About a month ago I ended a journal entry with, “If I’m still writing emo journal entries this time next month, it may be time to cut my losses and hit the road again.”
So, it’s time to play Emo or Not! With our special guest host, Morrissey!
Something that I occasionally do to try to keep perspective is figure out just how much I have to be spending per month, making realistic allowances for food, gasoline, and so on. I love spreadsheets. If my car was paid off and I wanted to save $500 a month, how much would I need to net monthly? What happens if I pay off that credit card? What about if I raise or lower my rent? My “good salary”—even allowing for a reasonable savings rate and food budget—is consistently lower than I imagine. On the other hand, my necessary salary, with no savings and very little fat, turns out to actually be higher than what I made in 2002-2004, which explains that never-diminishing debt.
But while it’s good to know the dimensions of the hamster wheel, you still have to figure out how to get off it. My plans for that are prosaic. Step one, get new income, as high as can be managed. Two, attack debt desperately, without making any new “big” purchases, until the card’s minimum payment is down to an arbitrarily-defined non-scary number. Three, pump money into my high-interest savings account until…
Until I deem the cushion “enough,” and take a half-year off to wander the country and find a new path? If I get a solid high-paying contract and run it for a year, that would take care of the debt and at least start on the cushion.
Or until I deem the cushion “enough,” and then start pumping money into my long-dormant IRA? It’s grown from $7K to $11K left unattended for about six years now, but we’re clearly not talking retiring to Tahiti any time soon.
This may not be looking at the problem the right way. My life’s out of balance; I need to be in balance with the life I have, not the life I might one day get. I need to learn what I need to be doing and where I need to be to be happy, but these are not monetary questions—even though it’s hard to pay attention to them without being financially secure.
• • •
So am I cutting my losses and hitting the road? Not quite yet. I have a couple résumés still out there and I had an interview this morning that I believe went well. I have what I think will be a witty ad to post on Craigslist (nothing risqué, mind you, just a slightly unorthodox approach), which I'll put up on Monday if I haven't heard back from the company by then.
Emo or not? As Morrissey would say, “Reply hazy, try again.”
No, wait. That’s a Magic 8-Ball.