Moving Anxiety, or How to Stop Worrying and Move to a New Place

True story time!

Once, I agreed to help a friend move. I had just helped her and her roommate had just moved into their place a few months before but had a lot of problems with their landlord. He had covered up holes in the foundation, so there were bugs creeping into the house, and he refused to fix anything. Basically, it turned into a hellhole pretty damn fast.

I showed up the morning of the move ready to move boxes and lift heavy things, maybe even corral cats (she had a bunch of them) and keep them calm while we moved shit. Instead, I walked into a house that had barely packed.

Now, when she moved in there she noticed problems right away, so they didn’t unpack everything. There was still a bunch of stuff in boxes all over her living room, and they just rearranged their lives around that. But that was stuff that she didn’t need at the time: baby books, Christmas decorations, childhood memories, extra plates. Everything else in the house had been unpacked, and a good 75% of it wasn’t packed up yet the morning of the move.

Now, we only had the truck for a few hours, and the guys helping with the move had an event they had to attend that night. We had a very set amount of time to get things done in and weren’t counting on nothing being packed. So instead of just loading shit onto the truck, bringing the truck to the new place, unloading the truck, and then repeating this, we had to completely rethink our plan. We wound up breaking into two teams: one on the truck moving shit, and the other back at the house packing. I got stuck on the fucking packing team with one person who insisted on sorting and organizing clothes hangers for an hour, and another who cut out super early.  We were all stressed, snapping at each other and fighting, trying to just get a shit-tonne of shit done in a small amount of time.

This totally could’ve been avoided with a bit of planning. I’m super fucking anal when it comes to planning and organizing shit for moving because I’ve been through and helped with some pretty fucked up moves. I wrote once before about looking for a place to move to (and I’ll probably make an updated post like that again soon), but there’s so much more to it than just finding a place.

So here’s some tips and shit to help you get through your move, and prevent you from having The Move From Hell.

1: Figure Out What The Hell You Need — Dorm Room

College Check List

For a lot of you out there, moving into residence or dorms at school is the first time you’re going to be moving out on your own. There are a shit-tonne of lists out there on the internet, like the one above, telling you every little thing you’ll need to bring with you.

Please, ignore these lists.

Most lists will tell you that you need to bring cutlery with you when you move into a dorm. I know someone whose parents went over a list like that with him and decided he needed cutlery. Like, ALL the fucking cutlery. They bought him enough cutlery for like 8 place settings, PLUS a giant knife block, PLUS multiples of all the utensils you can think of (ladles, vegetable peelers, spatulas), PLUS like 4 cutting boards. Thing is, the kid lived in a dorm room in a residential tower, had a full meal plan, and had to share a 10’X15′ room featuring very little storage space with a roommate. They each had a desk, bed, and dresser, and that was it. Where the hell was he supposed to keep all that shit?

There is a tonne of stuff on these lists that you probably don’t need, like my friend above.  And there’s a lot of stuff that’s not on the list that you will probably need. It’s all about you, where you’re going, and what you’ll be doing. If you’re heading down to Florida for school, you’re not going to need a parka and snow boots. If your dorm room is some tiny little rinky-dink space that you have to share with another human being, then bringing a mini fridge, floor lamp, area rug, and a bunch of stackable drawers is probably a really shitty idea.

Dorm Check List

You’ve gotta think about what you fucking want and need, too. Do you want monogrammed towels and mugs and socks, so you always know when someone else is using your stuff? Then fucking do it up! Maybe you want to bring your annoyingly cute Emoji pillows to decorate your bed or your favourite stuffed lion you’ve had since you were 2 (yes, I have both of these things in my room at this very moment).  I’m comfy just sitting around the house in sweats and flannel shirts (ALWAYS flannel!!!!), and just switch into some old jeans with the same shirt when I need to go anywhere. I can honestly wear the same sweats for days. I’ve had friends who just CANNOT do this, and need a fresh outfit every day. They need a hell of a lot more clothes for their week than I need with my two pairs of sweats and my cozy flannels.

You’ve just gotta know yourself a bit, bring what you think you need. And if you forget something stupid, there’s always a dollar store somewhere. Need forks? Loofah? Socks? Ramen? Pens? They’ve got all of that at the fucking dollar store. Don’t stress yourself out too much about packing every single little thing you may possibly ever need.

2: Figure Out What The Hell You Need — Apartment

Ok, moving into an apartment is a bit different than dorm life. You have things like a kitchen and a bathroom that isn’t shared with 30 other people. You’re still going to need all the things you’d bring to a dorm, you’re going to need so much more than that too though.

The first thing you should do is talk to your roommates. Most young people today can’t afford an apartment all of their very own, so there’s a really really good chance you have AT LEAST one roommate. Hell, I have 4 roommates and a cat to help pay the bills around here. You NEED to talk to the people you’ll be living with to figure out what you need.

first_apartment_checklist

Figure out what you guys will need. Is someone bringing a TV? Anyone have a couch? Does your place have a microwave? What essential items are each of you bringing? I mean, it makes no sense for you to have three roommates, all four of you bring a microwave, and no one has a lamp. If you don’t want to go off of one of the lists online of everything anyone could ever need for their apartment, then at least look around you where you’re living now.

Do you have books? You’ll need somewhere to put them. Do you like to eat ever? You’ll need shit to eat off and with. What is your morning routine like? Some people need a single cup coffee maker, while others need a 12-cup pot, blow dryer, straightening iron, and lighted mirror to apply their makeup in (and there is NO shame in that, we all do it at some time!). Figure out what you need for your day-to-day life. Then figure out the things you’re used to that don’t seem all that important. Seriously, I didn’t realize how much I loved a squishy bathmat until I had nothing but an old towel and a cement floor. Then figure out who can bring what.

