Creating a Five Year Plan – Part 2A (Debt)

Since I spent the greater part of the day obsessing about my current state of debt, I decided that tonight’s foray into the confusing business of creating a five year plan would be to think about said debt and come up with some solid strategies to start eliminating it. Here’s what I said about debt in yesterday’s blog post…namely that it was time to: “Get my debt under control. It’s going to kill me. Literally – the stress will kill me if I don’t get it under control, and the #1 thing that’s on my mind 24/7 is student loan, credit card, and tax debt.”

So where do we start? I can identify a few different reasons that I’m currently experiencing so much stress re: my debt. While some things can never be changed (off the top of my head, I’d tell my young self to go to state school instead of a Southern ivy, avoid wasting money on pointless bouts of graduate school at all costs, and to never, ever get more than one credit card), there are definitely some goals that I can set right now and then try to work towards. These are (in no particular order):

  • Make more money.
  • Spend less money.
  • Make paying off debt my top priority.

See, that was easy, right? Totally. Kinda. Not really. But whatever, I have to try. So let’s break those major goals into smaller tidbits that start giving me at least the semblance of a debt-destroying road map, shall we?

Make more money.

  • Earn more money at my job. This could entail getting a new job that pays me more, getting a second job, asking my clients for more money, or any of the above. I happen to like the freedom of my freelancing schedule, and I’m counting on that freedom to give me the ability to take off for Santiago de Compostela one day in the next couple of years, so I’d like to keep the job I have. This means that I need to get a second job. However, since my primary job isn’t paying me what I’d like, to make it viable I also need to ask my clients for more money. 
  • Sell things that I own. I’m getting ready to go home and do this tonight, in fact. I’ve been a collector for much of my life. I’m constantly picking up knick knacks and trinkets and electronics that I really want at the time, but later just leave laying about the house. When I first moved into my own place a few months ago, I sold some of those things. Now it’s time to catalog and sell the rest. 

Spend less money.

  • Keep a budget document. I have a budget in an Excel file. It helps me keep track of my bills, but it’s not helping me keep track of how to cut costs.
  • Stop overspending on food. It’s my #1 expenditure each month. I spend WAY too much money on food, and that’s got to stop. As much as it pains me, I need to create a strict weekly budget for groceries and entertainment, and stick to it. $50 a week ($200 a month) should be about right for groceries, one movie a month, and a cocktail with friends every now and then. 
  • Switch to Simple. I’ve already signed up for a Simple account, and have the card, but I’ve yet to have enough money in the bank to switch my funds over to Simple full time. When I do, though, I’ll have a system through which to estimate savings goals and spending limits, and a card that will straight up tell me “No, you can’t spend any more money if you want to be out of debt any time this century.”
  • Pay bills first. From now on, bills have to be paid first, while I have the money. Being a freelancer means that you never know when you’re going to get paid next. Luckily, I work for a great company that pays me every two weeks, like a regular employee, almost. But since they’re freelancers, too, sometimes they’re not paid on time, which means that it’s inevitable that there will be times my paycheck will be late. Every time that happens, I’m going to be subject to late fees and overdraft fees for bills due during that pay period. To keep this from happening, I’ve got to pay my bills first, and worry about everything else later.
  • Cut back on expenses. I can quit Massage Envy, Netflix, and dance classes, plus cut back on data use on my phone. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to get rid of my storage unit soon, too. All of that would save me about $150 a month, maybe a little more. I still want to join the gym eventually, but we’ll figure that out when I get there.

Make paying off debt my top priority.

  • Pay more than the minimum fee. The longer I pay the bare minimum for credit cards, the longer I’ll be paying them – and the more money I’ll eventually have wasted on them.
  • Don’t use credit cards unless it’s an absolute emergency. Lately, I’ve fallen back into using my credit cards when there’s a gap between pay periods. This can’t happen anymore. If I’m not going to be able to eat, I’ve just got to suck it up and deal with it. The credit card is not a solution. Making more REAL money is. I can keep a credit card around for dire emergencies, like the loss of a limb or something, but really craving a cheeseburger does not an emergency constitute.
  • Make a plan (with dates) for paying everything off.
  • Put all of second income into savings account for debt. If I’m honest about what it takes to scrape by, my primary job will allow me to pay the minimums of all of my bills, eat a simple diet, and go to the movies or out to a friends’ house now and then. If I could double my current income, I’m pretty sure that I could pay off all of my tax debt from last year and put away at least a little bit of money to pay this year’s taxes. It won’t be everything I need to cut my debt by the end of the year – not even close – but it will be considerably closer than where I am now.
  • Cut back on life. There has to be a balance. I need to look good to get ahead in my career, but I need to stick within a budget. Maybe $100 a month could go to my upkeep. That would let me get my hair cut every three months, buy most of an outfit every three months, and get my nails done every three months. OK, I need to budget more than that. But we’ll just have to work on that in the budget document, shall we?

That’s as much patience as I have for this right now. Tomorrow I’ll start making micro goals for each of these. Right now I’m going home to sort through my things and see what I can get rid of. Maybe I’ll have a yard sale this weekend…

Click here for the second part of my post on creating a plan to get out of debt.

Digging In…And Letting Go

Friends, I’ve hit a road bump. I’m not sure yet just how much it’s going to impact me, but it’s probably going to be pretty large. It might even mean that I have to sideline my plans to go to Santiago de Compostela this year. I’d rather not speculate and stress until all the facts are in, though.

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I called it quits after almost 8 years. It wasn’t unexpected; my crumbling relationship was one of the major problems in my life. The Camino was always something of an escape route, anyway. It was the place that I retreated when I couldn’t handle another second of my life. I still desperately want to go on pilgrimage, but now it will be less about running away from my future, and more about embracing it.

Unfortunately, a side effect of leaving a long-term relationship is divvying up your belongings and finding a new apartment. Apartment prices are pretty inflated in New Orleans. They say that about other cities, but here most people I know make under $35k a year, but pay around $1k in rent each month (if they live alone – it’s cheaper with a roommate, but that’s such a pain).  That means that the typical apartment takes up an unrealistic portion of a person’s paycheck, and that’s before utilities get tallied in. I’m currently hunting for something in my price range (a much lower budget than $1k, that’s for sure), and it’s hard. If I can’t find something at or under what I currently pay, there’s a good chance I won’t be able to save anything over the coming months to go on my trip.

