Pothole! – Keeping up with the Joneses…

Ok, so here’s the thing.

I’m a shopper. OK, truth time… a shopaholic. With depression ever a breath away, retail therapy has always been comparable to a good friend and confidant. Ever a clotheshorse, I can rarely bear to get rid of clothes that still fit and are passable fashion statements. (7th grade Daisy Dukes… yeah, still got ’em.)

HOWEVER…

I am a strict bargain hunter… a clearance rack scraper. If I do manage to get my hands on something name brand, it’s at a completely discounted price. I have very rarely paid full price for anything, save food or warranted medical procedures. (Relax, no plastic surgery here. It’s not in the budget!)

As a kid, most of my friends were rich. Almost all of them owned at least one horse. My parents, working class folk, had to scrape by to provide the essentials for three growing children. At times, my mom held no less than 4 odd jobs. Even so, they did everything they could to make sure that we never felt looked down on or made fun of. In 5th grade, I can remember begging for a white Guess? jean jacket that cost $60. That was a LOT of money.

Mom found a way to make it happen.

I still own that jacket to this day. I can’t let go of it because of what it means and stands for.

Some fashion trends, see plastic charm necklaces and double socks, never made it past mom inspection, “No matter how cool it looks.” Even though we may not have always been on the high end of the fashion scale, my siblings and I were always sent to school looking neat, clean and put together.

Besides… guess who was deemed “Best Dressed” in the fourth grade?

In my hot pink and black spotted suspender jumper outfit and everything.

Yes, I still hang on to and tout that title at most any opportunity I can sneak it in. 😉

Living in New York, it was tough to keep up with city fashion plates. I didn’t like the bland “standard” black look. Never being afraid to stand out, I did wear a lot of color and kept it, well, interesting. Maybe not Brooklyn interesting, but my own form of cheap, chic fashion interesting.

When I returned to university as an almost 30 something, I hit a big low in finances. Gone were the days of my full time corporate job. Hello student loans! I worked a glorified college student job as a dance instructor. Though I had a VERY high hourly wage, sometimes I was only scheduled 10 or so hours a week. I scaled back a lot in those days and managed to scrape by by living at home. *gasp*

A particularly rough patch came along when I started to date again. I met someone who was self-made and very financially responsible. Well, minus the cars and toys. 😉 At the same time, I started my unpaid internships, which plummeted my work hours to maybe 4 a WEEK. I amped up the students loans and started breaking out the credit cards.

Dating someone with money is not as easy as one would imagine. Of course, maybe that was just for me.

Always proud and very stubborn, I am not one to ever ask for anything. Even at my worst, I have never asked anyone, even family, for help. It’s not my nature. I don’t like being “helped.” Plus, who wants to be known as a gold digger? That’s just deplorable in my book.

Anyway, being with someone who drives a fancy car and lives a certain lifestyle lends itself to massive pressure. Pressure to look perfect, sound perfect, BE perfect. Yes, most of my clothes at the time came from Old Navy. I tried my very best to turn them into something more, but sometimes there’s only so much you can do. I wanted so very hard to be the perfect partner, to keep up with the trips and the expectations.

So, I dug myself into an $8,000 credit hole.

I once knew this girl who had $10,000 in credit card debt. My mother and I chalked it up to irresponsible spending. I couldn’t imagine how she could have ever gotten THAT behind. Now, I was starting to realize the same pain… and embarrassment.

I was mortified. I was always the responsible one. I was the one who tried to keep everyone else on track. Now, here I was, living at home and with a stable partner, and still DROWNING in debt.

The thing is, when you love someone, you will often do anything to make him/her realize that you are the one they are looking for. The one they find acceptable as a life partner. You want to be perfect so as not to be thrown away. I was already fighting a losing battle with my choice to become a teacher, complete with crappy salary and mega emotional drainage. I felt like the only way to still appear “worthy” was to prove that I could keep up… sinking myself even further.

Fortunately, I got a full time teaching job upon graduation. In a crazy competitive, school budget cut environment, this was an extremely lucky situation. Splitting my time living at home and for minimal rent with a fabulous sister-like roommate allowed me to pay off the credit card debt completely in a few short months.

The relationship? Gone. Tough? Absolutely. There were definite, painful feelings of not being enough, even after all that spending. There also was a lot of anger for being that stupid to foolishly spend in order to try to be enough.

Now?

Well, the living situation last year, during that first year of teaching, allowed me to actually SAVE up almost as much as I had incurred in debt the previous year. I planned to move to Los Angeles to follow my dream… and to get away from the heartache. I made it halfway, to Colorado, with my sister and niece. I planned to only stay a month and a half. I got cast in a show. I stayed. Not working for six months with bills still coming in the mail certainly takes a toll on savings…

So, I’m back to barely scraping by. I’ve got a bit of debt again, but nowhere near the insanity I allowed myself before. Not being able to find work here was really tough. I don’t mean to brag, but I have a GREAT resume. In this economy however, it rarely seems enough. Some companies refuse to hire you if you are overqualified, but a job is a job. I was looking for anything.

Fate lead me to a great job as a Lego Engineering Instructor. Part time is nowhere near ideal, but I haven’t LOVED my job in a very long time. Now, I am putting in extra (unpaid) time and effort to try and develop new strategies for international corporate expansion. Summer will lead me into full time camp hours, but come fall, I hope to make a big change. The money won’t come for a LONG time, but hopefully I will find a way to get by at first in order to make it out on top in the long run.

This will most surely mean loans, which means it is back to university I go! Provided I get accepted, that is.

I will never let myself be a person who needs to be taken care of. It’s not in my nature. I’m not so fussed about finding a partner, though loneliness loudly knocks at the doorway to depression; I have pretty much given up on anyone accepting me, and wanting to be with me, as I am. I am, however, fussed about being a good mother. My only hope is that I can get to a point, hopefully sooner rather than later, where I can effectively take care of myself and my future child.

And still buy her a white Guess? jean jacket.

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~ by sillyauntjen on May 26, 2011.

2 Responses to “Pothole! – Keeping up with the Joneses…”

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog. Keep up the lovely posts! 🙂

  2. I’m still in a mountain of debt myself… medical and credit cards. I made the big decision to leave my parents house and live with my boyfriend, and even squashed in a tiny studio, we racked up debt just buying gas and groceries. We nearly split due to the space strain, so we bucked up and moved to a bigger (and more expensive) place, and foolishly got 3 pets. Between rent, pets, and other basic living expenses, I struggle to meet rent every single month. I even joined the local food bank to ease the strain on grocery spending. I regularly play the “which bill won’t get paid this month?” game… I have to rotate them to keep anything from getting shut off (about a year ago, our power did get shut off… a definite low point). I am no longer making MORE debt (my credit cards got cancelled long ago), but I still have a large sum that I owe looming over my head. And I can’t afford to pay it off. PRETTY sure I’ll be taken to court or visited by repo men any day now. Joke’s on them, I don’t own anything for them to take away! *sigh*

    My happy thing for today is being able to vent to you about my finances. It’s a hard subject to talk about when you’re in an embarassing situation. Lucky for me, you and a number of my other friends aren’t the type to judge on financial standing 🙂 So I’m thankful that I am able to be myself with you ❤

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