On Borrowed Dime

There’s a four-letter word that is guaranteed to make any twentysomething sweat: debt.

There are all sorts of articles about how student loans are Millennials greatest financial concern, how loans are delaying life milestones and even how 30% of Millennials would sell an organ for debt relief.

Non-millennials seem to love talking about and studying our financial issues. We’re like little indebted lab rats – everyone thinks they know what’s best for us from an outsider’s perspective. But what is it like to be an actual millennial with student loans?

It’s…life.

It’s what I know.

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Image courtesy of minimography.com

Our student loan debt story

My husband and I started dating in our first years of college. We were pretty typical: fresh out of high school, exploring the rest of our lives and excited to be 3 hours from home in a new city with new people. We also had no idea what loans would ultimately mean for us because all we saw was checks deposited to our bank accounts each semester.

Tens of thousands of dollars is much easier to spend than it is to pay off (plus interest). Someone may have told us that along the way, but it got very real once we graduated.

Now here we are, living in an expensive city (by choice!) with an ambitious goal of being debt-free by 2018. We’re making more than we were in Indiana, but we’re also both working jobs that don’t truly require a college degree, which is the story of so many millennials’ lives.

The interest rates we’re facing are costing us somewhere around $160 a month. Imagine buying a fancy coffee every day of the week – that’s what our interest is doing, and we don’t even get to drink the coffee.

Minimalism and debt

When I first started this journey a few years ago, I began from a place of having too many clothes and too much debt. I discovered Mr. Money Moustache and have since been on a mission to be debt-free.

I played around with the idea of early retirement, but my husband and I love where we’re at and the rent here makes financial independence a little…eh, a little more difficult.

But just like minimalism, we can choose how much it touches our lives – extreme minimalism and extreme frugality are not my thing, although I do strive every day for less stuff and less debt.

Minimalism and debt do go hand in hand – the less financially obligated you are to people and things, the less you have to worry about working long hours or a job you hate to pay off the things you don’t need. Being debt-free someday will allow my husband and I to be more flexible in where and how we live, and it will allow us to live more authentically as ourselves.

My advice about student loans

I am not a financial advisor. But, I am a young person living in a big city and dealing with an average helping of student loan debt so I have a few words of advice to share.

First of all, take as little as you can. I’m not saying to skip out on your dream college for an inexpensive community college – follow your values. Work as much as your schedule and life allows for while you’re in school, but don’t let a food court job get in the way of good internships (find paid internships if you can).

Go to parties, go to bars, but don’t spend all your time and money there.

Second, know your worth. Understand what level of pay your education can get you, shop around for jobs if you can and negotiate your salary. Ladies, especially you – women are known for not negotiating salaries.

I made a five-minute phone call before accepting a job offer and snagged an extra thousand dollars on my salary. It still kept me under the average salary for a college grad, but it was better than nothing.

You need to find what works best for you when it comes to actually paying off your loans. The debt snowball works for some, while my husband and I are adopting a highest-interest first method.

And again, be clear about your values while you’re in debt. Is your priority to be debt-free as soon as possible? Ours actually isn’t. If it were, we would not live in Los Angeles and I would have kicked the bunnies out years ago. Our priorities are to live well in a place we love.

Smooth sailing to all of you in similar boats!

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On Quitting

I quit another job last week.

I’m a typical millennial in that aspect – I have quit a job every year since I graduated (2013, 2014 and 2015). People like to paint millennials as non-committal because of how often we quit, but we’re really just trying to speed up the process of finding our place in the world.

I love this piece in the Atlantic about how job-hopping in your 20s can lead to more fulfilling work in your 30s and 40s.

Take a risk, make a change.

Don’t call me a quitter

I’ve heard so often about how important it is to add years of experience to your resume before moving on to the next job. But what if it’s a job, like many millennials face, that’s not worth it?

My first job out of college was at the most soul-sucking company I can imagine. Everyone walked around in a daze and I was known for being the girl who actually laughed at work – it was so quiet, the whole floor could hear me laughing and telling stories. One day, a coworker literally threw his hands up in the air and yelled “THAT’S IT. I hate my job. I hate this. I hate this place. I hate my job.” (He’s still there after almost ten years).

My second job was a little better, but had massive layoffs before, during and after my time there. It became a place where you feared for your job on a daily basis.