Somehow, though, even though I’m writing all of this, I’m not that worried. I feel strangely certain that everything’s going to be just fine. I’m not giving up yet. Things have a way of working themselves out, and something tells me that this will, too.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. 1930 – Rolls Royce Phantom II | The Bliss of Reality
  2. Sunlight on the plant | Crazy Art
  3. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | Basically Beyond Basic
  4. Telenovela Style | Mila’s Misadventures
  5. Setting | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  6. Spiked AA 🙂 | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  7. lone deer (steadfast) | photo potpourri
  8. Reel On You ! | Life Confusions
  9. Eric’s Aria (Part 2) | The Jittery Goat
  10. DP Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | Sabethville
  11. ‘What doesn’t kill you…’ | Rima Hassan
  12. Care to Dare | Rima Hassan
  13. Never surrender | Sue’s Trifles
  14. 400 Pound Burden | Rima Hassan
  15. Stubborn is as Stubborn Does | Musings | WANGSGARD
  16. Headstrong | Active Army Wife
  17. Night at the Pier | Greg Urbano
  18. On Homophobia | AS I PLEASE
  19. of scary monsters and nice spites | Anawnimiss
  20. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender- Differentiating Between Resilience and Stubbroness | Journeyman
  21. The Trial, Not For the Weak of Faint of Heart: Part 1 | jlaneb
  22. No surrender on Mental Illness awareness/tolerance | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  23. There are just some things I like done or doing a certain way. The right way. | thoughtsofrkh
  24. Stubborn as a Mule! | meanderedwanderings
  25. Pardon me for everything I’m about to say | Attempted Human Relations and Self
  26. Welcome to the jungle | The verbal hedge
  27. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | My Extraordinary Everyday Life
  28. How Are You Toward Health Goals, Easy Going Or Stubborn? | Because It Calms My Nerves:
  29. The Conundrum | Each Feather, A Freedom
  30. Java, Joe, Carbon Remover, Plasma | Exploratorius
  31. Tweet, Tweet, Twitterfiction | My Little Avalon
  32. Steadfast in my integrity: I am my mother’s daughter « psychologistmimi
  33. How Do I Get My Son To Go To School | A mom’s blog
  34. I am not bossy, I AM the boss | IvyMosquito
  35. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | Finding Life
  36. Stubborn Love | peacefulblessedstar
  37. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | Life is great
  38. Stubborn Dutch | Lisa’s Kansa Muse
  39. Minutely Infinite | Stubborn, Yes.
  40. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  41. daily prompt: steadfast | hereisandrea
  42. too stubborn | eastelmhurst.a.go.go
  43. A Letter to my Brother | The Magic Black Book
  44. Who Was that Masked Mule Anyway? | Green Embers
  45. Stubborn or steadfast? No Surrender | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  46. Stubborn Or Easy Going
  47. Daily Post: Never Surrender | melissuhhsmiles
  48. I’LL BE BACK | SERENDIPITY
  49. never surrender | klstar2000
  50. Never Surrender | Knowledge Addiction
  51. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender, 11.03.14 | Markie’s Daily Blog
  52. Staying Stubborn | snapshotsofawanderingheart
  53. Because I’m a Survivor
  54. “Never Surrender” | Relax
  55. Daily Prompt Response: Never Surrender | Confessions of a Monogrammed Runner
  56. Stubborn, determined, or stupid? | Parents Are People Too
  57. The Stubborn Mule and the Easy-Going Duck | Fun with Depression
  58. DP: Never Surrender – Leaving Mina (Hajj Diary Extract) | aliabbasali
  59. Beliefs or Ideas? Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | The Bohemian Rock Star’s “Untitled Project”
  60. Writer’s Block: Get Stubborn! | Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink
  61. Police horse, close up (Daily Prompt: “Never Surrender, Show us Steadfast”) | Photo0pal Photography
  62. Am I stubborn? | Asianchemnerd
  63. “Surrender” | Cosmic Heroism
  64. Insurrection | vic briggs
  65. Stubborn or delusional? | Emotional Fitness

There’s No Place That’s Home

The only existing photo of my old bedroom. It's crappy, but you're not missing much. Notice the missing bits of ceiling and walls, and the unfinished state of the other walls. The floor was particle board. Taken in the summer of 1999, right before I left for college (I think).

The only existing photo of my old bedroom. It’s a crappy shot, but you’re not missing much. Notice the missing bits of ceiling and walls, and the unfinished state of the other walls. The floor was particle board. Taken in the summer of 1999, right before I left for college (I think).

I’m a firm believer that “house” does not equal “home”. It’s probably due to a combination of factors. My childhood house was never completely finished; my father built it, but never had enough money to finish it. The eaves were never filled in, and there were walls and doors missing throughout. Consequently, although my family lived there for my entire life until I moved to New Orleans, it felt a little like squatting. It’s tough to explain the nuances, but it was never comfortable; I was always scared there, and hated being there alone. After I moved away, the house was demolished. Somehow the empty plot of land scares me even more.

During college, I moved to a different apartment every year. The place was always different, but my roommates, two of my best friends, were always the same. They became my home (and still are, even though they’re both so far away – one in Texas, the other in Croatia). After college, they both moved away, and I was on my own again. It took a couple of years, but eventually I found a sweet little half of a double shotgun house that I felt could possibly be a settling-down place. A couple of months later, I lost both the apartment and everything I owned when Hurricane Katrina hit. At first it was devastating, but eventually I realized how freeing it is to not have such strong emotional attachment to physical goods. In years since, I’ve downsized a couple more times; my cats, computer, a few important books, and old photos are all I really need to get by.

When I was a kid, since I hated being inside my house, I spent most of my summers hanging out in a tent in the yard, reading what felt like endless stacks of books. I devoured books as a kid, but horror, fantasy, and historical fiction were my faves – as long as they had cute boys and/or dragons, I was good to go. The Chronicles of Prydain and the Anne of Green Gables series were summertime must-reads; I read both series every summer from 11 to 17, and still remember how it felt to yearn (pretty much equally) for the affection of Princess Eilonwy and Gilbert Blythe. I wonder what it would have been like if they’d met?

Is it any wonder that this built-in need for magic and romance led me to a love of medieval art history? Of course, the magic of it all was beaten out of me pretty early in undergrad, but I’ll never get over the romance. I think that every day on my pilgrimage is going to have at least a touch of that wonder built in. What it won’t have, however, is homesickness. When you don’t equate the feeling of “home” with a place, it’s hard to dwell (ha!) on thoughts of somewhere that you aren’t. I do worry that I won’t have the ability (read: available technology) on the road to write as much as I’d like, though, and that bothers me a bit.

