Gift vs Passion

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Let’s be clear, your gift is the thing you do the best with the least amount of effort. Your passion is the activity you have a strong desire for or the thing that gives you the most energy. Just because you are passionate about something, it doesn’t mean that it’s your God-given gift. In other words, it doesn’t mean you’re even good at it.

 -Patrice Washington
Credit: http://realmoneyanswers.com/is-your-passion-enough/

 

It’s about time I take my definition of freedom and really pinpoint what it actually looks like in quantifiable terms. The above graphic I found while browsing LinkedIn one day and, unfortunately, do not have a credit for it. But, remember when I posted about unexpected help/resources and how I was hopeful to incorporate them into my life? Realmoneyanswers.com gave me the above quote to consider. On a personal note, we can replace “God-given” with “X-given” for the sake of my own journey. Combining these two resources, I think I have enough to get started!

That Which You Love (or are curious about)

  • Myself
  • Words/Writing
  • Language/Universal Language
  • Travel

That Which You Are Good At

  • Communication
  • Service/Serving Others
  • Writing

What Which You Can Be Paid For

  • Writing
  • Teaching
  • Service (customer or other support)

That Which The World Needs

  • Communication
  • Teachers
  • Peace/Understanding/Respect

I suppose now would also be a good time to insert that I have decided to continue to work at my current position at a top research institution and MBA school in the USA while taking advantage of my employee tuition-assistance benefit and pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (assuming, of course, I’ll be accepted into the program). This path will take much longer than if I were to quit my job and go to school full-time, but it honors a couple parts within myself:

  1. Safety/Security (financial): quitting my job to go back to school for an MFA does not make me feel very safe/secure, especially financially, as I would be taking on a very large amount of student loan debt.
  2. Establishing myself within a community: I have, for the better part of the last 7 or so years, never fully invested in the places I have lived (and there have been plenty). I am constantly looking for that place that feels like “home” and while Chicago may not fully meet that criteria, it is a great city with amazing opportunities and a vast and colorful writing community. Establishing myself here as a writer/contributor/member is a smart decision.

But, you may ask (everyone does, believe me), how useful is an MFA career-wise? It’s as useful as you want to make it. Referring to the above list of what I love, am good at, can be paid for, and what the world needs… Using an MFA to get certification in ESL/EFL or TESL/TEFL (teaching English as a second or foreign language) wouldn’t be too far off from my purpose. I could be paid to to serve/teach (or even teach globally through services like Peace Corps, meeting the demands of my love for travel) a common language (even though I don’t necessarily think English is the best language to be universal, it is one of the easiest to learn) and be part of the conversation about what we, as a society, miss out on due to language barriers (and we are missing out on a lot; not only do language barriers contribute to war and rage and anger, but also other things like coming up with effective solutions to save our planet while we are still living on it isn’t going to happen unless we can all understand each other). Maybe I’m a dreamer, but that seems like a mighty purpose worth dedicating myself to.

Still, the voice in my head imagines you all questioning the MFA and why it is necessary to this step. Well, I need to appease the writer within me, don’t I? And I do need a background in teaching/teaching practicum to apply for ESL/EFL/TESL/TESFL certification. Two birds, one stone.
TL;DR
To fulfill my definition of freedom, I’m going back to school for my MFA to appease the writer in me and to get my certification to teach English as a second/foreign language.