My most recent work was tedious, remote work that mainly served as a filler for our move out west. No real complaints there. In this last case, it was just time to move on.

But what I’m saying is that my story is not unique – so many young people are facing underemployment or finding themselves in companies that don’t respect them. There’s such negativity about young people being flaky and quitting jobs after only a year or two, but since when did moving yourself forward become a bad thing?

Maybe you should quit too

Quitting is liberating.

Years ago, I read The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin and quit my first job just a few weeks later. His words about picking yourself and his cautions against flying too low stuck with me. It made me realize that I was in control.

Do you find yourself dreading each workday or stressing out on Sunday evenings because Monday is just around the corner? Is there more than just a paycheck waiting for you at the end of the day, or are you unfulfilled in your work?

I know quitting and changing is not easy. But would you rather dread your work or do put in the work of searching for another job? And what if that next job turns out to be no better? Take charge of your life and be fearless in your pursuit of a job you are excited about doing.

At times like these, I turn to Seth Godin for guidance on what to do – here are some quotes of his that might help you quit:

My next move

I’ve been pretty quiet here on the blog for the last couple of weeks and that’s because I’ve been working on transitioning more time to my other gig as a data management coordinator (a fancy name for “make sure the data is where it needs to be when it needs to be there”).

This means I have a few extra hours and a little more mental energy each week for blogging! But the best news? I get to enjoy work-free weekends with my husband and explore this cool city we’ve called home for almost ten months.

So if you’re feeling stuck, polish up your resume and send it out to a couple new jobs this week. What’s the worst that could happen?

The Joy of Simple Work

I’m just settling in after a couple of long and wonderful weeks of visiting with friends and family who were in town. It’s so nice to have a taste of home out here on the west coast, but there’s something to be said about getting back into my (still new) routine and actually getting some major work done.

Working from home

Work has been one of the reasons I’ve been in such a funk lately. I do data entry and content quality editing from home, and there is no denying that my work is simple. Sometimes the solitude and low-level of brain power involved in working from home gets to me and I start searching for something better.

But then I realize I’ve got it made, at least for now. There should be no shame in doing simple work, as long as it lets you do what you really love.

As a woman who left a tech/marketing agency last year, I feel like I should be launching myself into other office jobs, leaning in, breaking into the tech scene and climbing that corporate ladder. I should be carrying a bat with me so I can break the hell out of that glass ceiling. Right?

Thoughts on the Corporate Ladder

If you are a professional woman (or man!) who’s kicking butt and taking names when it comes to the corporate ladder, I applaud you. But in the past year I’ve started to wonder if that’s what I really want for my own life. And I know others are thinking it too.

I liked my job, some days I even loved it, but I always knew that I still wasn’t in the right spot. I’d come home drained and I was only interested in watching Netflix until bedtime. I felt no spark.

I was wasting my energy and brainpower on something that didn’t return value to me.

So, I quit and I started doing the “piecework” that I do now. Guess what? My creative energy started coming back. The circles under my eyes disappeared.

Climbing the ladder towards those executive positions is a wonderful aspiration, but it is not and should not be the goal for everyone. Sometimes, it’s more productive to direct your energy towards a passion project and work mindless jobs to pay the bills. Don’t be afraid to take a “lesser” job – we are not defined by how we make money, but by how we choose to use our energy.

The zen of simple work

I couldn’t resist using the word “zen” because there are some days I fall into a productive, calm rhythm. My brain isn’t working too hard, but is still functioning at the right level, and I can work for hours straight. These days are rare, but beautiful.

Simple work helps me connect to simple pleasures. If I need to get up and pet the rabbit sitting by my feet, I can. If I need to get out of the apartment, I can.

Work from home desk

This is my experience working from home, but there’s something to be said for all the different “simple” jobs – one of my favorite jobs was as a minimum-wage barista. I loved serving people at such an important part of their day. If you’re tired of a mindless job, see if you can reallocate some of that negative energy to something more positive and productive like a hobby or side venture.

The future of simple work

I imagine I’ll be doing these things (and maybe some other freelance projects that come my way) for the foreseeable future. I might end up doing these things indefinitely, or I might change my mind.

In a month I could be working a 9 to 5 office job. But here’s the best part of simple work – it can be there for you until something wildly better comes along. I have the freedom to search, interview, and choose a job that’s right for me while the simple stuff pays those nasty bills.