You’ll probably have some shit that no one just has lying around to bring. So start pricing shit out! Bathmat, microwave, cheap-ass dishes, a big-ass shelving thing for the kitchen and/or storage area, Tupperware that isn’t already full of your mother’s casserole….. it all adds up. Figure out what you really really need, buy as much cheap shit from dollar stores and second-hand stores, and check out things like yard sales and free online ads.

While we’re talking about talking to your new roommates, make sure you’re not bringing duplicates of things you have no room for. I have a large love seat that converts to a sofa bed. It was my grandma’s and she gave it to me before she died. It is very dear to me, I throw on slipcovers to match my roommate’s furniture, and it fits in fine. Fortunately, I only had a regular couch and big comfy chair to compete with for space in our living room. In the past, I’ve had to fight for room in my own bedroom, because a roommate had enough bedroom furniture to furnish a few rooms. She thought she was doing me a favour by displacing my stuff and letting me use her crappity-ass furniture she collected off the side of the road on move-out day the end of last semester.

Are all four of you planning to bring microwaves? Toaster ovens? Stereos? TVs? Figure out who has the best of what for where you’re living. As long as no one bought their shit brand new (which, to be honest, I have known only very few students and first-time apartment dwellers to be able to do), sell off what you don’t need to buy what you do need. If you have four TVs coming in, write up some paperwork saying you can all own it equally, and sell off the other three. Then use that money to buy other things you can all own equally. If, when you all move out, there is any dispute over who takes what (usually it’s the original owner taking the shit, unless everyone sold off really expensive shit), sell everything off and divide the proceeds.

But that is for Future You do worry about. Right now you have better shit to think about, like……

3: Pack Up Your Shit So You Know Where It Is

Don’t throw everything into one giant bag or box. You’ll wind up having to unpack EVERYTHING before you have to go to bed, and that shit fucking sucks. Even on my family’s ridiculous Move From Hell, we had the basics all separated: there was one bag with emergency underpants and all the hardware for the bed frames in mum’s van with the cat; we each had a backpack as an overnight bag (toiletries, jammies, change of clothes, my stuffed lion Pokey) with us during the move, and there was a box of stuff marked “First To Unpack” with shit like toilet paper, cleaning stuff, towels, and a shower curtain in it. Believe me, after the day we had, we needed that.

——-Ok, really long story short, my family’s move from hell back to my home town involved the movers bringing a van 1/3 the size we needed, calling extra family members from 2 hours away to come help us, some of mum’s good China being thrown under dad’s power tools in the moving van, bugs getting into almost ALL of the liquor (except what 18 year old me took for her own stash), and a day starting at 7am and going on until almost 2am. To top it off, our rental house we moved into had mold (which I turned out to be super allergic to), my parents’ bedroom had no heat, the laundry shoot emptied onto the furnace, and the dishwasher was plugged into an extension cord pulled through a hole in the floor that also had the washer and dryer plugged into it. It was fucking paradise.

Your move should be as painless and stressless as humanly possible. Moving to a new place itself is rough enough. Having to deal with misplaced shit and unpacking EVERYTHING just adds to the chaos. Take a few simple steps to help things go smoothly.

First, pack a box labeled “FIRST”. This should be left out in the open, where it’s plain to see that it’s the first box that needs to be opened. It should have essential shit you wouldn’t pack in an overnight bag, like toilet paper, bed sheets and blankets, cleaning supplies, extra towels, and maybe even a few dishes. If you know you can’t function without coffee in the morning, then pack the coffee and fucking coffee maker in there too. Whatever will make that first night and morning in your new place easiest should go in there. And don’t get into the trap of thinking, “Well, I’ve planned everything out, and the move should be done by 8 pm, which gives me plenty of time to unpack a few things”. That Move From Hell my family did was all planned out too. We didn’t know the truck would be too small. We didn’t know the movers would have only their newest employees working. We didn’t know there would be accidents on the highway extending out 2 hour drive time. There was a whole tonne of shit that extended our day. Our simple, “Get the cat unpacked into the bathroom upstairs, and get everyone’s basics unpacked and bedrooms set up before 10 pm” plan was WAAAY off. I stayed up until almost 2 am because I’m fucking stubborn and wanted the bed frames set up and sheets on the beds. And this had all been carefully planned to be done by 10 pm AT THE FUCKING LATEST!!!

Basically, plan for the worst first. Pack one bag as a weekend bag: all the things you’d pack for a weekend away at your folks’ place. Throw in anything you seriously are worried about too. My grandma always put a special wedding bracelet in her bag, because it was supposed to be passed onto every woman in our family on her wedding day. I used to pack my laptop; now that I use a desktop computer I backup everything to an external and pack that along with my iPad and chargers for EVERYTHING. Then, back extra shit you know you’d need for the next day or two in the FIRST box. You know you’ll need a shower, need to wipe your ass at some point, maybe need a fucking drink or four, so pack all of that in there. I like to pack snacks, cat food (for Bowser, not for me), a fresh flannel shirt (it’s calming, I’m Canadian), a book, and enough caffeine and coffee for a week’s worth of Irish mornings.

#3.1: Pack Shit Up Logically

Everyone has their own methods. I’m not here to give you 97 different methods of packing up to move to a new apartment. You want to know what I do, or what I want to do, you read my fucking blog. Don’t like my advice? Tweek it, or look for some more advice online somewhere.