The one time I’m “me” lately is when I’m writing. In my day-to-day, I’m having kind of a tough go of it. It’s hard to explain; life probably looks peachy from the outside, but it’s kind of a dim time for me – hence the decision to get the hell out of dodge and cross the Pyrenees while I’m at it. I spend my days so tightly wound, dancing on the edge of my breaking point. Most people don’t see this about me. I’m a Scorpio; we’re built to naturally insulate our feelings. It’s probably why a lot of us end up becoming emotional time bombs. Over the years I’ve learned the hard way that even when I think I’m broadcasting loud and clear, other people tend to find me inscrutable. I let loose steam on my blogs, and every now and then in conversation with a trusted friend. Mostly, though, it’s the writing that gets me through.

Lots of people write on the road, but it seems most are doing it the old fashioned way, with pen and paper. Some books that I’ve read were sketched out on cell phones and tablets, and I know that it’s possible to find a place to power up your tech gear in many alburgues. The worst bit is the extra weight. I’ll hate to add more to my pack load, but I need to capture my thoughts. I’m not quick at physically penning words; a keyboard or voice recorder will be necessary. I’ll most likely be using an iPad mini with an attached keyboard, or maybe a cheaper tablet – I’m not sure on that just yet. It will have to be light, and I’ll probably have to give up some other comfort (like extra socks, or shampoo, or what-have-you) to bring it along. But it will be worth it.

Once the writing is taken care of, the only other issue I’ll have to take care of to feel really at home on the road is to make some friends. That shouldn’t be too hard – a bottle of wine and a great story or two go a long way when you’re all new to a place. I find myself hoping that maybe out there on The Camino, I’ll meet new family, and I’ll be able to extend my feeling of “home” to other corners of the globe. Soon, I’ll be at home in Australia, maybe, or perhaps Belgium. Maybe some of my eventual home team are from Wales, or Italy, or Slovakia. Who knows? I’m excited to find out.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. New iPod | Crazy Markovich
  2. of raging wants | Anawnimiss
  3. Daily Prompt: Our House- The impact of family to our psychological mind | Journeyman
  4. Streaks in the Darkness | Exploratorius
  5. Home: Tankas | 365 days of defiance
  6. To London For Love & The Daily Prompt | The Jittery Goat
  7. Daily Prompt: Our House | Under the Monkey Tree
  8. Cumbraes, 1962 | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  9. Launching Pad | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  10. Daily Prompt: Home | The Wandering Poet
  11. evergreen | yi-ching lin photography
  12. My family are huggers, and it’s always been an awesome part of life. | thoughtsofrkh
  13. Daily Prompt: House | seikaiha’s blah-blah-blah
  14. Daily Prompt: Our House | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
  15. Short Plat – A Short Story | Kilbo – Chris Kilbourn
  16. The House in Middelburg. | Hope* the happy hugger
  17. BE IT EVER SO HUMBLE | SERENDIPITY
  18. Home, Sweet Home | Home’s Cool!
  19. Daily Prompt: Our House « Mama Bear Musings
  20. The Gray House | A Sign Of Life
  21. Childhood Memories of Home | Unload and Unwind
  22. Home | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  23. 272. My Childhood Home | Barely Right of Center
  24. Children Must Be Seen And Not Heard | Lisa’s Kansa Muse
  25. My Childhood Home | A mom’s blog
  26. Chained Childhood… | Haiku By Ku
  27. Minutely Infinite | Is home where the heart is?
  28. House of Haiku | Finale to an Entrance
  29. An Ode Full of Home | L5GN
  30. Formerly known as home | Le Drake Noir
  31. The rising of the Sap Nymph: an erotic poem | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  32. The family home | Sue’s Trifles
  33. Daily Prompt: Our House | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  34. A Trip Down Memory Lane | Views Splash!
  35. DP Daily Prompt: Our House | Sabethville
  36. DP: OUR HOME | Active Army Wife
  37. Daily Prompt: Our House | Rolbos ©
  38. Daily Prompt reply…3/3/14 | TheWritingMommy
  39. The Halls of Childhood | meanderedwanderings
  40. View from the attic | Standing Ovation, Seated
  41. Charity Begins At Home | AstridOxford
  42. breakfast music | peacefulblessedstar
  43. Our Old House | Flowers and Breezes
  44. Houses and Home | The Nameless One
  45. Thoughts of home | FUNNY…PECULIAR
  46. Childhood Memory… | Cats, Coffee, And Life At Random
  47. Homeless in your heart? | Emotional Fitness
  48. The Tracks–Home: Daily Prompt | Finicky Philly
  49. Moving Away | snapshotsofawanderingheart
  50. My first house: “mango tree” / Ma première maison: “manguiers” | Write for learning
  51. It Was Ours | The Book of Shayne
  52. “Tomorrow you’re going to be four!” | djgarcia94
  53. Our House: Slugs and Stairs (Daily Post) | Fun with Depression
  54. Burning Down the House in the Middle of the Street « psychologistmimi
  55. The House That Built Me | The Shotgun Girls
  56. Are There Five Interesting Facts About Me?
  57. I freaking love this house | The Bohemian Rock Star’s “Untitled Project”
  58. Our House in the Middle of the Street | thanks for letting me autograph your cat
  59. Daily Prompt: Our House | Cancer Isn’t Pink
  60. Early Memories of Home | The Silver Leaf Journal
  61. Quietness in the Houusse!!! | The Salmon Yatra
  62. Daily Prompt: Being Reminiscent! | All Things Cute and Beautiful
  63. Our House | viver para contar
  64. A Fresh Start | Menimèse Creare
  65. Daily Prompt: Home | Winging it
  66. The phone, the farmer, and the Batman. | Trucker Turning Write
  67. Our home, home on the Office Range | Institute for Hispanic Health Equity
  68. Life is Home | Live Life in Crescendo
  69. Our House | YAP + film
  70. Staying in Focus/Daily Prompt: Our House | Staying in Focus
  71. Home | A picture is worth 1000 words

Exploring Assisi – The Unintentional Pilgrimage (Part 3)

Via Wikimedia Commons.

Via Wikimedia Commons.

