Tag Archives: employment

Identity Crisis

16 Mar

My father was in town for business about four weeks ago. We talked about everything from politics to religion, philosophy to web applications (like father like daughter)…and of course money and work. I came to a point in the career portion of the conversation where I basically expressed that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working for a company whose values were not congruent with my own; that I didn’t want to waste my time, look back in 30 years and regret it.

Now I don’t really believe in regret. Everything I’ve done including my major, MAJOR mistakes make me who I am in this exact moment and that person is a pretty cool, good hearted person with a lot to offer…and my feeling is that his sentiment is the same. So it surprised me to hear him say that he spent the last 30 years working as a programmer, mostly for large corporations, who made it their job to screw the little guy. I’ve always known what my father did but I never thought about how those programs effected the masses. For many years his company’s main client was a major corporation and somehow, even though everyone in my family is a customer of this Goliath and know how ridiculous and lame they are I never made the connection. Ignorance is bliss and I suppose my parents did a good job at sheltering me from some things.

Anyway it seems like a simple thing but in the moment, hearing his exact words and the look on his face…kind of broke my heart. It’s like superman saying that every time he saves one person, there are 2 more people that died. Well maybe not exactly like that but my dad is my hero. Most brilliant guy I know. To hear him say that hurt a lot and has made my last 4 weeks enlightening…and painful.

So. What’s it mean to me? Of course by the end of the conversation he simply said, “Find what you will do for free, then find someone who will pay you for it”. That’s always been his work advice but this time it hit me differently. So I did a little self-reflection and sent in a few applications for 3d design jobs by the end of the week. I, of course, do not have an architectural design degree but I do make a mean custom green home in SketchUp. Actually, I would say I’m better at that than most things I’ve done…and they actually pay people to use that program specifically. My portfolio was enough for an interview however I emailed yesterday and the position has since been filled. I started with architectural design firms, then to green home design, to solar energy and after that its been a brain scrambling spiral into…all of these issues that I didn’t realize I cared so much about.

Super-consumer culture
Fossil fuel peeks/renewable energy
Super-cheap super-sized food/food monopolies/buying local
Homelessness/mortgage crisis/bigger-living-is-better-living obsession

…There are a lot of things I care about and a couple non-profits I wanted to start eventually but those seemed way in the future and required a lot of resources to get done. And knowing me I probably made it more complicated than it needed to be. However these four issues not only are so immediately crucial but also they are things I can do my part to change right now. Habits I can incorporate today.

*sigh* Let me get off my soap box for a second and be real. This is NOT what this blog was supposed to be about. It was SUPPOSED to be about how to live a decent quality of life without killing our pocketbooks. And it has caused me to do so much reflection, on myself, my values and lifestyle which I see now are two totally different things and on the world around me. What is the cost of cheap goods? Where are those goods made and who made them? And I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even know if this blog is valid anymore. The “Price” of this blog seems to refer less to the ticket price of something and more to the long term affects of those same products on the economy, the environment, and international relations (based on the fact that we are practically owned by China and half of the Middle East depending on your point of view).

A lot of people donate money to youth programs in the inner-city when the smog from our cars, city landfills and rabid product supply chain causes them cancer. Does that make any sense to you?

I am by no means more of a help than a hindrance. I’ve been educating myself and changing habits slowly but I am no saint when it comes to these issues or when it comes to anything. It’s hard. But now that I know that I know – because I did know…I guess I just didn’t care or didn’t think about it – I can’t stop thinking about it.

So what am I doing about it:

#1. I am inviting an increase of income in my life (I estimate I will have applied to 100+ jobs and temporary projects in the month of March alone in case you thought I was only “inviting” and not taking action). Need is no longer an applicable word really. There are people who do with so much less. But let’s get real, everything costs something: time, energy, money, or favors, and knowing that you can keep a roof over your head and food in your stomach makes room for everything else that is important to you. In my case:

#2. Shopping for the food that I want, buying local and juicing more. I believe the FDA certified organic is overrated. My family owns a farm and the land nor the animals have been touched by anything unnatural for 4 generations. Can’t get more organic than that. FDA regulations make it hard on farmers and ‘local’ often means organic in a purer sense. If you aren’t sure shopping at the Farmer’s Market will always give you an opportunity to ask.

