. I see all the infomercials and ads for “quicker-faster-better” results. Burn fat now! Get rich quick! 22-Day Fix! But does any of this really last?

No, is the short answer.

We have to want to change our lives and ourselves before we actually embark on this journey.

First, we have to WANT to change. Now I don’t mean:

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Or:

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I mean you actually have to define what you want in real terms. It’s too easy to ignore a goal when you have no accountability for it. But if you take the time to lay out a plan, it will seem like you’ve wasted time by giving it up. Rather than joining a gym alone, get yourself a work-out buddy. Instead of promising to read more on weekends, join (or form) a book club. Instead of wishing you were outside, go outside.

The great thing is that we all have our own goals. We all have the right to pursue our dreams the way we want. But in this TV-watching, movie-streaming, Facebook-stalking “modern” world, we have to hold ourselves and each other accountable.

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So now let’s focus on the JOURNEY.

We need to accept that the best things in life are worth working and fighting for. Is it more rewarding to work hard to buy your mother a birthday present or to steal it? Would you rather earn your diploma or cheat your way through school? Is it better to read the entire book or just the CliffsNotes? (On second thought, don’t answer that last question. I’m afraid of your choice…)

When I started college, I assumed I’d graduate in four years like any “normal” student. After all, I was always smart and I did well in school. That didn’t happen for me. After giving up for five years, I went back and reached my dreams. I finished that journey.

And I started a new one. After four years of being in a so-so relationship, I made the very difficult decision to break up and learn what it meant to me an adult in the world. It’s been tough and it’s been wonderful. It’s necessarily had its ups and downs. It’s been a learning experience and I hope it never ceases to be. I have found pieces of me that I never knew existed. I’m still trying to regain pieces of me that I thought were lost forever.

This journey that I’ve embarked on this year has taken many twists and turns and it’s only been a few months. I’ve changed my mind, made decisions over and over again, and changed my mind some more. I’ve angered people, pitied people, been angry, and been pitied. I’ve taken some hits and I’m sure I’ve dished some out. I’ve made some good deals and I’m sure I’ve made some bad ones.

I just know that I am no longer willing to exchange the life I want and the life I lead for the life I could maybe-possibly-someday have. I’m no longer willing to suffer today in hopes that tomorrow is better. This life is a journey, and I’m going to enjoy it until the end.

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It was all going well until…

It was all going well until…

..there were some major setbacks this weekend.

Most importantly, my builder had some unexpected things come up and he was not able to deliver my THOW shell on Sunday. We are rescheduled for this coming weekend, on Easter Sunday to be exact. And that turned out to be all well and good considering what happened Saturday night…

As most of you know I have been working two jobs since November to try to save for my Tiny House. As some of you know, I have been working 70-80 hours/week to save as much as possible before the THOW arrives. As a few of you know, 80 hours/week is my cut-off for losing my mind. I need at least one day off a week to rest and recoup.

There was no resting or recouping this Sunday. Only anger, a sense of betrayal, and the ensuing depression.

My car was broken into at some point Saturday night. All of my tips from Friday were stolen. The money was hidden in my car as I was going to deposit it that night after work. I checked it between 4:00-5:00PM when there was a slight lull in my shift.

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When I came out after midnight (after having been there since 9:30AM), I went in my car to change my shirt and have one post-shift drink. That’s when I noticed the glass in the back of my car. Nothing else was stolen even though my purse was in my car. All of my debit cards, credit cards, and keys were still there. The only thing missing was my cash.

We called the police and they say they’re going to pull the camera footage from neighboring businesses. They say they’re going to look for this guy. They say with any luck they’ll find something in the footage. They say, they say, they say. I’ve had my car broken into before. I know how this works. I’m out the money the thief stole as well as the money to fix the broken window. The person won’t get caught and, since I think it someone I work with at the restaurant, I have to either quit or feel uncomfortable for the rest of my time there.

Now I usually work Monday thru Friday (8:00-4:30) at my day job. I then work Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights and all day Saturday. I have one bank account where my main job’s paycheck is deposited and another just for my tips and other income. This helps me to keep things straight and not spend what I’m making at either job.

As of Thursday when I updated my budget, I only needed about $65 to hit my income goal for the restaurant this month. Then I made $315 on Friday night, which is a very large amount of money for 7 hours or so of work. One of my regulars gave me a very generous tip for which I was beyond grateful, and all because he sees me working hard and wants to help me achieve my goals. He tells me this every time he sees me. It is encouraging.

