Figuring It Out…But Not Really

Man, my last post was months ago. Whoops. I wish I had something inspiring or amazing to say but I don’t. A lot has happened since I last wrote, yet also not much has happened at all. I would love to be able to say that my doctors were able to figure out what I have and what is causing it, but unfortunately they have not, and I’ve been in and out of the hospital a few times since October. It’s been frustrating to say the least, but I’m actually doing better after my last hospital visit, so ya know, there’s that.

I’ve spent most of my time lately just getting through each day, and I can’t believe it’s almost May already. Not sure where time has gone but I’m starting to realize that I need to seriously reevaluate my life and work on my goals a little bit harder. And I feel like I’ve been saying that for months, possibly years, but I’ve gotten to the point where my own complacency with my job and just life in general is driving me crazy. I of course have no one but myself for that, but as they say, the first step to fixing a problem is realizing that you have a problem, so that is what I am doing.

I have definitely spoken about this before, and I think that may have to do with the fact that it is a legitimate struggle in my life, but over the last few weeks as I’ve reviewed my finances, it hit me like a semi-truck on a highway…my shopping problem is seriously out of hand. I make ends meet with my paycheck, but now that I have a new car payment each month (oh yeah, I bought a new car in December, super exciting stuff!) I really can’t afford to continue shopping the way I’ve gotten so used to doing over the years. I’ve known this for a while now but I simply chose to just ignore it. That’s what credit cards are for, I thought. But now that mind frame is coming back to haunt me and I have so many regrets, shopping regrets that is.

You see, my problem is if I see something that I like and decide that I want it, I just buy it…because I can. I realized that it was a freedom thing. I have the ability to buy this for myself, so I will and I do. This was hard for me to admit to myself. That might be okay to do for a little while, but now I’ve accumulated a lot of things that I don’t use/need/even want anymore. It’s actually ridiculous.

Now I’m trying a new approach. With the help of a dear friend who also struggles with impulsive shopping, we’re working together on a shopping “fast”. This means no shopping for frivolous, unnecessary things for a few weeks at a time. We hold each other accountable, and when we feel like we want to buy something, we talk each other out of it. It works well, knowing that I have someone else doing it with me. It would be easy to buy something and just not tell her about it, and trust me I’ve been tempted, but the guilt would be too heavy of a burden to carry, so I have been able to resist temptation successfully.

And sure, when the self-imposed fast is over it will be all too easy to go back to my old habits, but if nothing else, this fast has taught me that I do have the ability to say no to something that I think I want, and closing the browser completely and walking away does actually work.

So this is me, deciding now to do something about one thing that I know is holding me back from accomplishing a few of my own goals, because I really don’t need that bag, or those shoes. Really, Mari, you don’t.

Another Year Over

I cannot tell you how happy I am to say goodbye to 2014. This year has been the most physically and emotionally challenging year of my life. I’ve been anticipating this day for months now, everything that went wrong this year haunting me constantly, almost making me forget all the amazing things that happened this year.

Yes, this year was difficult as hell and life through me some curve balls that I was not expecting, but despite all of that, I also had some successful moments. I got to travel for work, I made new friends from all over the country (and world, too!) via tumblr, I got my finances mostly in order by learning how to effectively manage my income and budget, I took a calligraphy course I’ve wanted to do for a while now, and I modeled in a special holiday photo shoot for one of my favorite women’s magazine, Verily Magazine. The photo shoot took place in Metropolitan Building in Long Island City, which is where magazines like Vogue and Elle, amongst others, shoot often. It was pretty surreal!

I also saved up enough money for my trip to Europe this coming Spring, a graduation gift to myself. On that note, I am officially eight (eight!!!!!!) weeks away from having my bachelor’s degree. I signed up for the graduation conferral yesterday and I still can’t believe it. None of it feels real. I can’t imagine what life is going to be like once I’m finally done with school, but I’ll climb that wall when I get to it.

Oh, and I learned how to make ribs! I don’t mean to toot my own horn here, but the ribs I make are pretty freaking delicious. I’m quite proud of myself for that! All thanks to the recipe my boss’s wife shared with me. That changed my life. I see a lot of rib-eating in my future.

I realized that when I focus on the good, the bad doesn’t seem so big or relevant any more. I learned from those awful moments, definitely, but I also have to learn how to move on and learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of others, that way I can have more time and energy to focus on the amazing reality that is life. Not every moment is going to be great, but that’s life.

I am not one for resolutions. I refuse to give into the hype of making a promise to myself only to give up within 6 weeks. It’s just setting myself up for disappointment; but I do like making a general list of what I would like to do throughout the entire new year, and if i get to it, great! But if I don’t, there’s always next year. I don’t know what 2015 has in store for me. To be honest, I’m a little nervous about it. There’s a lot of change coming up, and thinking about it freaks me out. I do know one thing though, thanks to the love and support of my family and friends, I made it through this year, so I can make it through whatever the following year plans on throwing my way.

I should probably update this blog more, I’m clearly lousy at that. But I refuse to say I’m going to do it on a regular basis: that never works for me! I wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year filled with love, laughter and lots of wine. Thank you for following along with me and listening to my ramblings. Y’all are the bees knees!