From what I’ve found through my dozens of moves (both my own and helped) is that colour coding really helps if you’re moving somewhere with multiple rooms. Moving into a dorm? Just pack like shit with like shit, label the boxes, and you’re done. Have shit going to the kitchen, living room, bathroom, and possibly multiple bedrooms? Use a different colour Sharpie (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) to designate rooms. Red is the kitchen, blue is the bathroom, purple is the living room, and so on. You can even grab a piece of bristol board from the dollar store in each colour and throw it on the wall or door (whatever you would see first) so everyone knows where to go. And fill people in on your colour scheme: you never know when a colour blind person is amongst your helpers, or someone just didn’t notice the blue paper outside the bathroom and decides to put a box in storage.

Don’t want to colour code for whatever reason. Then just label the shit out of your boxes! “Beth’s room, last door on the right” gets rid of any confusion as to where shit goes. Even labeling something a little more than just “kitchen” can make a world of difference. “Kitchen – spices”, “Kitchen – bulk foods”, “Kitchen – shit to eat off”…. all of these little add-ons to the box label make your life just a tad bit easier. Chances are you’ll want shit to eat take-out pizza off of before you want your 10lbs bag of rice.

#3.2 Check Your Fridge and Freezer — Before AND After

So when we first left my home town, my aunt decided there was no possible way we could leave behind all the veggies in the massive vegetable garden in the back yard. Seriously, this thing was bigger than the room I pay almost $400 a month for in a shared house. We had corn, three types of peppers, cucumbers, pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, lettuce…… picture the world’s biggest salad bar, and we could fucking stock it.

My aunt decided we need tomatoes as memorabilia.

So, she took those tomatoes and threw them in the cooler with the frozen food left from the freezer in the kitchen. Her job for the move was “cleaning supplies and food”, and she was on top of things. When we moved stuff into the kitchen, she started putting food into the fridge and freezer to keep it from going bad. Those fresh tomatoes went into the freezer.

Months later, when I (the oldest of three) was babysitting, we found half a dozen rock hard frozen tomatoes in the freezer. The only logical thing to do was to whip them at each other. We had a frozen tomato fight until I whipped one really hard and high, hitting the low-hanging beam in the kitchen. I fucking dented the metal studs on it with a tomato.

When my parents finally noticed the damage (a few years later), they asked what the hell I hit the beam with to cause such a big dent.

“One of Judy’s frozen tomatoes from the garden”

When we left that house, they fucking took inventory of EVERYTHING.  They knew what was coming out of the freezer, and exactly what would be going back in. There were no stray tomatoes freezing into rock hard murder spheres at this house. There also were no forgotten chickens hanging on a hook on the wall by the basement freezer (dad did this once when I was a kid. Took us weeks to find where all the flies were coming from, since I was the oldest and couldn’t climb up on the freezer to see what was behind it). Keep track of your food, all of it.

In the week or two leading up to the move, stop buying food as much as possible and just eat what you have (I try to do this once or twice a year, just because I tend to stock up on shit when it’s cheap and then run out of room in the kitchen). Eat as much of your frozen food as possible. Treat yourself to frozen pizzas from last month’s sale for breakfast on Saturday. Eat frozen corn with every meal for a week. Whatever the hell you have to do, do it. I like to make stew, chili, and soup with just whatever is laying around the kitchen. It’s a hell of a lot easier to transport, keep track of, and unpack three or four Tupperware containers of chili and stew than it is making sure your massive fucking collection of chicken breasts stays cold enough to not thaw on moving day.

If you’re moving in with roommates and you all do your own grocery shopping, then it might be a good idea to inventory EVERYTHING. Like, write down what food you’re bringing into the house with you, so you no one “accidentally” takes any of it while you’re unpacking. I had a roommate who would take my food “accidentally” all the time. She even had the nerve to steal my cheese (repeatedly) and use it to make dinner for “everyone”, meaning she made tacos and shredded all of my new brick of cheese to hide in the back of her fridge for when she wanted it.  I did what any rational, normal adult would do in that situation: I wrote a passive-aggressive poem about my cheese running away (which I just spent a good hour digging through old notebooks looking for), and left it on the fridge for her.

Running Cheese

#4: Pay Your Fucking Movers

Most people use their friends to help them move. The universally acceptable method of payment for helping a friend move is pizza and beer. You don’t have to get all fancy with craft beers, but don’t pick on the vegetarians for wanting no meat on their pizza. You’d be a real asshole if your friend busted his ass all day moving your shit, and you piss all over him for his food choices. Unless he wants mayonnaise or pineapple on his pizza, shut your damn mouth and fill his with copious amounts of ‘za.

#5: Unpack Your Shit Logically

Now, after you spend all that time with the colour coding, and the “First” box, and an overnight bag, don’t fuck it up now. Get your bed set up. Put your furniture where you want it. Then start unpacking the stuff you’ll need first. Get your clothes in the closet, the food in the cupboards, and cleaning supplies under the sink. Plug in the coffee pot, and put the coffee grinds and filters by it. Get anything you’ll want to use early the next morning out of the boxes and on the shelves.

Don’t start with your books, or DVD collection, or anything that will take time to sit down and organize because it’s on display. Yes, your shit is going to look pretty rad once it’s all unpacked. But things like eating and properly caffeinating are a bit more important deciding if you’ll group your DVDs by genre, alphabetically, or by colour. Maybe get things like your closet and your kitchen set up first. Then you can curl up in your nicely unpacked clothes, make a drink in your unpacked glasses, and work on your stuff.