First off, you should know that the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is pretty large. The basilica consists of two main levels – upper and lower – plus crypts underneath the main structure, as well as the requisite bell tower and related private rooms above the upper level. I spent about three hours exploring the spaces open to tourists, and could have spent many more, if not for the repeated message on the loudspeaker: “No photos, please. No photos, please. No photos, please…” in about five different languages. As you might gather from this, I didn’t take any snapshots of the interior of the church. I doubt anyone would have kicked me out or confiscated my camera, but after the run-in with the Alabama church group, I was feeling like I should attempt to be a better person, you know?

The upper level of the basilica is awash with frescoes depicting the life of St. Francis, frequently attributed to artist and architect Giotto, who is known as the first great artist of the Italian Renaissance. I’d count him as a late medieval artist, but that’s an ongoing academic argument that will most likely see no solution in my lifetime. We have little proof that the frescoes were indeed created by Giotto, but they are striking and historically important nonetheless. In the lower level of the basilica, a fresco painted by Giotto’s teacher, Cimabue, still exists. It, too, is argued to be by another painter, due to its contradiction to commonly known elements of Giotto’s style. I’d studied all of these works in undergrad, but had conveniently managed to forget their location. As a result, when I walked into the space, my heart skipped a beat. As my dad would say, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

The only other time I’ve felt that extreme rush of familiarity and longing – a soul call, if you will – for a piece of art was when I unexpectedly stumbled across Rogier van der Weyden’s “St. Luke Drawing the Virgin” at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 2004. That was a moment for the ages. My heart breaks just thinking about it. Some folks get misty-eyed over lost loves; I get misty-eyed over beloved paintings. What can I say?

"St. Luke Drawing the Virgin" by Rogier van der Weyden. Currently housed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

“St. Luke Drawing the Virgin” by Rogier van der Weyden. Currently housed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Image via Wikimedia Commons. (Also, please don’t judge this painting by the image on your screen. Go to Boston and see it in person. It’s superb.)

Anyway, so I walked into this enormous, softly lit space, my eyes landed on priceless art previously only seen in a text book, and I felt like someone had just cut off my air supply. I got a little loopy. I went from being a tourist on a day trip to being my primal self, standing in a small Italian town, searching for something I didn’t know I’d lost. I was smaller than ever, but suddenly feeling intimately connected to everything.

This feeling only intensified as I entered the small museum dedicated to St. Francis, on the lower level of the building. At first, I didn’t intend to go in. It was a tiny room, and people didn’t seem to be staying that long. What could it possibly have? Knowing the day was short and there was a lot ahead of me still, I walked in, intending to just glance around and walk back out. But there, in a simple case by the door, was a brown hair shirt, conserved under glass. I looked at it, then looked again. Not just a piece of clothing. HIS piece of clothing. Until that moment, I’d never realized one of the coolest things that sets Francis apart from other saints of the time period: he was acknowledged to be on the road to sainthood whilst still alive. People were already planning his veneration before he died, which gives credence to the fact that the items preserved are actually his, versus items from other saints that were sometimes collected decades or even hundreds of years after the saint’s passing.

Though the room was small, it held clothing that Francis wore during his lifetime, the cloths used to bandage the wounds of his stigmata later in life, and most impressive, the original document used to found the Ordo Fratro Minorum (Francis called his followers the “Little Brothers”). The beginning of the Franciscan Order, the words that can be argued to have saved the medieval Church from a ruinous path of greed and gluttony, it’s there for all to see in that little museum. For a person of little religious faith but an overwhelming desire to find some smidgen of truth, seeing Francis’ words written out in ink on vellum can make – did make – a world of difference.

After seeing his belongings/relics, I mistakenly thought I’d reached the pinnacle of my experience at the basilica. But as I started to walk back through the building, I noticed a sign for the crypt. I love crypts. Crypts and bell towers are the best parts of churches, in my opinion, and I visit as many of both as I can. So of course I decided to take the stairs and see what kinds of creepy stuff was down there. As I got closer to the bottom, I realized that whoever was buried downstairs must be important – lots of people crowded the stairs with me. We reached a small chapel where a service was being conducted. Beyond the chapel, I could see a wide stone column, surrounded by a round room with niches. The people next to me began to whisper, “Oh, this is Jacoba!” and I turned to see that I was standing next to a protected niche, containing a burial container. Inside were the remains of Jacoba dei Settesoli, a dear friend and devoted follower of St. Francis. She was the one who dressed the wounds of his stigmata, and she was present at his death, despite the impropriety of a woman being at his bedside in the friary. Suddenly, I realized why everyone was standing around. I realized who was in the crypt. I’d come here to feel close to St. Francis, this man I didn’t know or understand, but still loved, and here he was, waiting for me.

I sat in the chapel for the remainder of service, then walked around Francis’ grave, taking note that the niches around the room were the graves of his four best friends and fellow monks. I was suddenly happy for Jacoba. Though she wasn’t in the chamber, itself, she was close. I pictured them enjoying nature together, sharing a simple mindful moment. As I left the crypt, I purchased two candles, leaving them to be burned at one of the chapel’s daily services.

For the rest of my time in the basilica, I felt my spirit begin to drift higher and higher; I was feeling positively effervescent. I couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off of my face. It’s free to enter the building, but there are donation boxes dotting the corridors. I put a euro or two in every donation box that I passed. There were brochures explaining the various artwork; I took one and dropped a couple of euros in the donation box. I wanted to light a candle and pray at a small side altar; I dropped a couple of euros in the donation box. A photography exhibit shared the Franciscan Order’s works of service with the poor; I dropped a few euros in the donation box. By the time I’d walked around the building and stopped in at the gift shop to buy a few keepsakes for friends and family, I had about 15 euros left in my pocket. I’d have to find an ATM before heading back to Perugia.

After leaving the church, my next stop was another small museum. To be honest, my first intention was to find a free bathroom, but I was quickly drawn in by MUMA (Museo Missionario Indios Frati Cappuccini Dell’Umbria In Amazzonia). For a pretty tiny museum, it had some of the most impressive interactive technology of any museum I’ve ever visited, and the subject matter – the Capuchin Order (a subset of the Franciscans) and their mission in the Amazon from the 19th century to today. It’s easy to assume that the story told would be about a bunch of Christians coming in and “bettering” lives by converting native peoples, but that’s not really what the museum is about. It turns out that though the idea is to spread the gospel, the method is to go, be of service, help make changes that native peoples are comfortable with, and respect existing traditions. The museum is a celebration of cultural diversity, overcoming adversity, and protecting ecological treasures. I was pleasantly surprised, though now I understand that these are all things that Francis, himself, supported. If you have a chance, please check out MUMA’s website.

