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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Back from the dead…

Back from the dead…

First, I want to apologize to those of you who were/are loyal readers. I obviously took a more-than-brief hiatus from blogging about my Tiny House journey. I shan’t do it again.

Second, I’d like to take a brief moment to appreciate the beauty that is young Bruce Campbell from his “Evil Dead” days.

*pause*

Le sigh. Now that that’s out of the way… It’s time for some Tiny House (and life) updates!

I will try to blog each day this week to document what has been going on with my Tiny House. For one, I must introduce her in all of her glory. This is a picture of my THOW the day it got delivered to my parents’ house…

Tiny House in PA
Tiny House delivery

This, my friends, is Matilda; I call her Tilly for short. I named her such for several reasons.

  1. I loved the childhood book-made-movie “Matilda”. I even re-typed the entire book in grade school to improve my typing. #goals
  2. In the book-made-movie, Matilda is small but magical. I’d like to think my Tiny House will be the same…
  3. Tilly is the name of my high school lunch lady. She was small, adorable, and gave us extra tots. Who doesn’t like free tots?!

I have been working on Tilly most weekends since she was delivered. Needless to say, things have been taking much longer than expected. Here is Tilly’s near-finished exterior. (It’s still got painters’ tape on it so she doesn’t look 100%.)

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I’ve also updated my interior plans for Tilly, which I’ll show you later this week. #teaser

All in all, things have been going well. However, I’ve had many changes in my life since my last post…

  1. I changed jobs.
  2. I am only working one job right now.
  3. I am happily single and not looking for anyone.
  4. My depression is a bit more under control.

I am working for a non-profit very near my apartment now. I ditched the waitressing job for a few reasons, but mainly due to the long drive. I will pick another one up here shortly, but for now I’m enjoying having my weekends to myself.

I have also been buying MANY things to outfit Tilly which I will probably update this weekend. I am also thinking of switching my blog over to a wordpress.org site so I can generate some income from my writing. That is probably a big part of my lack of blogging the past few months… I was afraid to blog more on here in case I switched over. But since I haven’t made that decision yet I couldn’t wait to post any longer!

More to come later tonight…

People don’t suck?

People don’t suck?

So yesterday I posted about the terrible happenings of this past weekend. (If you missed it, read the last post here.) I also posted a link to my GoFundMe page asking for donations to help me get back some of the money lost in the burglary and to replace the window. I didn’t expect much… maybe $100 or so to help me pay back some of the ensuing credit card charge. But you guys have been very generous and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for it. So far you’ve raised $350 in less than 24 hours.

You are amazing.

I negotiated my bill with the auto glass company down to $300 including tax, so this has already been covered. I thank you so much! The money left to raise will go toward the cash that was stolen. I’m almost tempted to take the GoFundMe page down, but then I remember how much my feet hurt after working from 8:00 Friday morning until 1:00AM Friday night and I resolved myself to leave it up. Plus, the kindness and support and messages I’ve received are wonderful. You are wonderful. Thank you.

Now I turn to the real reason for this post, which is to take a moment and reflect on this situation in its entirety. To start, one person sucked, and sucked big time; he took my money and wrecked my car window. Then, people hugged me, bought me drinks, and sat with me while I was in a bit of shock. Yesterday, people started donating to help me recoup some of this money; people who couldn’t donate sent notes of encouragement.

So how can I look at this situation and conclude that people suck?

That night, after my money was stolen and I’d had a drink (or three), I started talking to one of my friends about the situation. (Mind you this was before I’d considered the cost of the window repair. I was only thinking about the stolen cash at this point.) In my slightly tipsy and ever-pensive state, I started talking about the nature of human beings and my relationship with them in the world.

There have been many times in my life when people have tried to break me. I assume everyone reading this has been in at least one similar circumstance. Just a few examples: My purse was once stolen out of the trunk of my car at a football game. I was once stalked and forced to quit my job because a co-worker was upset and decided revenge was the ticket. (She even wrote, “I’m going to rape and kill Rachel” on the door of the building I worked in. Fun, right?) There have been countless occasions of bad friends letting me down amidst the depths of my depression. And after each bad interaction I think to myself, “I should just stop trusting people. People hurt people. I’m sick of being the nice guy while everyone else shits on my life.”

But after this situation, in that moment, with the people around me being so kind as to make me cry, I didn’t think that. Instead I said to my friend:

I’m not going to let this break me. I am not going to allow some lowlife junkie to determine how I’m going to feel. So my tips were stolen… No one was hurt. I’m not going to allow this one awful person to make me a worse person. I’m going to continue to try and do good. I’m going to be the person I am. I’m not going to let this jade me.

And in that moment I felt what I was saying with my whole heart. While it should be noted that the next day I had other (angry) thoughts, nonetheless I’m back to feeling this way now. And the reason I feel this way again is because of the people who have reached out. It’s because of those who are determined to prove that not everyone sucks; not everyone is out for only themselves. There are still people out there who have sympathy, empathy, or compassion.

I’m lucky in this life to have even a few of those people around me, and I can’t thank you enough.

And now you:

What have you overcome in your quest for goodness? What is the worst thing someone has done to you that has made you question your intentions?

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

I have this quote by William Shakespeare tattooed on the inside of my upper left arm. Call me a dreamer, call me edgy, call me a true English major. Call me what you want. But this quote rings true.