Back to School How-To

Hey there Sunshine!  It’s the middle of the night, going on the very early morning hours. I had a bizarro day (may have witnessed a very injured and mentally unstable young man steal a wheelchair and run away from a hospital ER), and that’s making my anxiety go through the roof tonight. When the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend was heading off to bed, I had to sit up in front of the TV for a bit doing my deep breathing, because I was sure I was about to have a heart attack.

Oh well, hope your night is going much better!

This whole combination of bizarro situations and ridiculously high anxiety DID remind me that school is starting soon, though. I moved a month into high school to a whole new city, to a newly opened high school. Somehow, my parents thought that the fact that the school was new meant that no one there knew each other yet, so I should have no problem making friends. Had to finish my fifth and final year at a new school back in my hometown. After a few years off, went back to college, only to leave after only getting my one year certificate (instead of the 2-year diploma) due to an incident there. Years after that, went back to university as a “mature student” and spent more than 5 years working on my degrees, only to let anxiety get the best of me and not apply to graduate school.

So believe me when I say that I KNOW back to school anxiety.

The thing is, there are so many different things that can worsen your back to school anxiety: financial woes, social anxiety, moving to a new place, the unknown in general, education itself, fear of the future……….  I keep seeing these articles on how to handle your Back To School Anxiety, but they only have band-aid solutions to things.  Sure, lavender might help you relax, but will it help you save money on school supplies and textbooks? Eating lots of veggies is great for your all-around physical and mental health, but how will that help you meet people? Companion animals are great, but most dorm rooms don’t allow them.

So what’s a student to do?

Hopefully, I can shed a little light on that for ya’ll. I researched things back then for myself, and research them now for friends and roommates. I’m digging through my ancient external hard drive, stacks of old half-used notebooks (I dare you to find a troubled writer who doesn’t have at least half a dozen of these in their home), and my very large pile of Research I Printed To Read Later But Never Did. I’m combing Tumblr blogs (I’ll have links to a few that are super helpful), old PowerPoint presentations, and that forgotten “Stuff For My Blog” folder in my Bookmarks. Basically, I’m digging through all my shit to find that shit that works best for you.

So, I’ll try and pour as much of this anxiety-fuelled awakeness into my research for now. Hopefully, I’ll have some posts for you on this all this week, while you’re getting ready for Back to School.

 

Found a little inspiration on Twitter today

Brandon Calvillo tweet

So these popped up on my Twitter feed today while I was definitely NOT spending my morning off day dreaming about Brandon Calvillo’s social media brilliance. And they got to me somehow. I screenshotted them and kept them, looking at them from time to time, trying to figure out what it was about them that made me feel so damn “argh” and “blah”. They gave me this feeling that I couldn’t just put into words. Instead, I sat there trying to reason with myself, unable to get full words out at times, replacing them with random guttural moans.

It wasn’t until I had a nice long talk with myself in the shower (which I regularly do, in case you were wondering) that it hit me: I used to be a writer until everyone decided I should be a writer.

When I first got out of high school, I wanted to write. I had been writing on and off since 8th grade. I also had spent the last few years having everyone close to me tell me every single reason why I should NOT write. Now, this was when the internet was first getting to be The Next Big Thing, and everyone seemed convinced that we wouldnèt need journalists and novelists and satirists anymore. There would be a handful of these people out there, who would create content online, and we would all read the same thing.

I know, how so very Orwellian. These are also the same people who stockpiled water before Y2K and bought things like flashlights and candles that were labeled “Y2K Compliant”.

I was pushed into things like Political Science and Comparative Politics, which I had no interest in at the time. So I quit everything, took a job at Subway and a very small writing job as an Arts and Culture columnist for a little underground magazine. It was a weird time in my life I refer to now as my Dark Days (I hung out in goth bars and was kinda sorta engaged to a drumming ninja. Seriously.), and I was a complete shit writer for that magazine. But I was writing. None of my friends or family read it, and a lot of what I got paid to write was complete drivel. At the end of the day, after coming home from work or an art show or from seeing some random local band play, I would write. Not all of it was good. Hell, most of it was pure crap (I wrote a lot of poetry while sitting in a dark candlelit corner of a dingy goth bar). But I was writing all the damn time. And as crap as my life was, my writing made me happy.

Once I moved home, though, all of this changed. Suddenly, my family wanted to see everything I was writing. I could have the barest of outlines for a short story or an article, or even just a few lines of an idea, and theyèd want to see it. They’d critique it, or laugh at it. They were always asking me, “Well who would actually read this?”

The answer to that question should have just been: Me. I should have just kept writing what I wanted to say, what I wanted to write. I wasn’t writing to make people love me, or make people want to run out and buy books a lame-ass poetry by me. I was writing because at that precise moment in time that is what I was feeling, and it needed to be said somehow.

Suddenly though, everyone was convinced that the only reason I should ever write is so people will buy my writing from me. I should be writing with images of dollar bills (or Loonies, as we have here in Canada) flashing before my eyes. I should be tailoring my every word to exactly what people want to hear from me.

And that killed it for me.

So I stopped writing for years. I’d push out the odd little piece here and there. I had one one little satirical story published in an off-campus University newspaper once when I went back to school. But I was more focused on my writing for classes at that point. I absolutely loved pouring over stacks of research papers and figures and tables. Academic writing was like some strange parallel between me writing what I wanted to write, and me having to write what people wanted to hear. As a Criminology and Psychology major, I got to write papers on criminal profiling, eyewitness testimony in wrongful convictions, moral panics, and all sorts of things I had a true interest in. If I had the courage to actually apply for the master’s program here, I would’ve been up to my eyeballs in research on events of mass violence specific to a school setting, and major media influences blamed at the time of each incident, cross-referenced with crime statistics and the release of other similar media not blamed for violent events.

