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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Growing Into a Financially Independent Adult

I entered this into a contest but didn't win. I probably didn't win because it is shallow and it lacks. However, I'm thinking of tweaking this to put into my autobiography project. Thoughts?


Growing Into a Financially Independent Adult
Major issues don’t boil over until a major life event happens and you’re left wondering why you never did anything about the issues when they were minor, fixable issues.
When I was a little girl, saving money was second nature to me. My grandmother taught me the value of a dollar, and I always had fun putting loose change I found or earned into my piggy bank. I remember one summer when I was seven, a local mom and pop grocery store had a hockey contest. I wanted to enter, and I did. I scored a few goals and won the grand prize, a savings account with $25 deposited into the account. I had a blast depositing tooth fairy, birthday, and holiday money into this account. By the time the store closed, I had $150 in the account that my parents put into a trust fund.
Ironically, this was around the time I became a spendthrift, or at least it was the making of my prodigal ways. I was eleven, in fifth grade, and was beginning to navigate the tumultuous waters of being a teenager. While some kids made fun of me in elementary school, bullying in middle and high schools accelerated to a whole new level of nastiness. As a teenager, I wasn’t welcomed. Students often made fun of me and called me a “fat, ugly cow that only a rabid squirrel could love,” which led to other students shunning me.
I did have a few friends, but most of them lived out of town. I remember spending a lot of time out of the city and spending a lot of time visiting a small coal town two hours away. When my friend would come to visit me, we spent a lot of time at the local mall. I did have a few local friends and we spent a lot of our time walking the mall. Spending money became therapeutic for me and buying clothes, CDs, toys, and notebooks filled the emptiness I felt. Buying CDs and writing supplies became the close friends I wished I had. Listening to those CDs filled the lonely hours and helped me write short stories. Listening to music went hand in hand with my writing and creativity—I never felt alone when I was creative. Spending money made me feel great, temporarily, but usually, I would end up feeling even more depressed. Shopping was a vicious cycle, and it continued into college.  Whenever I felt depressed, I’d go shopping for more CDs and art supplies, and the therapy I had in college didn’t seem to curb the spending either. My grandmother did help somewhat, though.
The depression and emptiness felt even deeper after the trauma I went through before college graduation. I had little support and lost friends after that incident. My grandmother had also died earlier in the year, and I had no one to shout about how unfair life had been and had no one listen to me cry, though tears didn’t come until two years later. I felt shut out of the world and I felt shut out during a time that my adult life was supposed to begin. I worked two jobs in college to pay bills and to save for a move since I’ve always wanted to move away from home after graduation. Yet, I didn’t really save and saving seemed impossible in college. After the traumatic experience, I attempted to move out of state. I decided on Detroit for some reason, but I failed when trying to go to Detroit. After visiting the city, I realized Detroit wasn’t the place for me. I decided to find a local full-time job, but failed to find one until a year-and-a-half later. In my mind, I was a failure and continued to spend money to feel alive. Usually, the money I spent made me feel guilty and defensive. I thought it would end once I finally found a local full-time job and kept my part-time job.
Unfortunately, I had racked up a lot of debt that I vowed to pay off slowly since I had two incomes. I also wanted to move abroad to focus on a career in writing, and I needed to save the money I earned to make this a reality. After meeting with a career counselor, I remembered a lofty goal I had in high school about moving abroad; the career counselor sent me sites for jobs that cater to young American ex-patriates. I felt hopeful and wanted to pay off the debt while I lived at home. I didn’t want to spend my adult life chained to debt.
That didn’t quite happen, but I don’t regret my traveling either. I love exploring and meeting new people and had a blast in Toronto. I finally met a pen pal face to face and met new friends at the Blue Jays game and the bed-and-breakfast I discovered while looking for bargains on Google. Toronto was friendly and welcoming, I felt at home in Toronto, and it felt great to walk around without being hassled by rowdy young men. With the encouragement of others, I decided I would move to Toronto instead of looking for jobs far away as an English teacher. When I decided to move to Canada last year, I learned the process of getting an invitation for permanent residency is expensive with the tests and other little things involved.
When I started on the Canadian process, I should have told myself to start keeping a budget. I used to blame others, but then I realized that when goals seem out of reach, my depression kicks in and I feel like a loser. Whenever that feeling kicks in, I don’t care about the money I spend on CDs, pictures, and scrapbooks. I knew by the end of last summer when I started taking tests for permanent residency, that I needed a budget to have enough money for a move and to live comfortably until I found a job in Canada. I had every intention to pay off some bills and continue to save, but those plans didn’t quite happen.
I was invited to apply for permanent residency for Canada in March 2017. The reality was in reach, and I was grossly unprepared.  I had three months to save $4000; I did it with careful budgeting and some help from friends. I remembered what my grandmother taught me as a child and learned new techniques to save at least $900 per month from both paychecks. I’ve started keeping a budget notebook for the bills, the rent I pay to my parents, and the groceries I also buy. I’ve cut out wasteful spending for the most part, and I discovered the joy I once felt as a child while saving money. Now, I tend to hold onto my money; it feels great to be in control and not hating myself when I go on a shopping spree. I now envision my future, and it makes me feel happy.
I accepted the invite in May after I reached my goal and I’m currently waiting to hear from the Canadian government. I still have a few debts, and I wrote a letter of explanation to explain I’ll have my finances squared away by the end of the summer. I also outlined that I will continue to save money and my plans to save this money. I know I will do it and have been putting money aside to make this feat happen. I want to move, and the focus has been on my future. I now have my fingers crossed about getting the acceptance for the visa.

This process has taught me a lot about letting go of the blame and focusing on one’s wellbeing, especially financial prosperity. While it took a major life event to learn this lesson, I do not regret what I did in my past. I do not blame others, and I don’t blame myself either, I use my past as a lesson and keep a strict budget. This process is also teaching me how I will need to budget and plan when I’m on my own in a new country. I am thankful for this lesson, even though sometimes I worry. That is what growing is all about, especially when one steps outside of their comfort zone in the process of becoming an adult.

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