Not only has this thief robbed me, but he has robbed others of their good intentions toward me and my life. He has robbed me of my sense of security and made me more than a little vexed with my car. He’s robbed me of the $315 in hard-earned tips and the $300+ it will cost to fix the window he broke.

For the record, if you ever have to break into your SUV, the vent window is the most expensive window to break. This isn’t a picture of my car but another one similar to it, and I’ve circled the vent window in red:

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Even though it is the smallest window, it is permanent and considered part of the door, so it must be sealed differently. For my SUV with the privacy tint, I got quotes ranging from $305-$499 for this window alone. Never break this window if you can avoid it.

Now I’ve said before that I don’t want to ask anyone for money for my Tiny House project because I am fully capable of doing this alone. I can work hard for this and wear my body out every week until I have everything paid for. I can do whatever it takes. But this was such a blow, both mentally and financially.

For this reason, I’ve decided for the first time to ask for a little bit of help. I have to write two very big checks in the next week (one for the down payment on my land the other for the remaining balance for my THOW shell) and this $600+ swing is coming at exactly the wrong time. If you can, please considering sending just a few dollars to help me recoup this loss. It would be more appreciated than you know.

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Go to: http://www.gofundme.com/rachelsbrokenjeep to help me recoup my THOW money. Anything is appreciated!

Here is my GoFundMe link. Click here: Bum Thief Broke My Jeep Window fund or go to: https://www.gofundme.com/rachelsbrokenjeep. PLEASE share it as well. I am not asking for more than I lost in this fiasco. Thank you all for your continued love and support.

 

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An extra special thank you to those who have already helped me deal with all of this over the past weekend. Thank you to those who drank with me afterward to numb myself, let me crash with you, taped my window up like surgeons, and continued to text me to make sure I was okay. You are wonderful friends and you know who you are. I won’t embarrass you by calling you out by name, but I owe you more than you know. Thank you.

Do not go gentle into that good night…

Do not go gentle into that good night…

Good afternoon Tiny House enthusiasts! I know I promised I’d post about my research regarding insulation and other super fun things (like drywall), but first I need to put some things down that have been bothering me…

I was asked this weekend who I am writing this blog for. While I am hopeful that my audience will find this to be both amusing and (eventually) informative, I am primarily writing this for myself. I want to be able to remember the decisions I’m making now and why I made them. I want to be able to look back and show things I accomplished and things that deflated me. For this reason, some of my posts will be less about decisions I’m making and more about how I’m feeling or why I’m confused.

Truth be told, I’ve been having a hard time at both of my jobs lately…

The restaurant I work at started (and kept on) messing up my schedule. I was working Monday night, Friday night, and sometimes Saturday and/or Sunday. I’m not even available to work Sundays or Mondays. It was stressing me out quite a bit and for quite a few reasons. First, with the amount of time I’m spending working I need a full day off each Sunday. Having to find someone to come in on what is actually my only day off was stressful, primarily because no one would ever want to work the shift. Second, I have been at this restaurant since the day it opened. I was one of the first three people hired and I didn’t understand why I was being singled out to work on a day I wasn’t available. So I sat down with them, had the conversation, and have been given my preferred schedule. I now work Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, as well as all day Saturday. My knees are killing me but I’ve already made an extra $1600 this month. (And it’s only halfway through the month!)

Now on to my full-time job. (I find it hard to call just one of my jobs “full-time” now since I’m basically working full-time at both jobs, but I digress.) Things are feeling increasingly stifled to me. I work for a private company, but a large one. We recently moved to a new location and the vibe around the office is becoming more and more corporate. There is a lot more micro-managing and a lot less creativity. There is also an awful lot of inter-office pettiness that stresses me out daily and negatively affects my mood. I’m annoyed or upset more often than not these days and it takes all my energy just to get up in the mornings.

I know part of this is my depression but knowing why you feel a certain way doesn’t change that you do feel that way. My new medication takes the edge off the depression like ibuprofen may dull joint pain, but it doesn’t take it away.

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I worry about what will happen when this Tiny House push is over. I know I’ve outlined all of the reasons I’m embarking on this journey, but what happens when it’s all done? I have always been good at pushing through and working toward a goal. What happens when I attain that goal?