Damn, I’m wet even just thinking about researching all that.

Sadly, there’s no market out there for a BA(H) who wants to write academic papers, unless they’re shelling out the cash for grad school. So, I work in retail selling the devil’s brew. And I want to write.

Problem is, it’s starting all over again. I try to jot things down on my break, and I have people reading over my shoulder. I tell friends or co-workers that I write a bit, and suddenly they know exactly what I should be writing. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had the same guy tell me that I NEED to write a book on some specific topic because I could make MILLIONS on it.

I don’t necessarily want the millions though. I mean, that would definitely be nice not having to worry about rent or student loan payments or debt anymore. But I don’t want to write something just because it would make me millions. You know?

I mean, I’m not an overly eloquent writer. I swear a lot in my daily life. And I have a hell of a time getting things down in writing. I mean, I can ramble for hours if you let me. I can have intense, intelligent conversations. I’m sure if I really wanted to, I could do a podcast or a vlog of my random ramblings and get a hundred posts out easily. But once I try to get that out on paper or typed out, the words just get stuck sometimes. It’s like I could have the greatest idea in the world, and be able to tell you all about it in minute detail, but once I try to actually get it down it’s the written equivalent of a 3-year-old’s crayon drawing of a giraffe.

I fell into that trap, though, where I figured I was supposed to be writing because I could make money from it. It killed my creativity and the few things I tried to get out where some of the worst pieces of crap I’ve ever written. I wasn’t writing anything for me, I was writing crap I thought other people would want me to write.

So I came back to this blog. I mean, I know why I started it, and it was all for me. I’ve watched as hundreds and hundreds of people around me have been coddled and babied and taken care of as kids and teens and pushed to the breaking point in high school to study and learn. And then one day they’re thrown out into the real world at a university or college and expected to just function normally like a full-grown adult. They don’t know how to budget, or cook, or do laundry. They’ve never had to pay their bills on time or live on next to no money. And I’ve seen so many people fail in different ways. Hell, I failed at some of this crap epically, and I went back to school in my mid-20s! A big part of me starting this blog was because I just wanted to get the info out there that people need to know in order to function sometimes. I wanted cooking tips, and how to grocery shop, because I had to teach myself all of this and I had to watch a lot of my friends fail at this. I wanted to write something personal to me, but applicable to so many people out there, not to gain fame or fortune, but to let people know that they’re not alone.

And I really needed somewhere to bitch about work and roommates, too.

These two simple tweets reminded me of why I ever wrote anything in the first place. In 8th grade, I told off my basketball coach for a bunch of things. He wouldn’t let us play our annual Valentine’s game against the boys’ team because we were not very good, and he spent more time telling us what utter pieces of crap we were than coaching us some days. So I wrote down what I wanted to say and practiced it over and over. When I had the nerve to tell him what I needed to say, he said he’d pretend he didn’t hear that. So I shoved my rehearsal paper in his hand and said, “Well, you can’t pretend you didn’t read it.” And that was one of my greatest pieces of writing ever. He sent it home with my sister to show my parents, and they weren’t even mad. My mother was impressed: I managed to explain myself at least at a 12th-grade level and tell this man off without resorting to foul language. She even said she was proud of me for it once! Writing all of that down, though, getting it out of me and down on paper, that was the greatest feeling ever.

Since then, I’ve lost that feeling. I haven’t created anything just for me in so long, aside from this blog. I’ve been mentally lost in this void, constantly being told what I SHOULD be doing and I SHOULD be writing and just giving up and falling further. My anxiety and depression have worsened in the last few years. My panic attacks are worse. I cry myself to sleep more often.

Just since reading these two tweets, I’m feeling better. I took 3 days off of work this weekend after working every single freakin day in June, so today is technically the last day of my little “vacation”. And I decided today would be a day just for me. I made a kick ass YouTube playlist of some pretty chill and awesome tunes to throw on while I write and clean. And they’re all songs I wanted to hear and I love, regardless of if they mesh well together in a list. I mean, it’s pretty hard to take “Cry Little Sister” from the Lost Boys soundtrack and pair it up with much. And I threw in all the Talk Talk and Lou Reed I could handle. I worked on a list I’ve been playing with for this blog, just things I really shouldn’t have to say to my grown-ass adult roommates but still have to. I wrote this massive shit-post of a ramble. I made a foot rest out of a laundry basket (ok I turned a laundry basket upside down, but it’s still something) and have mentally re-arranged the bedroom. Hell, I might even physically start moving things around tonight.  And I think I’ll rewatch some old Twin Peaks this week before I start watching the new series when I’m on closing shifts for a week.

Two little tweets from a man I’ve never met, but whose work I’ve come to admire, have changed my outlook completely. I feel alive and refreshed right now. I have the energy to do things, and for the first time in a very long time, I don’t feel like I completely wasted a day off.

I don’t really know how to end this. I guess sometimes we all just need to feel a little bit inspired, and sometimes we need to be reminded of why we do the things we do. Everything has become about the money these days, and it doesn’t have to be. Go do something for you, Sunshine. Go be you for you. Create, exist, touch people’s lives. And read random tweets from cute little ex-Vine stars, because you never know where you’ll get your inspiration from.

So I read a lot of articles about how to have an online presence. Judging by the long periods I go without posting……. well, I’m not learning much yet it would seem. Part of that is because I’ve been trying to figure out this whole “branding” thing. I keep seeing article after article after article about how important it is for you to brand yourself properly.  If you mess this up, then you’re basically doomed for all eternity online.