I do know this: I was able to see my friends and family for two weeks and squeeze work in while they were out, or after the 3-hour time change had them in bed by 9PM. I didn’t have to miss a beat, and I still feel rested as if I were on vacation too.

It’s time to take a stand for those of us who find peace outside of the rat race. For the women who choose to lean in in a different way. For the men who don’t feel like suits and ties are suitable workwear. For anyone who’s life has called them into a simpler line of work.

There’s no shame in taking on simple work – it might be the greatest thing you’ll ever do.

I Quit My Day Job

And just like that, the chaos that these past two weeks have felt like has come to an end – they were my last two weeks at the agency I’ve worked at for a year and a half.

If you felt rumblings of that in my recent post about my brother doing what he loves most, you were right to suspect I’d be making this change soon. And what a terrifying, difficult and yet incredible change it’s going to be.

I am once again leaving my comfort zone for something completely new!

CheersSo what’s next?

Good question. I’ve actually picked up some contract work as an editor for Quora and another gig as a data entry assistant. On top of that, I’ll be working as a marketing “consultant” of sorts for a couple of startups in the family (yes, those wooden sunglasses being one of them).

But right now, it’s less about what I’m going to do for money, and more about living the life I want to live. As Millennials, I think it’s hard for us to realize that it’s often more within our grasp than we might think. I could settle into an office job (and settle into saying “someday”), but why wait?

The someday trap

I was working myself into a continuous string of someday’s – I said someday I’d write more on this blog, someday I’d get out of Indiana (more on that in the next post…) and that someday I’d start doing what I love for a living.

The trouble is, I haven’t defined what it is that I most love, and I certainly haven’t run into that mythical day called “someday.”

When we put things off for the future, we’re not just procrastinating. We’re building a comfort zone, creating a bubble, making ourselves a safety blanket – whatever makes the most sense to us, we’re doing it because we don’t want to face any sort of fear, productive or otherwise. We’re becoming more risk averse and, while this isn’t necessarily true across the board, it makes me and many people I know less creative.

I become complacent in an apartment and in a city that doesn’t make me feel the magic of everyday life. I find my routines becoming more dull. I find myself sad, but unwilling to change.

So what is it that you’re putting off for someday? What little changes here and there can you make to bring you one step closer to what you really want to do?

For me, it’s getting onto the same schedule as my husband and introducing more flexibility into my work. And this isn’t the last leap we’re going to take…stay tuned for my next post about where we’re going to live next!

Hint: It’s a big change, and we can’t just coast through this one without some significant planning.

Palm trees

Wooden Sunglasses & Doing What You Love

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver

Last weekend I had the privilege of visiting my younger brother on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, where he lifeguards in the summer. In the winters? He makes wooden sunglasses out of a garage in the Midwest to sell online and on the island in the summer.

And here I am a week after my trip, and I still can’t quite find the words to describe the state in which I found my little brother. I found him doing what he loves most, despite how unconventional it is, despite naysayers, despite what the “normal” professional trajectory is for us Millennials. Even on the hottest days on those beaches, he seemed calm, happy and energized when brainstorming about his burgeoning business.

He’s found a place where he’s surrounded by like-minded, supportive people from all walks of life and from all corners of the world. He’s living an active (and frequently grueling and exhausting) lifestyle where he spends most of his days outside.

He does not have a computer, and rarely accesses Facebook. In fact, he took off for Hilton Head right after my wedding with half of a car full of stuff. Half. (I don’t think he would ever call himself a minimalist, but he is).

The most important things? Surfboard. Sunglasses. Phone. More sunglasses.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the island life, check out Luke’s Instagram here: instagram.com/luke_shades

His story is a page out of some of the most successful people we know about’s book: started college, switched majors, switched colleges, didn’t know what to do. Instead of embarking on an expensive out-of-country internship, he discovered Shore Beach Service in Hilton Head. He went to work, where he got the idea for Luke Shades and is now out of school and fully immersed in entrepreneurship and beach life.

So when I saw him last weekend, my heart was an odd mix of light and heavy – how wonderful for him that he’s found his place and is starting such an exciting journey! And yet, here at home my husband and I aren’t “living for Monday” so to speak – we’re getting by just fine, but we’re not flourishing. We aren’t doing what we love in a place that we love.

