May 26, 2008

An Introspective Moment

Posted in Backstory, Inspiration tagged at 11:52 pm by otherdeb

Okay, I wasn’t tagged for this one. But the “big kids” on the block seem to be reflecting on where they were ten years ago, and the idea intrigued me, so here goes, although I changed the time frame to look back fifteen years:

1993: I had just left another pointless secretarial job. I was in debt up to my kiester, and walking with crutches as a result of falling on the same ankle six times in five months. Although I had a lovely little attic apartment, I could not climb the stairs to get to it and was living on the couch of some friends. Those were the major bad points.

There were some good points. I sold my first story (“Geniecon”), and it was published in a Mike Resnick/Martin H. Greenberg anthology: Aladdin: Master of the Lamp. I then sold two more, joined SFWA, and realized that I was hardly the worst writer out there. I attended my first Worldcon, where I got to meet a lot of the writers I had been talking with online.

I was also in total financial denial. The friends I was staying with loaned me money for Worldcon when my wallet was stolen on the way to the Amtrak station. My credit cards were maxed out. My Unemployment checks were barely enough to cover my rent, even though they were the highest bracket my state granted. My checkbook was a mess. (And, yes, the series on acquiring and maintaining a checking account is based on things it took me decades to become rigorous about!) I had a depression that was at least the size of Minnesota, because all I could see was that everything was falling apart, and I had no clue where to attack the mess.

Contrast that to now: I’m thinking of leaving my current job in five years so that I can work independently. I am doing the type of writing I wanted to, even though I have not yet turned it into an income stream. Not only are my credit cards not maxed out, but only one of them has any balance left on it, and I just cut up the one that charged me the highest interest. I have a (admittedly) very tiny emergency fund, and am planning how to grow that. I am, by no means, out of the woods yet, but for the first time I can see the clearing beyond the trees.

What created the changes? The first thing is that I finally stopped deluding myself, and took a long, hard look at what I owed, and at what I was facing. I then gave some real hard thought to my life. What I found was that in any area but financial, my word was good as gold. When it came to finances, however, I would say anything or do almost anything to get what I needed. Further, I was very good at excuses and at avoiding being accountable for my actions. I was also living way beyond my means.

Sometimes, I still find myself struggling to keep my word on things financial. There were, however, several good reasons for me to do so. A lot of my growing up had to do with my roommate’s shortcomings: One of us had to start, and it was pretty clear it was not going to be her. Another motivator was meeting my fiancé: Once we decided we were serious, we also decided that neither of us wanted to foist our financial baggage on the other. The biggest motivator was, of course, that I got tired of living the way I was. I want to be truly independent, and the only way I could do that was by clearing up my act.

I won’t say it’s easy; it’s not. There are times I wish I could just buy what I want, and not think about whether or not I can afford it. But right now, this is the way it is, and – in the long run, which is what counts – it will be to my benefit.

Am I glad I’ve made the changes I have? You bet. Would I do it again? Yep. Do I wish I had not needed to? Absolutely. Still, the hardest thing to do sometimes is to let go of the past, and move forward, and I see progress along those lines. And that feels better than anything I could buy myself.

What do you see when you look back? Have the changes you have made been primarily positive? What small steps are you looking at taking to move forward in your life?



  1. Marc S. Glasser said,

    “What created the changes? The first thing is that I finally stopped deluding myself…”

    Um, I don’t think you were deluding yourself. You were fully aware that “When it came to finances, however, I would say anything or do almost anything to get what I needed.” I know this because you told me that, in pretty much the same words, a couple of times, right around then, right around when you were asking for one more loan (and one more, and one more) so that you could get off on the right foot in getting your finances straightened out..

    If anything changed, it was your decision to do something about it. I hope your decision sticks.

    But I’ve seen you make a decision to do something about x, and reach a milestone of some kind, and then abandon x in favor of doing y, and reach a milestone, and then abandon y in favor of z… (And yes, almost everyone does that sort of thing in one area or another.)

    So I hope you don’t reach a milestone of some kind on the way to making good on all those anythings you said, and abandon the effort before the job is complete, because something else has come along to take up your energy and enthusiasm.

    Good luck.

  2. otherdeb said,

    @Marc S. Glasser:

    But I was deluding myself; mostly as to the extent of the problem, and as to its causes. I was really thinking I could straighten things out, even while I was refusing to accept responsibility for the hole I was digging myself into.

    And, I pretty much continued to do that until (after I moved in with my current roommate) the first time I found out how badly she was doing. When that all blew up, in 2005, I caught the clue. I actually sat down and faced all the stuff I had been avoiding looking at. And, even then, I was only able to take the tiniest of baby steps.

    Further, you are right that I have often gotten distracted on my way to a goal. One reason for this blog is that it’s a way of being accountable — partly to my readers, but primarily to myself — which is one reason it took me months to decide to do this.

    Heck, I can’t say I won’t slip and fall again. I’ve even seen some of the “big kids” whose blogs encouraged me talk about their slips and falls, and how they pick themselves up. But that’s the thing. I have seen themselves pick themselves up and keep going.

    I know that I really wanted to give up at the beginning of the school year, when — because I owed the city seen sick days, which they took out of my pay all at once — I had to borrow almost $300 beyond what I had set aside over the summer as an emergency fund, I felt pretty hopeless that I would ever get things right. Then I realized that in prior years I had had to borrow almost double that to get to when the city’s pay schedule actually caught up with the aides it was paying. And in those years, I hadn’t even had the excuse of owing sick days. So instead of beating myself up, I looked at how far I had come. And I used some of that stubborn you know I have an abundance of to refuse to beat myself up for not being perfect.

    But yes, you are right to a degree. What changed was not the circumstances so much as my determination to turn things around once and for all. Thank you for reminding me of that.

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