So you can see why I’d be focusing on learning more about that, right?

The thing is, none of it was making sense to me. Register a domain name, have an email signature, pick the right avatar……… but how? And why? And what does it all mean?  No one was coming right out and saying, “Here is how you figure out what your brand is”. All they ever did was give you tips for how to work with your brand. But what if you don’t know what your brand is?

So yesterday, I headed out to the mall. Well, I headed out there twice actually. I just got my new phone in the mail (the new LG 5G!!) and had to head over to Koodo to get the stuff from my old phone transferred to my new phone. I caught the bus, made most of the almost 1 hour trip out there….. and realized I left the phone at home. So I had to come home, grab the phone, waste some time until the next bus came, and head out yet again. By the time I got there, I needed cheap mall sushi and discount clothes to calm me down.

So I sat down with my new phone, shoving cheap sushi in my gluttonous face hole, trying to decide which stores to check out. Different stores have their different styles, and there are certain stores I gravitate to more than others. Despite my age, I still hit up Forever 21 pretty regularly ($2.99 tank tops to wear under my uniform? How can I go wrong?). While checking out their clearance racks, I overheard two girls talking.

“I know it’s a great price, but it doesn’t go with anything you own. It’s so outside your style it’s crazy to even look at it.”

“But it’s a $12 coat! I’m sure I could make it fit in somehow.”

“Name me three things in your closet right now that would go with this coat. And then look at this $16 coat and try to do the same thing.”

I stood there listening, and finally asked the girl which one she was going to chose. As someone who loves a good deal, a $12 coat sounds amazing. But $16 is damn good too, especially if it goes with everything you already own. After a few minutes, the girl was still undecided. So her friend asked her what her style was.

Now, I’m the first to say that I have no style. I can’t take some look off the pages of a magazine and work it. I’ll take odd items, mix them together, and make a look from that. I’m a bit of a mish-mash of things, and apparently this girl was too.

So we made a list of the things that really spoke to us in the store. For me it was denim jackets, ripped jeans, combat boots, dark sun glasses, blazers, vests, tank tops, and lots of dark patterns. Throw in the random jewellery I liked (a range from hippie love beads to spiked rings to 90’s style chokers), and they determined my style.

“You’re like a Corporate Goth Punk Hippie,” they decided.

And suddenly it all made sense.

My closet is like my brand. It’s all the things that are me to the outside world. Not everyone will have the absolute pleasure of talking to me, and getting to know me, but they can see me. I have a look, a style, a brand.

It’s the same thing online. What am I doing here? What am I writing? What am I posting? That’s my brand. That’s what I need to develop; the essence of me that you all can see.

So, Sunshine, now that I have that figured out a bit more, hopefully I can put it out of my head for a bit and get back to writing more. Hopefully you’ll hear from me again very soon!

Doing Some Very Grown-Up Things

So as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been trying to do some very grown-up things. Among those things are:

  • getting through to the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend that his debts can hold us back in getting the things we want in life.
  • taking a serious look at my own debts (which I admit, I let get way out of hand)
  • talking to someone about my debts who is in a position to help me (debt counsellor , bank loan officer), instead of just my mother and AAB
  • look at what I can do in my current job to help advance myself AND add to my resume
  • learn to use the new iPad AAB got me for Christmas for something other than Mario Run (which I refuse to pay for more than the basic starter levels right now) and Pokemon Go.

So, since the first of the month, I’ve been doing some Very Grown-Up Things. I laid out to AAB how his debt and credit score affects our future. If I’m working towards fixing my credit, and he’s not, then it makes no financial sense for us to ever become common-law or think of getting married. I know that sounds horrible, and it really does tear me up inside to say it. But I’m taking steps towards someday owning a house, or a condo, and want to at the very least get out of this house in the very near future. If I get my credit score up to a level that will get me a mortgage, or a good loan, then we can’t really do anything that would link us together financially. Doing that would mesh our credit together, and his score would affect mine. I think he’s finally starting to see that.

Also, just this week I had an appointment at my bank. Even though I am in a less-than-ideal position for a bank to lend me money, I have handled my debts well enough that there is a very good chance I may be able to get a consolidation loan to help take care of my credit card debts. I’ll have some tips on how to handle your credit like I did later. For now, I’m just focusing on getting my paperwork together to work on this loan, and get my other paperwork together to send off to the student loan people for my Repayment Assistance Plan (otherwise they just take $700 out of my account each month, which I really can never afford).

Well wouldn’t you know, right after my bank appointment I dropped into work to eat and study my new Wine Folly book before my shift, and my former manager was there to do our appraisals! It seems I’m a bit of an overachiever when it comes to the online training. He showed me how much training someone with my seniority would normally have if they only did what they had to. Then he showed me mine. It’s like twice as long! So what did I do when I got home? I signed up for more training. I’m going to do my shift leader training, some extra customer service training, a whole lot of extra product knowledge training, and some mentorship training. Then, the next time the District Manager is in our store, I want to ask him if there is any sort of mentorship programs in place with the company. Even if I have to be the mentee of the Weird BowTie Guy from our flagship store, or Cute Asshole who used to work at my store, it would totally be worth it for the opportunity.

In all of this busy-ness though, I haven’t picked up the iPad once! Hopefully once AAB’s birthday present is all set up (got a nice TV package for him), we will be chilling in the office a bit more, and I will have more of an excuse to pull it out and use it.