P.S. You can see the holiday photo shoot I was fortunate to be a part of here: http://verilymag.com/holiday-party-wear-style-trends-winter-2014/ 

Small Moments: Traveling

November is the month when every one starts preparing for Thanksgiving and thinking about all the things they’re grateful for (naturally). As I was sitting in the train earlier this week, I realized that I have a lot to be thankful for, and decided that the best way to acknowledge that appreciation would be to write it down. So with that in mind, I will be writing a new series each week called Small Moments, which will highlight certain things I appreciate from that week.

For my first post, I am grateful for the opportunities my job offers me to travel. I spent the last two weekends traveling to Dallas, Texas and Memphis, Tennessee. It was my first time visiting both states, but I had a great time. One of the things I mostly wanted to do while I was in each state was eat BBQ, and compare the ribs. The verdict: while I liked the ribs in Texas, the ribs in Memphis were amazing. Like I’m still thinking about those ribs a week later. And the biscuits and gravy. Man, I had that for breakfast every day while I was there. It was so good..and now I’m hungry.

It was also nice to see how different people down south are, especially in Memphis. I honestly felt like a super important person because everyone at the hotel and at restaurants were so polite. As a bonus, the Mississippi River was right across from my hotel, so that was cool, too! I guess you could say that while I enjoyed Dallas, Memphis was my favorite city to visit out of the two. You can find some pictures of my trips here on Instagram!

I feel very fortunate that I can travel for work. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of being able to do, and now I’m doing it! Next week I’m going to Michigan, but that’s on a personal trip. It’s not every day your oldest niece turns 5! 🙂

What The Budget

I’ve always been a shopaholic, and as my income increased, so did my shopping habit. I knew I had a problem and had to fix it, but then there was a sale at Nordstrom, or Gap, or H&M, etc, and I’d pull out my little plastic card, further increasing my credit card debt.

I didn’t think it was that bad though. I’d always pay my full balances on time, and I used everything I bought, so it was worth it, or so I thought. While my cards were mostly paid off, my savings account was depleting by the minute, and then I was overdrafting my checking account, as well as my savings account, and that’s when I realized that I really did have a major problem. So I did the only thing I knew would help me. I hired a financial advisor through learnvest.com, and got to work.

And boy was it work. First, she helped me create a budget based upon my income and fixed expenses, which left me with some weekly spending money, but it was a lot less than what I was used to, so that scared me a bit. I didn’t think I’d be able to stick that amount, but I knew I had to try. Next, I had to freeze my 7 credit cards. Yup, that’s right, I had 7 credit cards, and I had to freeze them, a-la Isla Fisher in Confessions of a Shopaholic. That was the hardest part, packing them into a plastic bag of water, and sticking them in the back of my freezer. I had a major headache after that.

This was back in July. Now, three months later, I’m doing my darnest to stick to my budget. All but one of my credit cards are paid off, the credit cards are still in the freezer, and I’m putting money into three (three!) savings accounts each month. I’ve also started saving up for my trip to Europe in the Spring, my graduation gift to myself, and I am so happy with how far I’ve come.

I still have a lot to work on. I’ve managed to kick my shopping habit to the curb for the most part, but there are still times when I struggle real bad. It is not easy, but seeing the number goes down on my credit card debt, and go up in my savings is so satisfying. Shopping was my hobby, my safe place. It was what I knew, and it brought me comfort, and maybe it always will, but this is my time to improve myself, for no one but me. It is a great feeling.

Also, for anyone looking to get a handle on their own budget, I highly recommend learnvest.com. It has literally changed my life. While I pay for the financial advisor’s services, they have a free option where you can link up your accounts and set up your own budget. It’s super convenient. Do it. You won’t regret it.

Can I just be a Toys ‘r Us kid?

Staying up late. Eating whatever I want. Doing whatever I want. Freedom. As a kid, those were some of the things I looked forward to. I couldn’t wait to grow up and be an “adult”. It seemed like the coolest thing in the world.

Like most kids with dreams similar to mine, I soon discovered that being an adult is not all I thought it would be. There are bills to be paid (on time!), food to be purchased, and people to be pleased. As a kid, you want to please your parents and make sure they’re always proud of you. However, as an adult, not only do you still strive to make your parents proud (usually), but now you have a boss telling you what to do, and how to do it, and if you want to keep your job, you have to make sure you do it right.

Being an adult is a lot of responsibility. There’s a lot of pressure. It’s like a full time job that you get without having to apply for it, and try as you might to quit this job, you can’t. It’s all part of the circle of life.

It wasn’t until last night that I really wished I could go back to the days when I would fall asleep on the couch and somehow, magically wake up in my bed. I am currently in the middle of preparing for a major event that will be happening in 2 days. These preparations require late, last minute trips to Whole Foods to make sure I have all the necessary ingredients. I also had to run to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy wine glasses because apparently not everyone drinks their wine out of red solo cups.

Maybe it’s because I am so nervous about the event that I’m overreacting, but there’s just so much to prepare and it’s made me think. This is what adult life is like, except 10 times more difficult. Sure, some would say I can barely consider myself an adult because I’m so young and inexperienced, and that’s true. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I also know that life is a roller coaster that I am being forced to get on, whether I want to or not, and I guess that’s helping me look forward to what the future holds for me.

So with that in mind, I raise my new, fancy wine glass to every one out there, thinking about how great it would be to be a kid again. There’s no time to look back now, only forward. Cheers!