#3. Consuming less. I’m already what I would consider a ‘low-consumer’. Outside of food I typically only buy things when what I’ve got is worn out or when I need supplies/business attire for work. I’ve never been a big shopper, prefer making gifts for family and friends and don’t have many possessions I truly care about outside of my laptop. My three big products this year thus far have been a juicer from my parents for a late Christmas gift (mine was in the $80 range and works great), a replacement phone when mine was stolen and a pair of wrinkle free sheets…they feel amazing.

#4. Gasoline alternatives…I admit that I have a gas card from one of the Seven Sisters. It does not make me happy. I thought that Diesel was the devil up until I watched a few documentaries and learned that Rudolf Diesel’s original design ran on corn oil alone. Huh? Standard Oil, who I was already familiar with, bought that patent and started marketing it as strictly a petrol engine, a fact whoever taught me conveniently left out. So now I’m considering dumping my car or altering it to a gas engine (runs on fumes only, can go for 100+ miles per gallon), diesel engine or solar electric system. This is pricey, time consuming and requires a ton of research before making a decision so I have a couple years to work on that one…

#5. Down-sizing. I’ve been obsessed with Container Homes (recycling 40 x 8 ft. shipping containers as building structures) and Tiny Homes (any house smaller than 800 sq.ft.) for a few years now. Since home design is a hobby, I already have a lot of construction experience and own a decent amount of the required tools I’ve decided I want to build a tiny home. I like living small. It’s a fun challenge, is inexpensive and my entire life thus far has always fit into about a 13 x 13 ft. space anyway. So why not dump the roommate, the landlord, and the utility companies? I want to own a home. I’d like to design and build that home myself. And with almost no space to build in LA this provides so many more options. If I build it myself I’m looking at about $20k just for the structure and basic amenities. I’ve got a few ways around this (sponsorship, recycled lumber, fundraising) which I think will cut my costs in half. The rest…well that is 1 year’s rent in a 1 bedroom apartment. Not too shabby for something that could last a couple decades.

All this will enable me to save a lot of money and use it to travel, see family more, have more barbecues with my friends and sail much more often. And all that sounds pretty good to me.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. I started so many posts in the last several weeks; going on and on about my job search, oscillating between points of view on certain issues, trying to come up with topics that were applicable to my original topic without getting to preachy and complaining about the ongoing poor communication skills of a couple of my clients as well as myself (I just got my NLP Practitioner certification so I have no excuse). But all that stuff’s not really what makes the world go ’round ya know? I think this time I actually got out what I needed to say and it feels good.

-Half-price

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What I Want

15 Feb

Tonight I was planning on writing about the impact of communication on money. Boooriiiing. It Read like one of my college papers…I constructed beautiful essays back in the day but unless you have a Ph.D and call yourself Professor it’s probably not what you thought you would be spending some random weeknight readying. Luckily for you (and me) I veered in this direction…

One thing I learned about myself about 2 years ago is that very little motivates me.

Social status…does not motivate me.
Fame…does not motivate me.
Fortune use to…but no longer motivates me.

Now, being an advocate for AIDS orphans, advancing archaeological technologies and heightening the self-esteem of troubled youth through neuro-linguistic programming all DO motivate me.

But really I just want to be able to hop on a plane and visit my mother whenever I feel I can take the smothering. I want to travel, spend time with my friends and have a family and I don’t particularly care to be ‘rich’ in the process. I like love 3-piece suits and Italian leather boots just as much as the next person but the 4-Hour Work Week teaches me that I don’t have to be rich to have once in a lifetime experiences or keep to one locale while engaging in the everyday shenanigans of a ‘normal’ life. And when I come home from a night at the symphony, dinner and drinks with friends at The W Hotel and step out of my expensive attire that’s all it really comes down to right?…extraordinary experiences? Oh, and I want to watch the sun set over the ocean every afternoon…perhaps share it with someone who can put up with me for more than 1 year at a time. That would be nice…

None of this is out of the ordinary; a pretty solid mix between a Daddy’s girl and the ‘life of the party’. Not at all unattainable. And with a bit of adventure mixed in that’s all it really takes to put me in an awesome mood.