So there’s my current foray into the Grown-Up World I’ve failed at so far, Sunshine. I have a lot of big plans coming up, which will hopefully bring some big lessons and experiences you all can learn from (so you don’t have to screw up as bad as I did).

A Little Bit o’the Purge

Well a belated Happy New Year to you all out there, Sunshine!

I had a busy few weeks leading up to this. Volunteered for the 6am shift at work for the holidays. That meant 3 weeks of getting up at 4am, then walking to work in the snow at 5:30am. But I was done by 2:30pm every day, so it was worth it for me. If I could get a Monday to Friday job like that, I would take it in a heartbeat. It meant a lot more time with my Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend, and being able to cook dinners again. For the first time ever, I cooked a whole chicken! Did a lot of baking, decorating, had a slight existential crisis, multiple panic attacks, and drank a lot of Starbucks (thank you gift cards!).

But now I’m back to my normal life for now. Working closing shifts again, hours are getting cut drastically. I’ve picked up a few shifts from co-workers this week already, so I’m getting around 25 hours this week (compared to the 40 I was getting before the holidays). Next week I’m down to 8 hours, and the following week I have ZERO hours on the schedule. This means I’ll have to go back to waking up early, getting myself all ready in case there’s a chance I could get called in and pick up some hours, and keeping myself busy around the house. I’ve done a few very grown-up things so far, and have a few more on the list (appointments with my bank, my doctor, and finding a new eye doctor). But the big thing right now that AAB and I are focusing on is a good clean and purge of our stuff.

Last night, AAB started cleaning out his dresser. Because of his job, he has a tonne of clothes that wind up too ripped and stained to donate. So he turned what he could into rags, threw away a whole bunch, and then gathered up ALL the laundry (somehow there’s 4 baskets sitting here. How the hell did that happen?).

I started with my jewellery. My baby Bowser kitten went through a phase a few months ago where he kept jumping up on my dresser and knocking over my earing boxes and necklace stand. After a few weeks of half-assed organizing his post-leap messes, I just gave up. I dumped most of the stuff into a giant bowl, and kept tossing random things on top of it: socks, scarves, empty plastic bags, lotion bottles.

So last night, I spent a good hour and a half untangling necklaces, pairing up earrings, grouping bangles, and hiding away the few things I got from grandma. While going through all of this, thoughts kept popping into my head as I handled certain pieces: do I really need this? Will I ever wear this? Is this something I really want? So I started seriously thinking as I untangled and matched up pieces.

And you know what? It turns out I didn’t need half of this stuff. I had a necklace tucked away in a small baggie that had a few broken links. I swore for more than two years that I would fix it and wear it again someday. Two years! And you know what? There was never a time where I said to myself, “Gee, I wish I had that old tarnished faux-gold and faux-pearl necklace on right now. It would totally complete this look.” It was a great necklace, and I wore it once to a fraternity formal to jazz up an old LBD. I hadn’t worn it since, and didn’t really have anything else to wear it with. It wasn’t expensive (just one more piece from my lovely Ardene collection). It held no sentimental value. It wasn’t some rare irreplaceable piece. Every season there was something similar at Ardene that I could get for a very reasonable price if I was ever desperate for a piece like this. But right now, it was just this tangled mass of chains with a string of faux-pearls slowing falling apart. It was taking up space, and that’s all it was doing. So, I tossed it.

So for the next few weeks, especially on days when I do not have a shift and I don’t get called in, this is what I’ll be doing to stay busy. On top of my usual job hunting and cleaning around the house, I’ll be purging and organizing our stuff all over the house. Today, I went through a basket of lotions and hair products. While I did jump between curling and straightening my hair when it was longer, and needed some heavy duty moisturizers and split end menders for the ends at that time, I haven’t touched any of that stuff in months. I chopped my hair in a pixie, and just use a little putty and texturing spray in now. So why keep all of these almost empty bottles of hair products sitting around the house taking up space? Especially when recycling goes out tonight? Later today before I leave for work, I’ll be gathering up some odd random holiday stuff (Halloween costume ears, swords, Christmas sweaters and socks, etc.) and storing that stuff away.

So Sunshine, do the objects you surround yourself with bring you joy? Are they things that you can say definitely add value to your life? Or do you have piles of “maybe someday I’ll use it” crap all around you? Maybe this year could be your year to finally go through some of this stuff and say, “If I don’t need you, I’m not keeping you.” And this goes for anything you have that is just a drain on your time and space: books, beauty products, friends, volunteering opportunities, partners, socks……….. Take your time, go at your own pace, and get rid of the junk that’s just taking up precious space in your life.

Student Loans: Don’t Let Them Ruin You

So it’s no secret that I’ve financially screwed myself over in the last few years. I’m sitting here watching people all around me pay off their debts, or even graduate with hardly any debt at all, while I feel like I’m sitting in the corner with a huge dunce cap covered in dollar signs.

What infuriates me, though, is when these same people talk to me about how they did that. So many of them were there with me when I was screwing myself royally, and not a single one offered any useful advice! Now they’re all like, “Well I mean I OBVIOUSLY paid the interest off every semester. Doesn’t everyone?”

No! We don’t! Because we didn’t know that was a thing that we should be doing! Those of us who are in the financial sinking ship I’m trapped in had no idea how bad things would be. I mean, I knew the basics about spending and saving and such. I read The Wealthy Barber in college, and got my obligatory copy of The Debt Free Graduate at orientation. I had the knowledge. I just had no clue how bad things could get after school was done.