A Personal Note: Mindset and Spirituality

I tend to sprinkle in some things about my mindset and spirituality throughout my posts and in defining my values, but I think I owe it to myself to fully document what my mindset and spirituality actually looks like to date:

  • I’m a new-agey hippy type, not yet fully acclimated to or invested in movements like “sustainable living” or “intentional communities”. I do see myself fitting into those things very nicely when the time is right/when I decide the time is right. I also believe I’m not in the correct geographic location to fully live out this type of life right now.
  • When asked about my religion, I tend to say that I will be a Buddhist one day. For now, I’m working on simple breathing meditation and actively seeking opportunities for mindfulness while de-cluttering and simplifying on the material plane.
  • I actively (once a week) see a therapist. Our work together focuses on parts healing and me remembering who I am and what my truth is.
  • When asked the question, “Do you prefer to talk about big things that matter?” I responded with, “Well, let’s first start with what actually matters?”
  • I believe that we are souls and have bodies to host those souls in this life. I believe we all have a purpose, a truth that we must decipher and act out until this body deteriorates and we move onto the next one.
  • I am still very terrified of death, but I’m working on it. I recently read an essay that remarked sleep is a practice for death. This helps calm me down because sleep is one of my favorite things!
  • I try to act in kindness, especially in kindness to myself first and foremost. I have been in situations where I’ve not only been abused, but let myself be abused. I do not wish to live that life any longer.
  • I believe humans can benefit and advance more by asking “Why not?” instead of “Why?”
  • I don’t necessarily value being an entrepreneur. However, when I reach my freedom, I will only allow myself to work for someone or something that I fully support and see as being a benefit to the planet or society. If that someone is me and that something is a thing I developed, then so be it!

I’d like to extend this to anyone out there who may come across this post somewhere in the future. Someone very close to me spiritually, mentally, and physically offers this saying to me on an almost daily basis. You should take this kindness and give it to yourself:

You are great, and you’re getting better.

Cutting ’em Up!

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On 6-30-14, after talking with my therapist, I cut them up. All three of them.

I wouldn’t necessarily say it was hard, but I did have 10 seconds where I looked at my highest balance card and felt a sense of fear. Fear about not having a “back-up” plan; not having something to pull out in an emergency. But, then I remembered it was maxed out and I couldn’t use it in an emergency anyway. For the past however long, I had been carrying around 3 cards that I a) can’t use and b) are a symbol or talisman of what is holding me back. I reminded myself of my value, “Do things out of love, not fear.” and reaffirmed that I love myself enough to get me out of debt.

It feels good, folks. Try it sometime.

 

 

A Rough Sketch

So, I had a few ideas on how to accumulate $10,000 in a year to pay off my consumer debt. 4 to be exact, but they need some fleshing out. Some REAL (or real enough numbers) tagged to them. So, I developed a rough sketch as follows. It didn’t need to be perfect down to the decimal, but it needed to be something to give me an idea

WORK
I have a merit raise, based on performance review, and a possible title promotion (read: more hourly income) to take effect by September. While this may only bump me from $17.20/hour to somewhere closer to $19.00/hour (I’m personally hoping for $20.00), every extra bit helps. I have also been approved to work a full 40 hours/week, instead of the allotted 37.5 hours/week associated with my job description. This is an extra 2.5 hours of time and a half (currently $25.80).

Roughly considering taxes (estimated math, not exact), this gets me an extra $150-$180 per month or $1800-$2160 per year.

SELL
I have two pieces of jewelry to sell: an old engagement ring (estimating value at $450 without appraisal) and an old promise ring (estimating value at $100 without appraisal). Other odds and ends (books, DVDs, electronics, clothes) should total to another $150-$200.

This gives me a rough extra $700-$750 (which would pay off a single credit card)!

SIDE JOB
I have editing/writing/proof reading/design skills that I can market for extra, supplemental income from home. More on this later in this post.

TRANSPORTATION/CAR
1.3 miles from my front door is a FREE shuttle that travels to and from work, dropping me off right infront of my building. There is no excuse to not take it. My city also has a very workable public transit system. There is no excuse to not take it.

The entire idea (and a scary one at that) is to eliminate the need of a car for 2 reasons.

1. Save Financially (duh):
Right now, I spend anywhere from $50-$100 per month in gas and $70-$80 per month on insurance. My city sticker to park on the street costs $100 per year and renewing your license plate stickers costs $101 per year. Oil changes range from $40-$50 every 3 months. I do not have a car payment as the car was a gift at graduation.