Hunger was calling, so I opted for a sandwich and some wine at a local cafe with the last of my money. Afterwards, while trying to withdraw money at an ATM, I realized that both my bank card and credit card had been shut off. I’d forgotten to tell the bank that I was traveling internationally, and they placed a hold on my accounts. No problem; I’d find a telephone, call the number on the back of the card, and have my problem solved within the hour. Just one problem – the international numbers on my cards weren’t working from the pay phone. After several failed attempts, I gave up and decided to enjoy the hour I had left before it was time to catch the bus back to Perugia. Thankfully, my return ticket had already been purchased.

The cell in which St. Francis' father imprisoned him.

The cell in which St. Francis’ father imprisoned him.

Not far from the ATM, I passed a smaller, interesting looking church and decided to go in. It turned out that I had entered Chiesa Nuova, built on the remains of St. Francis’ family home. I stood in the storeroom where the former Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone’s father had stored fine silks to be sold at market. I saw what remained of the family home’s imposing front door, and the small cell in which Giovanni’s father locked him when he declared his intention to give up the family business and become a man of God.

My last stop before heading out to wait for the bus was the simplest, but strangely also the most striking. Santa Maria Maggiore is austere in comparison to its fellow holy sites within the walls of Assisi, but after a day of passionate impressions, followed by a building sense of worry about my finances, the late afternoon light streaming through her rose window was everything I needed.

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I left town, and went to stand by the bus. There were pay phones, so I tried all of the numbers I had once more. No luck. I just couldn’t manage to dial out. Deciding it was user error and recognizing that I was quickly destroying every ounce of personal peace I’d just found within Assisi, I gave up for the time being. Still, I was seething. I’d lost it. A whole day of beautiful things and suddenly all I could think about was how I was going to pay my hotel bill when it was time to leave Perugia in the morning. Standing there on that June afternoon, I was halfway between heaven and hell. I was so angry, and angry again at myself for letting something this stupid get the better of me. And even angrier that I couldn’t just hold on to this goodness I was just reveling in, not a couple of hours before. What was wrong with me? Who does this to themselves?

A friendly voice piped up from beside me, stirring me out of my slump. “It’s much warmer here than back at home.” I looked down to see a lovely little Japanese lady, impeccably dressed, and staring back at me with the kindest smile. My ruffled feathers began to smooth over instantly. Ikuko was from Japan, but lived in San Francisco with her husband much of the year. She spent a great deal of time in Italy with friends, and like me, had traveled to Assisi for the day out of curiosity about the saint. She had ridden the same bus in with me that morning, and was also heading back to Perugia on the last bus out for the day. We chatted for a bit there at the bus stop, then sat together on the way back, too.

In the year and a half since meeting Ikuko, I’ve tried to explain the feeling of that bus ride many times. The closest I’ve ever gotten is by using something that popped into my head that day, while we were talking. I seriously began to wonder if she was my angel. Sometimes I think that even if that couldn’t possibly be true, it’s the thing that makes the most sense. We talked about life in Italy, about the little things, like coffee and finding great gelato, and about big things, like finding God. She asked me why I’d gone to Assisi, and I explained sheepishly that I didn’t know, exactly. I told her that I had trouble with some parts of Christianity, but no trouble at all with the big picture items, like being good, spreading light and love, and living a life of service. We talked about doing our best each day, and hoping that it would be good enough in the end. She told me of her (literal) epiphany during a sermon in Ravenna, the moment she’d gone from agnostic to enthusiastic Catholic. She spoke of suddenly feeling an emptiness inside her fill up with light. I was so happy for her, because the light she spoke of shone out of her.

Have you ever watched a baby laugh and smile over something simple that absolutely filled them with delight? It’s like they’re overflowing with simple goodness – there’s nothing dark or troubling that could encroach on how they’re reacting to that moment. That’s what it felt like to be with Ikuko on that bus ride home. She helped me focus the passion that I’d experienced that day, and turned it on in me, like a faucet in my heart. I feel like I’ve been filling up with goodness, ever since. True, I’m a little leaky now and then, but I’m a work in progress.

She left me with a poem. It’s one of the first things I posted on this blog, actually. You can read it here. We’ve kept up through emails ever since. I wish I would have walked her home that night, but we were going to two different parts of the city. And besides, I still had the credit card issue to figure out.

It took me a few more hours to crack the case. Many, many tears and failed phone calls later, after I’d enlisted the help of an American in my global cell phone’s company call center, plus two separate concierges, the lady at my soon-to-be favorite gelateria, plus a number of concerned but utterly unhelpful tourists in the public square, I got everything figured out. In the end, no one could help me dial the numbers on the back of my credit cards (or any international numbers for Chase Bank on any of their websites) from Italy – not even the Italians. My concierge darkly blamed the trouble on it being an “American number”. I bit my tongue to avoid the unpleasant remark I felt bubbling up inside…and to think that only a few hours earlier, I might have agreed with his assessment.

Luckily, I had an iPad and Skype, and it turns out that you can dial anyone from Skype – including Chase Bank. Ten minutes later, I celebrated my newly-reinstated bank accounts with two scoops of gelato – pistachio and sweet cream is the best combination, hands down.

During the ordeal of trying to call my credit card company, I was sitting on some steps near the public square and sobbing. Luckily, extreme displays of emotion don’t make Italians run in the opposite direction, and an older gentleman came up and interrupted me mid-sob. He asked me if I was holding an iPad, and if I’d be so kind as to let him check his stocks. He asked me why I was so upset, brushed it off as an issue I’d soon solve, then asked me to wine later if I was free. I declined, much to my later disappointment when I saw the man and an extended group of friends having a lovely conversation at an open-air trattoria.

Watching the group of Italians laugh at their table, it struck me that it had all been a test – a big, messy lesson from St. Francis. I’d just had a small taste of what it was like to depend entirely on the kindness of strangers, to not know where my next meal was coming from, to have no clue how I’d be leaving town. All I had was my ability to make friends, to prove my goodness, and to have faith that something would come through. It was a tough lesson to learn, and I don’t think I did too well on the first round; I was a spoiled brat and an emotional wreck, placing too much faith on my gadgetry and not enough on human connection. Maybe that’s where I’ll step up my game on The Camino.