Like so many others, I had the “I’ll have a degree and that will get me a job” fallacy stuck in my head. I thought that once I was working, I’d make enough money to get a dinky little apartment and start paying off my loans pretty quickly. I didn’t think that I’d be making $100K right out of the gate or anything, but I at least thought that I’d have a full-time job in something related to my degree that paid me enough to live AND treat myself sometimes AND pay off my debts.

**queue laughter**

I know, I know: I was so naive!! Looking back, I should’ve done so much more research into my finances, my financial options, and financial obligations. Obviously I didn’t, and instead relied on the horrible advice I was so prone to taking from well-meaning friends. So what were some of the things I didn’t know back in the day?

1) YOU CAN MAKE PAYMENTS ON YOUR OSAP (STUDENT LOANS) BEFORE YOU’RE DONE SCHOOL

I blissfully collected my student loans (OSAP, where I’m from) for 5 whole years. When I had a bit of money left over at the end of the semester, I’d think, “Gee, isn’t this great!  A few hundred bucks I didn’t manage to blow on energy drinks and 7-11 hotdogs! I’d better spend it now before the next loans come out.”

Dumbest. Idea. Ever.

It doesn’t matter how big or how small the payment you can make: if you have ANY money you can put towards your loans before you absolutely have to pay them back, put it towards your loans! It doesn’t matter if it’s a government loan, line of credit, or private loan. If, for whatever reason, you know you absolutely CANNOT put money towards your loan a bit early (penalties, contract terms, etc), put what you COULD put towards it into a savings account. Then, that very first payment you can make will be a bigger one with all of that extra money put towards this.

Why does this help? I mean, what’s the point of paying back money if they’re just going to give you more money anyways, right? Well, because of INTEREST, my darlings. If you get a $1,000 loan, and can pay $150 towards it right away, that leave only $850 collecting interest. Interest which you will have to pay back later. Every little bit counts when you’re trying to pay things back.

2) JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE MONEY DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO SPEND IT ALL.

Ok, so this goes back to the first point a little. I didn’t need my splurges. Yes, everyone needs to treat themselves sometimes. And I honestly thought I was doing very good with the budgeting. Every semester I would divide up my money, and only give myself access to what I had budgeted each month. I’d have enough for rent, phone, credit card bills (mostly), and other little things like groceries and transportation. I thought managing my money like this made me a Real Grown-Up.

Now, I had some friends who blew through their money fast on big ticket items. They bought crappy used cars that barely ran, a brand new mattress (when they had a perfectly good one already), state-of-the-art computers, and Texas Mickeys (those comically large  bottle of booze at the liquor store that come with a pump because they’re too big to pour from, for those who don’t know). Compared to them, I was a flippin financial genius.

But just because I seemed financially savvy compared to them didn’t mean I actually WAS. I blew money on the stupidest things sometimes. I mean, just the amount I blew on energy drinks, over-priced take-out food, over-priced lattes, and bottles of wine that were outside of my price-range……. well, I think I might just cry right now thinking about that. And all of that money still needs to be paid back!

I used to tell myself, “Well, the money is there. I’ll be able to pay it back later. I may as well enjoy myself now before I end up some corporate shrill who forgets what fun is.” Yeah, that doesn’t happen. On graduation day, you are still the same person you always were, with the same ideas of fun, but now you have that debt hanging over your head. Would I still like to splurge on a nice bottle of Ravenswood Zinfandel and a pair of Doc Martens’? Oh hell yes! Can I afford that now, after racking up all that debt which was partially made up of things like that? Not a freakin chance!

3) A DEGREE DOES NOT EQUAL A JOB. AND A JOB DOES NOT MEAN YOU CAN PAY BACK YOUR LOANS RIGHT AWAY.

I was one of the many who lived under the delusion that having my BA(H) would mean companies would be falling all over themselves to hire me. I mean, I have a degree! An honours degree! I should be making the big bucks here!

Yeah, I’m a Customer Service Representative at a government -owned specialty store. And I’m not the only one with a degree working here! I lost track of the number of other CSR’s I’ve met just in my city who are educated people, with degrees (PLURAL, EACH!!!!!) who are still working behind a cash register. Not that it’s a horrible job or anything…….. but we were under the assumption that we would be a bit higher up the food chain once we shelled out all that money for a degree. At least, that’s what we were constantly told anyway.

At my current job, I make under the provincially mandated minimum annual wage to be forced into making payments on my loan. This means I make so little money, the government basically says, “Here, you need this more than we do. Keep your change for now.” I have been out of school 3 1/2 years and have not yet had to make a payment (not that I haven’t, but that’s a whole other post).  I keep a roof over my head, food in my belly, and nip on my cat’s scratching post. But not much more than that.

Even with two degrees, a college certificate, and advanced Microsoft training, the competition is so fierce for jobs that I can’t find a better paying job at the moment. I know that will change. I know that someday (soon, hopefully) I will be making enough to not only be FORCED to make payments on my loan, but to AFFORD to make them. But it’s going on 4 years now of job hunting. I know people who are 5 and 6 years in, still working retail or call centers. It sucks, especially after shelling out all the (borrowed) money. But it’s reality, Sunshine.

 

Well, it’s getting late. Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend is passed out in bed (he has to be up in 6 hours for yet another 10 hour day at work), and my baby Bowser kitten is right by his side. I’d better finish up this post, and this glass of Cab Sauv, and curl up with them while there’s still some bed left to sleep on. I know this post seems a little depressing, but it’s meant as a warning. Don’t make the same mistakes I did: let me be the terrible warning for you! You just do your thing, keep on keeping on, and try to do life the very best you can. Until next time, keep on smiling Sunshine.