At best, I spend $2,000 per year on my car. That isn’t including any repairs, maintenance, tires, or extra road trips, parking, or the inevitable city-living parking tickets (“Wait, does that sign mean 12 noon or 12 midnight?”).

2. Be mindful of your carbon footprint and seek intentional, alternative transportation:
I can take the bus/train/carpool/or ask to borrow someone’s car.

The next natural question that popped into my head was:

What does successful independence from a personal car look like? What would I have to do to prove I could be independent of a vehicle in my current situation.

I decided to define it as:

  • Travel to/from work for free 90% of the time.
    There are roughly 250 working days per year, with consideration of holidays. 90% of that is 225 days of free commuting with 25 days of admitting the use of a personal car (weather, emergencies, etc…).
  • Trips to see my family or personal travel do not need to include using a personal vehicle. I can train home, or I can rent for personal travel.

But then I came to an impasse. What about emergencies? What if there was a family emergency I needed to go home for and I couldn’t rely on Amtrak or I didn’t have the funds to rent a car? This lead me to ask myself, “Do I keep a car for emergencies only?” I allowed myself to sideline this question for now and focus on immediate action: taking free and public transit. I also researched and KBB quoted my car at $7,200 selling independently.

XXXX

OK! That is a lot of numbers and planning! Including the option to sell my car, I’m resting at a nice $11,700 potential. That’s $1,700 over my goal! WHOA!

But… We’re not done yet. What if I don’t sell my car? Or, what if I keep it for emergencies only? At best, then, I’d be saving $600 per year on gas and that brings my total potential down to $3,100 and that simply isn’t good enough.

How much could I potentially earn with a supplemental income? I’m still missing $6,900 towards my goal. I would need to make an extra $575 per month to make up that difference. This is a red flag, but not necessarily impossible with proper planning and implementation.

Giving myself permission to consider selling my car IF I prove to myself, based on the above measurable goals, that I can be successfully independent of a car? A scary, but firm, “Yes!”

Giving myself permission to seek ways to make an extra $575 per month? An even scarier and quieter, “Yes.”

Defining Freedom

As highlighed in the about page, everything took off after watching this TEDx talk by Adam Baker, founder of http://www.manvsdebt.com. It started with defining what freedom is to me. I started with the following list and few notes:

-Unrestrained

-No financial burden

-A job I love with flexibility to change it

-Service/volunteering

-Not evil

-A sidenote: consumerism is not evil by nature. It is a driving force that keeps our current system alive and while this may not the best system… I’ve yet to see anyone come up with something better and I certainly haven’t myself.

-Another sidenote: debt is evil. It is a cycle of working a job to pay for debt you have accumulated because you have a job.

What I arrived at was:

Freedom is a life unrestrained by consumer debt, enabling me to passionately, honestly, and lovingly serve the planet, world, and society.

Perfect! But now I had to start shaping the idea around my values and lifestyle. I started with breaking down my debt. Total, consumer and student loan, debt equals $12,100 at the time of the posting. Roughly 9,100 of that is consumer debt (before you roll your eyes at my mere $3,000 of student loan debt, do me some justice… If it is crippling you, it is crippling you regardless of if it is $3,000 or $300,000. Ok? Ok.). I have a very stable administrative job at a university with amazing benefits. However, my take home pay per month is $1847 and my estimated monthly expenses living in a large city (bare bones) sits at $1550. This leaves me at just under $200 extra a month for savings/repaying debt above minimum payments/fun.

How the hell am I supposed to clear $9,100 (not including interest) worth of debt on an extra $200/month? That would take YEARS (3.2 years, to be exact) and I want to go to grad school! Frustration. Disappointment. Almost hopelessness… But, I asked myself a simple question:

Can I sell, budget, or find roughly $10,000 in a year?”

The answer? A BIG, FAT (scary) YES.