One thing NLP has taught me is that I can simply choose to be happy. Happiness from external things is so…temporary and surface. However, it certainly does help. NLP has also taught me that knowing, and projecting, what I want is key. So here goes. Sailing gives me almost everything I want to experience. Freedom, aesthetics, physically demanding work, detail oriented work, a team effort when I want it to be and an independent activity when I don’t. Now how does sailing make me money? It doesn’t. But other than the occasional adult crush and a few start-up ideas it really is all I ever think about.

Michael Jordan made money playing basketball, Madonna still makes it singing her ass off and Oprah…well she makes money on everything. So why can’t I make a dollar sailing? I haven’t found out how to monetize it or even figured out if I want to. But I know that this is what I want to be doing. Every day.

I’ve found myself seriously scrutinizing everything that I do because I know that very little, if any of it, will majorly contribute to my happiness. How exactly do I get from earning a low 4 figures per month to living my dream – working remotely on a fun t-shirt design company and/or with an art-based non-profit from my laptop while sailing round the world? Do I get a $50-70k job for a couple of years, pay off my debt, get my ASA license, save up for a boat, quit and circumnavigate the globe? Do I continue living like a starving artist, sail when I can…which is almost never and hope that I can buy something decent in the long run? Do I give up, move back home, cutting my costs in half and get comfortable (my grandmother can’t help but do my laundry) and fat (my aunt has an endless pantry full of carbs and empty calories) with my family? Are those my only choices? Yikes…

All I know is I’m 26 and if I’m going to have kids in the next 6-9 years I’d better get on with the dangerous stuff and get it out of the way. Ever since I came back from Semester at Sea I’ve had a touch of wanderlust and have since decided that I want to sail around the world. Probably alone. Now it also happens that I would be the first African-American female to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe via sailboat which has its perks in terms of sponsorship and publicity. Can you say multiple streams of income?

But she’s black!…Yes, black people, although very few, DO engage in water sports. But she’s…a she! That is true…better pack a bikini or two just in case we hit calm, warm weather. But she can barely sail as it is! Now that IS an obstacle to overcome. I’ve been sailing for years but in terms of actual hours OPERATING a boat my experience is rather limited. The plan is to get my ASA certifications (doesn’t really matter but makes it easier when traveling abroad for chartering and insurance purposes) then sail 1 day every week until I can feel good sailing for a week to a month, alone, comfortably. It will also teach me everything I need to know and a few things I don’t…just in case. A one year trip around the world by one’s self legitimizes a bit of an educational buffer don’t you think?

To be completely honest there are 100 things I don’t have the skills nor the stones to do even though at the end of my life I want to be able to say ‘I did that’. Honestly, I never will. And that’s okay. And although hundreds have died doing this of all things somehow it seems feasible to me. And I want it. So much.

So, my main intentions are: 1) to have a positive net worth and zero debt, 2) obtain all my ASA certifications and 3) own a 27-35 ft. boat capable of taking me on the adventure of a lifetime. Considering my current expenses are less than $20k/year, my debt is $13k and a decent boat to live on and practice with is $10k to start…it really should be simple. Right?

We shall see.

-Half-price

A Mountain or a Molehill?

14 Feb

It does not please me to inform you that today my debt has jumped from -$8,709 to -$13,248…that’s a 52% increase. This amount seems…well, gross to me. Both in the financial and non-aesthetically pleasing sense. I feel ashamed, less than, like a failure. I should have seen this day coming. Honestly, I knew it was always looming but I didn’t think my debtor would be calling it in so soon and I was happy to avoid the conversation.