Overall, my trip to Assisi was a pivotal moment in my life thus far. In one way, the day was quite simple: I took a bus to see a couple of churches, and ran out of money. It’s all of the details that make the day so huge in my memory. Every time I run back through the events of the day, my mind untangles some new moment, makes a previously unnoticed connection, draws me closer in my relationship with St. Francis. The wild man who preached to birds, who believed that laughter and song were the perfect way to spread the radical concept of not being a jerk, who gladly stripped naked in the public square to renounce his father’s fat pocketbook in exchange for a life of austerity…I’m behind that. I might not be able to accept everything yet. Maybe ever. But I’ll take what I can – and I’ll pass it right back out. My best is all I’ve got, and I’m going to give it.

Shrubbery from the basilica's lawn. The Tau (in red) is the symbol of the Franciscan order. Pax = peace.

Shrubbery from the basilica’s lawn. The Tau (in red) is the symbol of the Franciscan order. Pax = peace.

Various Negative Reactions To My Decision To Walk To Santiago De Compostela

When writing the story of your life, don't let anyone else hold the pen.

Hand-drawn Typography by Carrie Chang. Click thru to visit her Behance page.

With my excitement, it was easy to forget that other people might not have the same amount of faith in my proposed journey as I have. That’s one of the reasons I needed to start this blog – the real life reactions were beginning to get disheartening. Since coming to terms with the fact that this trip was definitely happening, I’ve gotten a lot of confused stares, a few politely-worded questions to the basic tune of, “Why on earth would anyone want to do that?” and only a small handful of genuine expressions of interest out of everyone I’ve told.

The interested folks: my three best girlfriends, a friend’s mom, a couple of other friends, and a coworker.

The disinterested folks: my parents, the rest of my coworkers.

The people who think I’m wasting time / wasting money / otherwise making a stupid mistake / am just strange or insane: my significant other, the rest of my family, a decent chunk of friends, pretty much everyone else that I’ve told in passing.

A lot of my friends think that walking 800km is kind of crazy. I get it. Some people just don’t like being that physically active. I’m comfortable with people liking to be inactive, so why can’t they be comfortable with the alternative? I’ll probably never get it.

A couple of folks have asked me what I think I’ll accomplish. They hear “pilgrimage” and think that I’ve gone soft in the head, like I’m going to start wearing a hair shirt and toting a life-sized cross around. I wouldn’t get that reaction if I said I was going to hike the Appalachian Trail, even though plenty of people hike the Trail to find themselves and enjoy their surroundings, which is exactly what I’ll be doing. If pilgrimage is a quest to to pay homage, why can’t one use it to pay homage to the world, and in doing so, find his or her place in that world? True, I go with some religious questions in mind, but I also go to meet other seekers, to explore medieval architecture, to pit my weak body against the much stronger terrain, and to have a story to tell. Shouldn’t one of these things be enough? Why is it that I can go through the whole list without seeing a single sparkle in the other person’s eye? It’s heartbreaking to know there are people out there with such small imaginations.

A number of people are treating this like I’m talking about taking an extra-long vacation, and see me as somehow selfish for making these plans. Americans typically get two paid vacation weeks a year, compared to four weeks in most European countries. Many Americans – in the past, myself included – take their work with them on vacation, and don’t take their full vacation time each year. We’re workaholics, and it’s killing us. There’s no upside. And technically, even though I’m working 40 hours a week at an agency, I’m a freelancer, so I should be able to dictate my own work schedule. I’ve given up a higher paycheck and health insurance in order to have a job that gives me some choice in my life. Even so, there’s a good chance that I might come back to find I have no job waiting for me. But really, if they can’t hold my desk, is it really a job I want to keep?

One person, in particular, has made it clear that they don’t believe in my decision or ability to carry it out. Planning an expenditure of this scale when I don’t have the funds to begin with, especially knowing that I will surely suffer afterward, just makes them mad with me for being stupid and wasteful and willfully ignorant. This is probably the hardest burden for me to bear on a daily basis, that someone close to me plain doesn’t think I’m capable of achieving a beloved goal. They want me to do what they do – obsess about the future without ever living today. What they don’t, maybe can’t, understand is that I’ve looked at this from all angles. I know the hole I’m potentially digging for myself. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is having the faith that what I’ve decided will not only come to pass, but will be the right thing for me. I’ve decided to LIVE, even if they’re too afraid to make the same decision.

Out of everyone I’ve spoken to, only one person – my best friend – has looked at me with some understanding when I told her what I was planning. She might not have understood the compulsion, but she understands me. She understood, like I do, that this pilgrimage is not an option. It’s happening, one way or the other. As it turns out, she was one of the first that I told once I’d finally made the call that it was going to be this year. I’m so happy that she was the one, because it’s kind of painful trying to speak my soul to other people and having them write me off so easily. I don’t think I can be any clearer: this is of massive importance to me. If I were having a baby or getting married, people would drop everything to congratulate me for embarking on a new path. The irony is that here I am, literally embarking on a new path, and no one gets it.

One thing I’m learning through this process is that I can’t afford to take too much time to be angry or hurt. I definitely can’t try to spew irritation, disgust, or misguided language back at people who try to influence me to change my mind. I truly believe that if I just keep working at this, and putting my back into it, so to speak, only good will come out of my decision. Above all, I need to stay true to the spirit of this journey, and that means staying true to my heart, inviting only the best energy in. Kind of like karma, I guess.