Time for a story.

When I started college I was 17 and very smart. I earned several scholarships for writing and academics. I was excited for all that college would bring. I enrolled in interesting classes like one about Marxism and another called “Your Karma Ran Over My Dogma”. It was exhilarating to open my mind up to topics I’d never really heard of, yet alone dared to study. Coming from a close-minded Catholic education, this was really a treat for my mind.

And then it all crashed, and crashed quickly. My depression quickly spun out of control and by my sophomore year I was failing classes. I had to transfer to a larger and less prestigious school, but I did so well there (while living at home with my parents, mind you) that I was convinced I was cured. I even managed to convince my parents of that. I returned to my fancy (see: expensive) college, and promptly ended up back on academic probation. I quit college just one year shy of graduating.

Why am I telling you this sad story? To tell you this better one:

Fast forward five years. I’d never gone back to school and I’d moved around Western PA a lot. I was fed up with my job after two-and-a-half years and ready to move on. When they said they’d pay me unemployment if I quit, I quit that very day. I decided a few weeks later that I’d return to school. And I decided to return to my school. Sure, I could have gone somewhere closer or cheaper or less distinguished, but I wanted to prove to my 17-year-old self that I could do it. I filled out the paperwork, I got my loans, and I returned to class.

My first time around, I’d planned to graduate with both a Psychology and an English degree. Each Professor who knew me way back when told me to take it easy and choose one major and allow the other to become my minor. I didn’t listen. I couldn’t do that. Instead, I took 22 credits during the fall and 23 in the spring. I re-enrolled in classes I had failed or gotten a ‘D’ in, just to pull up my cumulative GPA. When I returned to school, my GPA was a measly 2.3. My goal was to graduate with a 3.0.

After just one year and enough classes to fill at least three semesters, I graduated with both degrees. I made the Dean’s List each semester and my GPA was a 3.0. (Well, it’s technically a 2.97 but we all round up, right? Math, right!?)

So again, why am I telling you this? Because I need to remind anyone who is listening that you can do whatever you put your mind to. And I need to remind myself that I can do it. Despite any craziness at my jobs or with my family or the battle against my inner self, I will not succumb. And neither should you.

It shouldn’t matter who is with you or against you, as long as you are with and for yourself. So long as you keep your own hope alive, you can do anything.

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     – Dylan Thomas

The End of an Era

The End of an Era

If you’re a fan of “Sex and the City” you’ll undoubtedly recognize the photo above as Carrie’s closet from her apartment. (And if you’re like me you’ll even be able to identify which outfits were in which episodes…) It used to be one of my dreams to have a closet stock-piled with clothes and memories like hers. The teensy-weensy difference is that Carrie’s Chanel dresses and Manolo Blahniks cost just a smidge more than my Forever 21 tunic shirts and Charlotte Russe wedge sandals.

One of the things I’ve been both dreading and dreaming of through this process is paring down my wardrobe. Allow me to explain… It takes me a very long time to pick an outfit in the morning and even longer to second-guess my choices. I have at least 30 pairs of heels and yet I wear ballet flats to my first job and Payless-brand non-slip sneakers to my second. I can’t remember the last time I wore heels, in fact. I own dresses I’ve never worn and shoes I’m afraid to ruin. During one after-Christmas sale at Old Navy I bought the same sweater in 9 colors. You read that right – NINE DIFFERENT SOLID COLORS.

In addition to the sheer insanity that is “nine of the same sweater”, my gluttonous need for closet space has inadvertently affected my living conditions. Anywhere I’ve lived I’ve needed a huge amount of closet space. I have even had to buy an extra wardrobe to store my myriad of clothes when the closet in my apartment is too small. (FYI: To me, “too small” is a double closet of normal depth.)

I have bras I haven’t worn in years and hand-me-downs that still have the tags on them. Due to years of going to a laundromat, I have more mismatched socks than correctly matched ones. (And with my OCD I cannot wear the ones that don’t match. I just hope they’ll turn up again someday like a long-lost puppy.) I have leg warmers. I have banana clips. I have at least 20 non-winter scarves. I have…a problem.

I can admit it. That’s the first step right – admitting it?

Here is a picture of my old closet, just for kicks. I don’t have one of my current closet.

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(Please note that in this apartment I had another closet with almost as much clothing in it too.)

