The Scrappy, Little Owl

I recently lost my job. Considering I spent eight months working to get it, and lost it in two for reasons outside of my power, I did not take to this development especially well. A lot was riding on that position. By it, I’d intended to pay off what remains of my embarrassingly large credit card debt and, since it was a remote job, transition seamlessly into a move I’m planning for July, wherein I’ll be driving vertically across the entire United States.

Yet, though this blow was pretty demoralizing, I must admit it didn’t hit quite as hard as many other tough life events to date. It helped that I still had a part-time overnight job, so I wasn’t completely sunk in terms of income, but more importantly, I had recently, finally, articulated something resembling a life ambition. I don’t like calling it a dream. Dreams are flights of fantasy, and subject to be discarded without much permanence. But it was as if a dozen small, unconnected ideas that had been germinating separately for years had at long last collapsed together into a coherent, meaningful project.

I immediately crystallized the idea in words, then plans, then bullet points and timelines. It felt good, finally having some semblance of a direction, after what felt like years of trying to figure that out.

But I still had to get a new job, and deal with episodes of depression along the way. Working at the gym was an easy side-gig for a little extra money, but it would not be able to carry rent, let alone all of my other payments or paying off my credit cards.

I’m going to talk about this debt openly for the first time. Its continued existence and growth both is and is not my fault, and I’ll be the first to admit, much of this could have been avoided if I hadn’t been so naive. I like trusting people, but that is rarely left unabused by strangers. For the sake of brevity, I’ll keep things short, as I’m not going to occupy this post with five years of misgivings. There was the problem of falling for a scam when I was trying to buy my corgi (who was her own separate issue. Good life decision, bad financial one), which cost me about $300. If that was the extent of it, it would hardly be an issue, but a couple years later I fell for the same goddamn scheme, but lost $1,450. Those? Those are on me. Those are the consequence of an ignorance which I have since tempered.

What isn’t my fault is the rest of the list. I had to pay a couple months of rent for a roommate, only partially recovered, and only after interest had accumulated. I was promised $2,000 schooling reimbursement after a year of work by a behavioral health job who went back on their word because I was in the wrong position (despite my having the packet from orientation that said it applied to my job as well). The student loan help program that I was reluctant to accept, but was eventually convinced to join because of trusted sources, ended up costing me $5,500. That smelled of a scam, but I don’t remember the details of how it was sold to me. All I know is that the company responsible has been caught out and shut down, and I was only one in a long line of people who were duped. None of this is even to mention my continued, egregiously-priced student loans that I am continuing to pay off.

The above are a list of financial setbacks, because they are the most tangible to discuss, but the last several years have seen what feels like no shortage of complications. Nearly every attempt at self-improvement, or actively trying to better a life circumstance, has been met with a negative consequence of equal or greater weight. And if they were isolated incidents, perhaps my emotional state would be more stable and resilient in the face of each, but as I am now I feel like every new transgression against my forward momentum, real or perceived, is a critical loss or personal failure. It’s a toxic mentality that is hard to shake.

Yet, as I said before, I’m feeling particularly scrappy right now. I’m still going to move across the country. To Texas, specifically, because when you see as many -50 degree winters as I have, you’d hate winter, too. Winter is godless, but that’s another topic. If things go poorly on the job search in Texas, oh well. I’ll be homeless in Texas before I spend another year enduring the all-consuming, death-freeze of the North.

Speaking of the job search, I did get another job after losing the one mentioned in beginning. It’s not glamorous, nor fun, but it works, and allows for overtime. Right now I’m putting in about 60-65 hours a week, not counting my continued dedication to physical fitness and writing. Between work and those two things, I do almost nothing else right now. Someday, I will resurrect my other passions and hobbies, but that day will come once I’ve learned more about myself and better understand where I’m going. I’ve never had career ambitions, and only ever fabricated some to shut up the people around me. I don’t know what I want to do. Hell, I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that high school and university did an awful job of helping me learn what could be done. In the past 6 months alone, I’ve learned the names of maybe 300+ jobs that I could not have told you what they were called before, or that they even existed. I feel like I only ever had a knowledge of 1% of my options, and those options all required college. I wish I could tell my younger self that, lo, this is an illusion, but hindsight is a bitch and such.

That said, I don’t mind working, and I will do everything I can or need to do in order to realize something more for myself. I’ve worked in security, housekeeping, hospitality, fast food cooking, fast food driving, grocery stores, movie theaters, mental wards, those awful people who try to sell you useless shit in CostCo, a cushy desk job (which was honestly one of the worst), in-home mental health assistance, among about half a dozen other things. I’ve worked overnights on and off for what totals about 7 years. I am no stranger to 18 hour work shifts. I am currently working 60-65 hours a week just to make ends-meet and relieve debt. That’s not counting the time I dedicate to my ongoing physical fitness or writing, which together qualify as another job, minus the income. I must think of them as jobs, otherwise they will be abandoned, and I can’t afford to do that.

Again, I’m feeling unusually scrappy right now. A scrappy, little night owl, who in spite of some less than fortunate tides of life, now feels more determined than ever to strangle my fears and doubts and shortcomings to death through hard work and the audacity to believe, for the first time, that I could make something good.

So, here’s the plan. I’ll leave out the bullet points and timelines, as those are soft numbers and fragile like most human plans are. These aren’t necessarily in order, but there will be some overlap between a few of them:

1. I’m going to establish at least 4 streams of income. I hate talking about money, and have almost no entrepreneurial spirit whatsoever, but I’ve recently come to realize the magic of passive income. I have no intentions to ever stop actively working in some form, but if I can do something that allows me to work on things I at least vaguely enjoy without the stress of making my rent for that month, I’ll call it a win.

2. I’m going to pay off my credit card debt. If all goes the way I want (which it won’t, but at least my expectations are grounded), this will be entirely, or mostly paid off by July when I make my move. If I get it down to sub-$1,000, I won’t sweat that too much. That’ll mean I killed almost 90% of it in a few months, which will be a great feeling.

3. I’m going to network with and learn from other freelancers and entrepreneurs. While their goals are likely very different from mine, these types possess an untapped wealth of resources and knowledge that I have until now been both ignorant of, and ignored. Even if I don’t aspire to become them, I find it hard to believe I won’t learn something useful from their means of doing things.

4. I’m going to establish a distinct brand and work for myself. I know, this is the hot, Millennial thing to do right now. I hate the word “brand” on an almost gut-level. But the changes of this already reflect in my website and the environment around me. Both aesthetically and philosophically, I am striving to make everything I do have intention. So far, it seems to be working.

5. I’m going to get a book traditionally published and present it to Christina Grimmie’s grave. This is a bit of a dead horse at this point, especially to the uninitiated, so I won’t go any further than to say it would be the fulfillment of the greatest promise I’ve made in my life. Considering that my steadfastness to my promises is one of the only things I’ve always liked about myself, I’m not about to let that slip.

6. I’m going to cultivate a community of like-minded individuals who believe in character-centric, emotionally intelligent storytelling, and create a publishing company that showcases those merits in our works.

7. And ultimately, I’m going to create a not-for-profit that unites the geek community to raise funds for awareness and treatment of emotional and mental wellness. Kind of like Patrick Rothfuss’s Worldbuilders, except for depression, anxiety, etc. I was thinking of calling it, or the publishing company, the “Dark Blue Owls.” We’ll see.

Again, it’s a soft plan, and I fully expect things to go awry no less than a thousand times between here and the end goal, but I’m going to do everything I can to stick to it.

And if I chance upon joy, love, family, or a place to call home between now and then, I don’t think I’d have any complaints.

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