One way or the other, it definitely helps that I have you, kind readers. I really appreciate you all being here, and coming back to read on as I progress in my plans. You’re giving me some of the strength I need to make this journey happen.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Circle of life for bison | Exploratorius
  2. Tom Attwater Is Dying. His Daughter Might Die, Too. The Letter He Left For Her Is Unforgettable. | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  3. Sight and sound of a cemetery | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  4. Karma By Another Name | The Jittery Goat
  5. Human vs. Humans | Rose-tinted Rambles
  6. Karma | Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This
  7. Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon | Journeyman
  8. DP Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon | Sabethville
  9. The Circle of Time – Daily Prompt | alienorajt
  10. Circle | Mara Eastern
  11. Karma | Stephanie auf Reisen
  12. Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
  13. Karma for the Introvert | 61 Musings
  14. Daily Prompt: Will you become a Karma Chameleon? | seikaiha’s blah-blah-blah
  15. cyclical not seasonal | peacefulblessedstar
  16. Wow, sorry, hit my own nerve there. | thoughtsofrkh
  17. Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon | The Wandering Poet
  18. slightly less | yi-ching lin photography
  19. there is room to do | y
  20. Who Watches The Watchmen? | The Dragon Weyr
  21. karma and unsought gifts | gaikokumaniakku
  22. Daily Post : Karma Chamleon | NRI-scopic777
  23. Wednesday Words | Tommia’s Tablet
  24. Karma… We Need to Talk | Under the Monkey Tree
  25. DP: Fluffy Karma | Scorched Ice
  26. Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon « Mama Bear Musings
  27. That Bitch!!! | Unlocking The Inner Creative
  28. Vengeance | A mom’s blog
  29. In a Circle | Ana Linden
  30. Circle | Sounds of Time
  31. Karma has been “scientifically” proven! | The Joy of Health Nutrition and Beauty
  32. Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  33. DP: Circles | As I See It
  34. Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon | Reunitems Journal
  35. Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon | For the Archives
  36. breaking news | The Matticus Kingdom
  37. Phoneography: Capturing The Rain | Light Words
  38. Daily Post: Karma Chameleon | Destino
  39. No changes | Life is great
  40. PERFECT CIRCLE – TEEPEE IN ITS SEASONS | SERENDIPITY
  41. What Comes Around Goes Around | Lisa’s Kansa Muse
  42. Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon | medicinalmeadows
  43. Karma – Lets Screw It | Views Splash!
  44. The Truth Shall Set Me Free | Buzzy Beez
  45. Thoughts From the Circus Part 3: Finish Well | The Photo Faith Challenge
  46. When Karma Meets Christ | meanderedwanderings
  47. A Life Undeserved | snapshotsofawanderingheart
  48. How To Create Good Karma For Yourself – Sort Of | The Political and Social Chaos Blog
  49. what goes around…really goes around | In The Moment
  50. Why Karma Doesn’t Matter | The Femindiary
  51. I am a mental patient. Hear me whimper?
  52. Circle | The Land Slide Photography
  53. I Won’t Get My Happiness From Someone Else’s Pain | The Uncustomary Housewife
  54. What Makes You Laugh Determines How Smart You Are. | The Uncustomary Housewife
  55. Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon | birgerbird
  56. Karma | Knowledge Addiction
  57. Karma Chameleon | The Nameless One
  58. What do we know about this crazy thing we call “karma”? | Rob’s Surf Report
  59. Butterfly Journal: Patience (Entry #2) | Through the Peacock’s Eyes
  60. Daily Prompt: Circle | Foto Challenge
  61. Religion, the good and the bad | Emotional Fitness
  62. The Curious Case Of Miss Revengeratress | Girl And Her Blue Blog
  63. This Project is Complete, On to the Next One | Photography Journal Blog
  64. Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon | Occasional Stuff
  65. Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon | Adventures with the Clawsons
  66. The Karma Chameleon | Lead us from the Unreal to the Real
  67. Karma, The Law of Return, And The Three-fold Law « Shrine of Hecate – Ramblings of a New Age Witch
  68. Reflections: Karma Is A Teacher Not A Bitch | Mirth and Motivation
  69. Daily Post: Karma – A Trailer Tale | Cancer Isn’t Pink
  70. Circles of Life | Cee’s Photography
  71. The Golden Rule | A.C. Melody
  72. That Bitch Called Karma | Losing It
  73. Daily Prompt: Being Influential! | All Things Cute and Beautiful
  74. Mythical bitch | fifty5words
  75. Coming Full Circle: On Karma | theauthorwhoknows
  76. The Importance Of Karma | Polymathically
  77. Karma Chameleon (HA), a rage haiku | I Had a Pearl
  78. Does life need to change? | 2 times pink
  79. Full Circle – Daily Prompt, photo | alienorajt
  80. What goes around, comes back around baby | Life Of A Cosmetologist!
  81. untitled 001 | My Play Nook
  82. Daily Prompt: Circle | That Montreal Girl
  83. On Karma | Thinking Diagonally
  84. Big News: Karma is Real! | 365 Days of Thank You
  85. Daily prompt: More questions than answers | helen meikle’s scribblefest
  86. Dust | field of thorns
  87. Going For Gold | Wiley’s Wisdom
  88. Dust | field of thorns
  89. Karma Chameleon – Ramblings from the Swamp
  90. Karmic wine glass | U Be Cute – Follow the child inside of you…
  91. Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon | Nola Roots, Texas Heart
  92. Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon | (A Day in the Life) Un Giorno Nella Vita
  93. Instant Karma’s Gonna Get You | Odyssey of a Novice Writer
  94. The rule of three | Willow’s Corner
 

So How Do I Afford This Pilgrimage?

Cute, but I’m gonna need my 10 cents back now, kitty.

Ugh. Got kicked in the face with a strong dose of reality late last night (actually very, very early this morning). I owe a LOT in taxes this year as a result of not clearly understanding the ins and outs of claiming a loss on my taxes. There’s more to the story, but it’s too tedious to explain here. Let’s just chalk it up to idiocy and move on to making a solution (then never make the same mistake again.)

Overall, I’m in OK shape. It’s not like I’m being sent to debtors’ prison or anything – I’ll pay what I can, then make monthly installments until I’m all settled up with the government. I won’t starve, though according to my calculations, I’ll have to cut my grocery bill in half, and give up my little splurges, like the gym, manicures, and waxing. Oh well, the rest of the world is doing it, so no tears allowed there. Plus, I can always look at it as training for the Camino 🙂

But where it really gets hairy (ha!) is that after paying my regular bills, putting aside current taxes, and paying my monthly invoice for 2013 taxes, I will not have anything to put aside for this pilgrimage. So it looks like it’s time to get a second job, and possibly to start another side endeavor on Etsy or Ebay.

There are two things you should know about me if you haven’t figured it out already:

  1. I’m resourceful. True, I love my creature comforts and fashion splurges now, but I grew up poor and learned from my parents how to make the most of the little things. I can always find a way to make money when I need it – so that’s what I’m going to do.
  2. I don’t take “no” for an answer. I’m a Scorpio, which is a fixed sign, meaning that once I set my intentions, not much can shake me off of the trail. One of my favorite books, Linda Goodman’s Love Signs, says that Scorpios never give up – they just change their minds about what they originally wanted. No changing my mind on this trip, though. At the very worst, I’ll have to put it off for another year – but things will have to get pretty bad before that happens.

