Snowballs and Avalanches

Whatever the method of getting out, we need to get after it. I started in the right direction, pursuing Renewable Energy with my GI Bill. At some point, I really do need to go back and reconcile my payout. One year at community college and fully 3 years worth of credits, lab fees, textbooks, and cost of living allowances. When I was serving, I was offered and paid into the “Kicker” program, which helped me squeeze the most out of it. I estimate I received somewhere in the neighborhood of  $80k worth of benefits across those 4 years. 

I went for a debt tri-fecta; school, a child, and a messy divorce. I’m in deep. I have no family support in terms of emergency cash. To make matters worse on myself, I crapped out just a few credits shy of two engineering majors. 

 I met my girlfriend a couple years ago, and we found a great little home for rent just in our price range. I was out of a job for months, trying the most absurd gigs just to keep rent paid. Then the student loans came a-knocking. I couldn’t believe the payment amount they set me up with. Deferment only bought me a few months. 

Finally, I went to an interview and was relieved to see that the guy interviewing me had been a project partner in school. I had other interviews lined up, but confidently cancelled in looking forward to working with colleagues. I was lied to about the wage offer and my pay didn’t cover my expenses. I fought and got the wage I was promised. Then deferment ended and I still couldn’t pay my student loans. Baby’s momma caught wind that I had a paycheck to come after, and she did. My paycheck got dinged harder than before to make up the difference, and that put me again unable to make ends meet. I told the CEO of the company I was about to lose my car and commuting that far just wouldn’t be feasible anymore. He gave me a thousand dollar bailout and a promotion. I caught up on my car, but was still no closer to having anything to throw at student loans. 

By this point, my girl was getting bogged down with her job. Her pay couldn’t support childcare along with all the other bills, so I tried my best to leverage my new position to try and fill in the gaps. Now, by this time, the engineer that spends almost no time at all in the office comes to me to say I can’t expect to work from home and get anything done. I kept meticulous track of my time put in and what activity I was focused on for a full two weeks. After collecting my data, I presented the case of needing an additional person to take the load off. The company shrunk to less than half its original size in only so many months, and a certain CEO from a staffing agency got stiffed on payment, so that wasn’t bound to happen quick enough. 

My very good friend has enjoyed his time at Genentech and seeing me struggle, tried to help me into a job. A great opportunity came up as an instrument tech, but it would have been night shift for at least 6 months. I’ve worked enough grave jobs to have wrecked my body’s circadian response, I reckon. However, the very real deterrent was knowing how unavailable that really makes a parent to their kids. Ours were 5, and it’s too important an age to miss on account of trying to get a foot in the door. Especially with regard to all the money and energy I’ve spent to get this generous amount of time with my son. 

Another promotion, but now there was increasingly more expectation. I was offered performance bonuses that penciled out to be an extra couple thousand per year, and I looked forward to finally balancing money. I encouraged my partner to look for a job upgrade. However, considering the cost of daycare, and what Oregon offsets of that cost is a joke, she was inclined to look for the most time-flexible jobs she could. Yep, jobs-plural. Finally, with a clever childcare workaround, we could balance the books!

Then came the doctor bills and lost time as Kim underwent a horribly invasive screening and tried to recover. My boss wasn’t terribly understanding. I was frustrated that despite increasing sales, I was still under so much pressure to “keep turning the crank.” I still hadn’t made but one month of student loan payments, and my Marine hypertension was cracking nuts everywhere. I budgeted the hell out of the household and kept careful track. Our only lavish expenses were pets and alcohol. The latter was cut to $20/month, and we sold the former. I pitched several strategies to the boss for simple ways to encourage better productivity, but I couldn’t get real help from him to save my soul. His only solution was to fill seats with his kids, kids’ friends, and family. They were all too well taken care of to work with any intensity, but volume did increase. 

He promised me a little something if I “came within spitting distance” of my goal. June would be the first demand spike, and I front-loaded for it. After spitting for my mark, I got no somethin’ somethin’. Not to be dismayed, I looked forward to the second spike of the year. To add insult to injury, my tax return was held up to get baby momma settled up before I got what was left. 

I was coming up to a year, and had done nothing but increase business and crack down on the budget. Still no student loan payments, and my car was still regularly one paycheck late every month thanks to bi-monthly pay cycles. The weather and physical demand of my girl’s job was bringing her health down rapidly. I invested my tax return into a hail-Mary shot at building a machine. Not like a few hundred was going to do shit for the budget, anyway. 

September was the month. I finally rolled out $5k over my target, earning me a nice 10 Bens! Oh, but not really, cause you know Uncle Sam gotta get his bite. So I took my happy little fucking bonus that I bent over backwards for, and caught up my car. Baby’s momma also decided to be a shit and blatantly goes against the parenting time order that would have given my son’s first day at school to me. Ugh, whatever. Not the battle to fight right now. My machine is fully assembled by this point, and I’m beating myself up on Linux to run it. 

A rare opportunity was extended my way to have a little working vacation. The parenting time I fought so hard for and treasure so much kept me from earning a heck of a lot. However, it was a quiet, relaxing vacation. It poured rain, and everything was slippery and sticky with mud at the same time. But it was the kind of vacation where your day can kick off with a whiskey in your coffee. It was an emotional time, and a time where we didn’t have any idea what to do to bring things into balance. 

We both signed up for Uber and hit the road. Thanks to the aforementioned daycare conundrum, two people and one vehicle worked out okay. Except, we were now left with the grave shift problem, aka “We’re like two ships passing in the night.” Then came snowpocalypse. It claimed my turn signal, and round two got my tire.

 I spent time building things and generated a small amount of income. After December, we promised to be more aggressive with our small business idea. One tool already paid for itself, if we could just get inventory up enough for a vendor booth, we could pull through enough to not rely so much on driving. Then my back gave out, entirely unprovoked, and shot the final hole in the hull of our happy little ship. I lost two weeks of income, and my girlfriend lost more than a week all said and done. 

My tax return wasn’t horribly delayed this year, but it all went to a storage unit and catching my car up. Surprised? I’m still rolling on $30 worth of fix a flat after the tire shop’s plug failed, crossing my fingers I don’t blow out. I wish I could afford new shoes, but the car’s shoes makes the difference between income and no income right now, so..

We applied for a very modest apartment priced at the very bottom of the market. I was sickly embarrassed by the big red thumbs down on the final page of my screening as the manager ran my credit. I told him we were strapping down to get back on track, and he of course sympathized. My girlfriend’s screening was mostly positive, so that will hopefully get us in. However, I have to say that it’s been a miserable first couple months of the year. Even after knocking our expenses back further, it’s going to still be a rat race to try to balance the books. 

I have a rant to follow this entry with, a response to the implication that rideshare drivers are too stuck up to work. I’ll be going a bit deeper into the matter than I have with my previous life ramblings, so stay tuned!


Author: Goose Andeluse

Compulsive maker and fowl carpenter.

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