Three Quick Lessons

#1: Never, EVER borrow money from friends/family/significant others unless for cash only purchases that you can and will pay back with one quick visit to the ATM.
#2: If you must, and only if you absolutely MUST, borrow money from these people get it from someone that wont resent you if you honestly, for whatever reason, simply can’t pay it back, even if you sincerely have every intention of doing so; like a grandma or a rich uncle…it lessens the strain on the relationship.
#3: Always, ALWAYS map out terms BEFORE the money is exchanged and plan for those terms to endure, regardless of external circumstances (make sure that you can [and will want] to pay it back regardless of whatever happens, i.e. breakups, etc.) until it is paid off.

Now don’t get me wrong. I loath being in debt and more so when it is to a person and more so when it is to a friend. But the thoughts that ran through my mind when that email came through. I couldn’t help myself. I was upset, angry, overall just very torn up by it. Not because of the money really, nor at the person. I saw it coming as this person’s money situation has changed recently. But all the subtext: the cheery introduction and close (total ‘criticism sandwich’ style and what made it worse is I knew it was sincere and not a ploy), the conversations that would need to be had as a result, and the embarrasment of feeling like I wasn’t in a postion to pay it back right now. For a moment I considered “what would it be like to put that friendship on hold, at least until I paid it off?” I didn’t know if I could do both. I was that upset. But my higher self said “be cool, step into their map of the world and you DO owe them money, so…stop bitchin! Respond. Now. Not tomorrow. Itemize everything so you can agree on the amount, propose a starting monthly amount that you think you could make up in odd tasks or gimmicks on the 3rd St. Promenade. Just get it over with. The sooner the better.”

There are now 2 personal debts that I must pay back and this latest one won’t be avoidable. Not like I would try that on purpose but my last one hasn’t really been asked for and I haven’t really had the money to pay it back so I’ve been letting it sit, thankfully, without accruing interest. Which is the only good aspect. So starting at the end of this month I will be auto transferring via BofA $100 every 30 days. That’s not much, I know. But it is certainly something when your monthly budget for all necessities is below $1500 on a good month and all that this budget can withstand at the moment. My phone was stolen in January and I have a $200 cell phone bill sitting in my inbox as a result of my replacement deductible + regular monthly bill. Otherwise I would be looking at something in the $1400 range. I had my Evo (without the 2 year plan it’s about a $270 investment even now after 2+ years on the market) for 10 1/2 months with a $7/mo insurance plan. $7 x 11 = $77 + $100 deductible for an Evo 3D, closest I could get to the original, so $177 over a year instead of another $250-300 for a brand new phone or $270-350 to terminate my contract. Phone insurance = worth it. One of the only types of (American) insurance I actually believe in having…but that’s a blog for another time, and it WILL be addressed, don’t you worry.

Anyway, I was so disgusted with my new scarlet digit I went into my Mint account settings and turned my car asset status from ‘hide’ to ‘show’ resulting in a jump back into the black for a cold hard $3,751. Phew that was a close one. Totally artificial but it makes my total money owed much less intimidating. I suppose it feels nice to know that if I ever get into dire straights I can always sell my car instead of moving back home (i.e. mom’s house, dad’s house, this grandparent, that grandparent…turns out my aunt is pretty cool…there are many options but none in LA and none could I handle for more than a couple weeks before firmly pulling all my hair out and acquiring a new habit to something far more harsh than the occasional 6 pack).

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to overcome a MOUNTAIN of debt like some. Perhaps a large foothill? Although, a mountain is what it feels like. No More Harvard Debt Guy is well on his way with his formerly $90k debt. He’s paid off over $60k in 5 months. To be fair he had $24k lying around, a corporate job somewhere in the $60-70k range and 2 expensive cars and a motorcycle that he eventually did liquidate. I haven’t done the math as to how much was liquid, how much was cutting costs and how much was increased revenue but I’m looking forward to knowing the answer to that. And to think all I have to sell is my Jeep Patriot and maybe my very small guitar collection. With all the film equipment, office furniture and friend’s apartment contents I’ve carted around in the last 2 years including that resulting from my own change of address this vehicle was a damn good investment and still has gas milage equivalent to a decent traditional 4 door sedan.