Being around Luke and seeing his fearlessness and undeniable passion for what he’s doing made me think again about what it is that drives me, what keeps me up at night. My mind has been racing this week, lists have been made, thrown away, remade, lost, and remade again: what is my equivalent of wooden sunglasses? What is my equivalent of lifeguarding? (Notice “equivalent” – Lord only knows how different Luke and I am).

Everything is easier when you’re doing what you love – even the hours of work, the blisters, the struggles – because you have a grasp on what your purpose is. Your life is precious and you have the choice to either fill it with things, people, places and work that you love or you can fill it with everything else.

What is it that drives you? What is it that you’re dying to do and haven’t yet done?

Make Art Every Day

Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator. … An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally.

Seth Godin, Linchpin

If you’re not an artist, then it’s time to find out what has been holding you back.

Every day we have hundreds of opportunities to create art – each interaction we have opens up the possibility of changing someone. Many of us have fallen into the false security of a paint-by-numbers job and fail to take risks outside of our established duties. Is that really going to equate to long-term security? Or should we navigate away from strict obedience and aim for extraordinary?

No matter what your job, whether you work in an office, a hospital, or a coffee shop, bravery and boldness are open to you. Speaking up at meetings in the face of opposition from the rule-makers, going the extra mile for a customer or patient to have a perfect experience, or simply challenging your typical to-do list are acts of art – however unconventional.

If you aren’t creating art in your work, you run the risk of your efforts turning into commodities – easily teachable and quickly replaceable. Find out what sets you apart, and pursue it.

Challenge the standard, and quash the excuse that there’s no room to be different. There’s always room to be different.

 

How to Like Mondays More

Say Yes to Mondays

I am about to be that person. You know, the one who loudly and cheerfully says “Good morning, sunshine!” to people who have yet to fully awake. The one who tells you it’s a good day even when it’s raining and all you want to do ever is go home and curl up in all the fluffiest, home-madiest blankets that you own.

I’m talking about Mondays. And how they can be–gasp–good?

While I’ve been gloomy and generally lackluster today, I think this post will be a good reminder to me to stop making Mondays so hard on myself.  Because honestly, today could have been better had I just chosen to view it a little differently. And that’s the thing about Mondays. They have such a bad rap that people love to perpetuate amongst friends, family, and coworkers.

How are you today?”

“It’s Monday. What can I say?”

“I feel you there. The weekend was too short. Always is.”

^ This is me. And this is you, too. (Maybe).

So let’s make it a goal next, week and the weeks after, to practice some Monday-improving moves that might just help us out of the gunk-filled rut that we like to call the first day of the week. In addition, these ideas don’t cost a dime. I’ve been reading lists where every other suggestion is akin to “treat yo’self” – they often include unhealthy eating or costly lattes.

While these things would be lovely to do every day, this list may help you and I start small and address the largest problem. And yes. I’m going to tuck these away myself and work on my own Mondays.

Having a Positive – and Happy – Monday

Get good sleep. This one is so simple, but it’s essential. No more of the mindset that we can milk our weekend by staying up super late on Sunday. It’s really only going to end poorly.

Reflect. Before you get to work on Monday, look back at your weekend. Pick a couple of things that you are proud of/excited about that you did over the weekend. Prepare one or two happy accomplishments/memories/events from the weekend and you’ll have a pleasant answer for anyone who asks you “How was your weekend?”

Be prepared. Be sure that you come to work and take some time to outline your priorities for the week. Identify larger projects that you need to make headway on and acknowledge anything that’s not urgent, but still needs attention. Do everything you can from feeling the Monday overwhelm that seems to hit me hard each week.

Call someone you love. I talk to my mother often and find that sharing news about our weekends puts me in a much more positive mindset. If you can’t make a call, grab a coworker and go for a walk or eat lunch together. Share happy vibes.

Coffee and music work, too. Put on your Friday playlist and make room for just one more little cup of coffee and trick your body into thinking it’s Friday. There’s nothing wrong with that! Right?

Ultimately, productivity and positivity are the goals on Monday. And they both start with what you think and what you say – no more “it’s Monday. Nothing good can come from that.” Find a balance, and start your week off a little better.

What do you do to make Mondays a little more bearable?