So now that my Tiny House will be here any day now and I’m facing the reality of downsizing, I’m beginning to panic. I’m beginning to panic a lot. Where am I going to put all 18 pairs of skinny jeans? How many of my nine solid-colored Old Navy sweaters can I afford to keep? Can I still have my size zero dress from high school to remind me of how skinny I used to be?

AND WHERE WILL I PUT MY SHOES?

I’ve read about people who have pared down to capsule wardrobes but I think I’m just going to call myself out.

I’ve been a hoarder of a clothes and a shopaholic. It was fun. We had some great memories. But it needs to end now.

And isn’t that part of the reason I’ve decided to live Tiny in the first place? I wanted my life to be more simple, less cluttered, and more about actually living. I want to spend more time outside and less time doing chores. I’m going to digress for a moment but bear with me: Do you know how quickly cat hair gets on clean clothes? I estimate it to be about 1/10 of a second. That shit is everywhere. So the natural conclusion must be that the more clothes I have, the more clothes I have to launder. And don’t even get me started about putting them away.

I think the above reasons illustrate that I’m getting myself psychologically ready to part with some of my clothes. In a way, I’m pumped. But I haven’t yet addressed why I’m dreading this process at the same time.

If you read my last blog post you saw my plans for my Tiny House in 3D. If you are a woman (or a well-dressed man), you likely noticed that I was missing something crucial; I had no traditional closet. Not many Tiny Houses do, and I was convinced I could get on board with this notion.

But then I couldn’t sleep last night because I was looking around at all my clothes, panicking about not having anywhere to store them. This is the first time my Tiny dream has truly scared me. Because it is getting to be so real, I am starting to really stress. As such, I’ve had to make a change to my floorplan. I’m going to move my washer/dryer into the kitchen where I have plenty of storage and take 2.5′ from the bathroom to create a closet. See below:

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I may try to install a pocket door but I also may just leave an open doorway to the closet. I can’t decide yet. I am also going to place the washer/dryer under the stairs, but I’m now wondering if I may change the stairs to a ladder. Happily, that can all be decided later.

I hope this new solution alleviates my fears a bit. Maybe I will be able to do my laundry in peace tonight, with no nightmares afterward.

And The Verdict Is…

And The Verdict Is…

No.

A resounding, echoing, unsubstantiated “no” from my parents. I am not welcome to build my Tiny’s interior on my parents’ 3-acre plot. Far from welcome, I’m not allowed to bring up the topic to them anymore. At all. Ever.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been optimistic. I was. I was full of hope and fire. I’m still in a state of semi-shock, back home in the arctic tundra that is Pittsburgh in February. Back to my routine. Back to life. How could they say no to all of my hard work and dreams? And yet the “no” stands firmly in front of me. Along with one more looming question…

Now what?

I feel like a 7-year-old who just found out Santa isn’t real and Bugs Bunny isn’t coming to play basketball with me circa Space Jam. My generation grew up hearing that we could do anything we wanted so long as we worked hard and earned it. Now here I stand: working 65+ hours a week, saving money, raising my credit each month, paying off my student loans $300 at a time, and working toward a goal… just to hear that fateful “no”. What I hear reflected in their answer isn’t a push toward a goal but rather so much doubt. I’ve never been the person who takes a “no” and sees a challenge. Instead I wonder: What if I fail? What if I lose all my money? What if I can’t do this? And most frighteningly, what if they’re right?

Most of my life (and for as long as I can remember) I’ve struggled with depression. It’s permeated my life with sadness, restlessness, fear, and despondency. In the rare times when the fog lifts I try to get everything done that I ignored while I was nearly bedridden. I clean, I write, I chat animatedly with friends, I visit people, I shop; I live. This comes off as irrational and impulsive at best, bipolar or manic at worst. This is the me that my parents see. This is the me that is being doubted. Is this me?

The problem is, recently I’ve come out of the murkiness that’s muddled my brain for a few months. For the first time in 15 years I feel functional and rational and level-headed. And this is the time I’m being doubted on the biggest decision of my life.

So I made a decision, all on my own and without my parents’ support.

I went for it.

I put my deposit down today for my trailer and I started the process of ordering my Tiny House. There are still a lot of unknowns, including first and foremost where I’ll be working on it, but it feels good to have this first step out of the way. Terrifying, but good.