It’s not up to us to look up at the stars and hope, pray, or dream something into reality. You can hope, pray, or dream of course; but you cannot expect anything to come to fruition unless you work at it. My Tiny House dream has taken a lot of work and the work is about to quintuple.

I paid the rest of my money toward my flatbed trailer today.

I finalized my floorplan and am placing my order for the materials my builder needs today.

I made an offer on a piece of land today.

Things are moving right along. No day but today!

“You Need A Bigger Dream!”

“You Need A Bigger Dream!”

In my ever-fruitful search for more and more (and more) Tiny House information I came across a few posts this weekend that mentioned Steve Harvey. I know him as the host of Family Feud and for his recently botched gig as Miss Universe host but not much more. So hearing him associated with the Tiny House movement came as a surprise to me. Here is the TV show segment where he seems to address Tiny House dreamers directly:

 

Steve Harvey starts by saying that the average American home measures about 2600 square feet. This seems a bit high to me, but let’s see some comparisons.

  • The house I grew up in with my parents and brother was just shy of 1400 square feet. In that house we had 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, a dining room we rarely used, and a full basement.
  • My old boyfriend’s parents’ house is 2200 square feet. They have a master bedroom suite plus 3 other bedrooms and 2 more bathrooms, a huge family room in addition to a formal living room, a dining room they used twice a year, and a basement.

Now let’s start to address some of these rooms. I am one person. I rarely have large groups of people over. I’ve only ever used a basement for storage and I haven’t had a garage since I moved out of my parents’ house. How many bedrooms do I actually need? How many bathrooms? Do I need a dining room? Can’t I dine anywhere? What if I want to eat my knock-off Frosted Flakes in bed? Who’s going to stop me? And what precisely is the function of a “formal” living room? Why does it have to be so formal; who is coming over?

Verdict: I definitely do not need 2600 square feet. Nor, in my opinion, is 2600 square feet the average.

Steve Harvey goes on to ask his audience, “Who in here is going to work every day to buy a damn Tiny House?” This is met with audible groans, which I hope were prompted by his team of cameramen and not 100% real. I think I’ve made it perfectly clear that the point of this journey for me is not to work every day to buy a Tiny House. I would like to work less and for a shorter amount of time because of my decision to buy and build a Tiny House. People are retiring later each year. People are living house-poor. People are refinancing their mortgages to afford extravagant vacations with their families.

Verdict: I don’t want to be those people.

Here are my favorite quotes from the clip:

  • “Who puts a Tiny House on their vision board? You need to get a bigger damn dream is what you need to do!”
  • “This is for people who’ve given up… this is for people who ain’t got no dreams.”
  • “[If] you want to live in a Tiny House it’s because you done gave up. You’re stupid.”

I’d like to address these in detail but I don’t have that kind of time. I’ll give you my highlights.

I understand your profession is “comedian” but poor grammar is no laughing matter. Telling me I “ain’t got no dreams” is a double negative; this means that what you are actually saying is that “I have dreams”. Joke’s on you, Steve. Also, calling someone stupid after saying “you done gave up” and “ain’t got no dreams” is well-played, sir. You are clearly the smarter human being in this argument.

Who makes vision boards anymore? Are we in the 4th grade? Don’t you have Pinterest Mr. Harvey? And why can’t my Tiny House go on my imaginary vision board anyway? Stay in your 2600 square foot house and look at your own vision board, nosy. As the charming J.K. Rowling once put it:

I don’t think I’m stupid. I have a near-genius IQ, in fact. I have the ability to make rational decisions and I have put a lot of thought and effort into this process. I didn’t “done give up”. In fact, my Tiny House dream is giving me hope. I worked almost 77 hours this past week between my two jobs. My feet are calloused, my knees hurt, and I have shin splints. And I can rest at night knowing my bills will be paid. But do I want to do this forever? Would you? I doubt anyone can answer that with an honest “yes”.

What keeps me going through seemingly endless shifts of chili nachos and over-cooked cheeseburgers is the dream of my Tiny House. Any time something catastrophic happens during a shift (see: every single night), I’ve told my managers to simply say “Tiny House” to me and I calm down. My Tiny dream puts it all in perspective; these 16-hour work days will eventually end, and sooner rather than later.

I’ve never heard an older relative say, “I wish I’d spent more on my house, done less with my family and friends, and stayed home all the time.” What I do hear is more often along the lines of, “I wish I’d traveled more,” “I wish I’d spent more time with my loved ones, ” or “I wish I didn’t wait until now to enjoy my life.” As humans we seem to be programmed to forget the things that hurt us and focus more energy remembering the good times. Do you still vividly remember the pain from your first breakup? Or do you remember the butterflies from your first date? Do you remember the first time you really got sick? Or do you remember the love and get-well wishes from your friends? It’s been almost 15 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Americans vowed to never forget. And yet here we are, throwing verbal daggers at one another and following Donald Trump’s lead to oust all Muslims and non-citizens from the country. Remembering something for one day each year isn’t paying homage; it’s lip service.

My vow to myself is not to waste these years. Eventually my youth will fade, my knees will give out, and my drive will wane. I would rather spend my 30s traveling the world, eating dinners with family, and drinking good beer with friends. I can’t do this if I buy a 2600 square foot house. I wouldn’t even have time to clean a 2600 square foot house.

Verdict: I don’t expect Steve Harvey to understand the soul behind this movement. I don’t expect him to know my soul. So keep looking at your own vision board, Mr. Harvey. Mine is off-limits.

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.