So today I contacted some old clients to let them know my new availability, then started a new profile on oDesk, with plans to adjust my schedule a bit to make room to become a virtual assistant. I figure that if I can squeeze in at least a few hours a day of admin work, and hopefully even pick up some additional freelance marketing jobs, I’ll be able to work my way into a slightly more profitable position. I’ll need to get a lot more regimented in my daily schedule (no more sleeping in), but with some luck and a little elbow grease, I’ll get back on track.

So…anyone looking for a virtual assistant?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Thawing inch by inch | Never Stationary
  2. Condemned | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  3. Home | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  4. It wasn’t even a nokia | Casually Short
  5. Dale And The Surreal | The Jittery Goat
  6. A Memory from the Kitchen Years | AS I PLEASE
  7. Second Chance | Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This
  8. The Affair: Daily Prompt | alienorajt
  9. Things I regret | muffinscout
  10. Into the Forest I Wish I Went | Lisa’s Kansa Muse
  11. DP Daily Prompt: I Did it My Way | Sabethville
  12. in your mother tongue, | y
  13. Daily Prompt: I Did it My Way | Incidents of a Dysfunctional Spraffer
  14. Climbing the Stick — Redux | Exploratorius
  15. Hindsight, the Road not Taken and a Conversation with a Man Named Nicodemus | meanderedwanderings
  16. Wish Upon A Star | marjanitalarosa
  17. Daily Post: Bye, Bye Paris | Willow Blackbird
  18. Daily Prompt: I Did it My Way | The Wandering Poet
  19. Equivocation | La Gatita Oscura
  20. It’s time to complain (Again) | Phelio a Random Post a Day
  21. No regrets | A mom’s blog
  22. Redo from Start! | L5GN
  23. His plan for me (pantoum) | peacefulblessedstar
  24. While I’m Away From You My Son | Raising Jed
  25. Too Much… | Tommia’s Tablet
  26. Wish to Uncover the hidden secrets of human brain | Outreach
  27. This is My Life | Real Momma Ramblings
  28. No Regrets Here | The Shotgun Girls
  29. Major Alert | Wanderlein
  30. OmG … Noodles Grow On My Head | So Not Simple
  31. Daily Prompt: I Did it My Way « Mama Bear Musings
  32. re-set | sarahscapes
  33. And THEN… Daily Prompt | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  34. Regrets In My Heart | Flowers and Breezes
  35. Daily Prompt: February 11 | A Balmy Life
  36. Iteration – photo | alienorajt
  37. If I Could Turn Back Time | Losing It
  38. Daily Prompt – I Won’t Bribe! | Views Splash!
  39. What I did for love | Life is great
  40. If I could turn back time, would he now walk differently? | My thoughts on a page.
  41. Daily Prompt: I Did It My Way | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  42. 2-11-14 Weekly Travel Theme: Yellow (Iteration Department) | The Quotidian Hudson
  43. Olympic Hunger Games: Sochi
  44. A Real Life Do-Over | snapshotsofawanderingheart
  45. I Did It Not My Way | The Cheese Whines
  46. Two Pies in the Sky « psychologistmimi
  47. Daily Prompt: I Did It My Way | A Place Apart
  48. There is no rewind… | Willow’s Corner
  49. That tricky 501st blog entry… | thoughtsofrkh
  50. Thoughts Less Traveled
  51. If Life had a Refresh Button | Lilly Lane
  52. I did It My Way « One Crazy Mom
  53. Broken pots required | Mishe en Place
  54. Would You Bring a Casserole to a Mental Patient?
  55. If life had a restart button | The Bohemian Rock Star’s “Untitled Project”
  56. Tea and Toast | The Zombies Ate My Brains
  57. Photos: Empire State Building In Successive Iteration | Mirth and Motivation
  58. Dear Future Me… | sayanything
  59. If I could turn back time | mombox
  60. Daily Prompt: I Did it My Way | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
  61. WIP> The Dirty Dozen Disciples (2-21-2014) | A List of the Best “End the Lies” Websites
  62. Daily Prompt: I Did it My Way | To Breathe is to Write
  63. Daily Prompt: I Did it My Way | jane sleeps here
  64. Iteration or Historical Regrets | Ana Linden
  65. Shuffling | Edward Hotspur
  66. Daily Prompt: Being Decisive! | All Things Cute and Beautiful
  67. My Way | tuckedintoacorner
  68. Tell Me Why… | Nodus Tollens

Forgiveness

If yesterday’s Daily Post prompt were real…

This morning I walked out of my apartment and realized that Magazine Street was covered in confetti. For a second I wracked my brain to figure out what had happened. Mardi Gras isn’t until March, so we still have some months to go. My stretch of Magazine isn’t a normal spot chosen for second line parades, and even if it were a second line, it probably wouldn’t have happened overnight on a Tuesday. So why the celebration?

It took a bit, but then I remembered – student loan forgiveness was signed into law last night. It was the headline of every newspaper, the focus of every special news program on TV, the bulletin on every website. Student loans taken out before 2005 were being forgiven, and from here on out, all remaining and upcoming student loan payments would be reduced to .75% interest rate, the same as big banks.

It’s a huge weight taken off of my shoulders. I owe over $100k in student loans, and until yesterday, I was resigned to never paying them back in full. I thought that for the rest of my life, I’d be paying a quarter of each month’s salary into that loan, if I was lucky and rates didn’t change retroactively. I thought that I’d never be able to afford to buy a car, or put a down payment down on a house, or help my kids out with their own college educations (provided I married someone with enough money to afford the kids in the first place.) But now today here I am with no debt! I can hardly believe it’s true!

So what are my next steps, you ask? First, I’m starting a retirement plan. Before today, I was in the red at the end of every single month. Now I might have a little extra to start planning for my golden years. After that, I’m going to rethink my career choices. Now that I can afford to make a little less, I’d really much rather spend my time helping people or animals (or maybe both) at a non-profit organization for a living. Now I won’t have to work nights anymore, so I can finally use my post-work hours to start writing horror novels. I was already dedicated to the idea of going on pilgrimage next summer, so the only thing that will change in that regard is that maybe I’ll have a little extra money on hand to take some time to hang out in Spain afterwards, or maybe go back to Assisi for a week or so to spend time with the Franciscans.

Either way, this is exciting stuff! I can’t wait to tell my parents. Which reminds me, now I don’t have to live in fear of having to take care of one of them one of these days. Now that I’m not buried in student loans, I can start investing in a fund to provide for them. Such a relief…