On the bright side 97% of that $4,540 went towards education and personal enrichment. I had a lot of personal growth as a result and perhaps a useful certification that can pay for itself in a few months once my paperwork is processed. So I suppose I can’t be that upset. Besides almost all of my friends either spent half a mortgage on graduate school and will be paying for it for the rest of their lives or they figured a BA was enough but will be working in corporate for…as long as they can stand it I guess. By choice? I’m not sure. Honestly, I don’t think they’ve considered if there is in fact an alternative or if they’d even want it. I also suppose their reality is just as probable an alternative for me as my reality is for them…Until then I’ll be paying it off with my creative juices, my great work ethic and my dashing good looks (and tomorrow, probably the pursuit of a second job).

-Half-price

Ding!

10 Oct

I have this thing I do: the Ding. Whenever I have a kick ass idea, which is actually pretty often (it’s my ability to follow through that needs to catch up), Ding! Whenever I all of a sudden come up with a great solution for a problem someone’s having, Ding! Or when I’ve just accomplished something great. If I ever make a basket in the trash with a balled up piece of paper, Ding! The Ding is my swish, my epiphany moment expressed.

Well I just had a great Ding moment.

My armpits are clammy. Gross I know. Interviews, conversations with people I don’t know who expect something of me and let’s face it, not being in control, make me nervous.

My girlfriend sent me two Craig’s List jobs she thought I should apply to; I didn’t get to them for a few days but finally applied Thursday and got a callback Friday before noon. I didn’t follow up on the message they left for over 24 hours. Not because I was too busy but because I was a bit apprehensive about traditional, regular employment (even if it was only ~10hrs/week). Put me on a film set (which is what most of my adult life has consisted of) where I’ll have to work 12-14 hour days and look for a new gig every two to four weeks…sign me up.

Two things about this particular gig scared me shitless: #1 It was a regular job with a BOSS. And I hate bosses. #2 The title of the position is “Personal Assistant”. Images flash in front of my eyes of The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty: late nights, weird personal errands, and the loss of one’s social life and perhaps dignity. Don’t get me wrong; I know that this is not reality. It is for some but not most. There are plenty of people that are perfectly content, perhaps delighted, to have such a job and I’ve met a few. Usually pays well, decent connections and sometimes you get paid in cash. But I have never thought of myself as one of those people.

Got on the phone with the woman who was hiring. Turns out she is the bookkeeper/long-term right hand for a major Hollywood director/producer. Luckily for me he’s more of an entrepreneur type and not a “Suit” (the type of person that makes everyone on set shrink back into their corners and focus on their work more than usual just to avoid eye contact). We had a great preliminary interview and I have a 4pm face to face this afternoon. Ding!

Before the conversation came to a close I asked her to tell me a bit about him, she gave me his name and then asked “Have you seen garble, garble, garble? That was his brain child.” I had no idea what she said so I just said “No” to be safe. Lying makes me queasy. Directly after we get off the phone I’m typing in the info just to see what (or who) I’m up against. “Holy ****. Yeah…that was a BIG film. What have I gotten myself in to.” But I still hadn’t seen it. So we’re good there. I knew what was in the DVD player that night.

So what did this entry have to do with debt? Not much really except perhaps an illustration of why I’m in it. Stubborn. Adverse to change. Scared.

My girlfriend (who has lived many lives previous to meeting me, one being that of an assistant career counselor) reminds me that “You can always walk away. Up until and after the moment they give you an offer. And it’s always good to be in a position to say ‘I have other offers.'”

I’m not sure if you would call them “offers” per se. I do have two long-term fundraisers I’m managing and several personal (and hopefully income generating) projects I’m prepping for launch. Do those count? I sure do have a lot going on for someone who isn’t making any money. It’s been like 18 months of that. I’m looking for a change.

Ding? Anyone? Hello?
– Half-price