Disempowered

It’s been a long unplanned absence from updates. I’m surprised by how quickly January has passed and given way to a new month. I’m sad to say that last year’s car repair cycle has continued to persist into the new year. When I bought my car in 2011, I got it for a very modest asking price of $1500 as-was. It needed a replacement engine control module in order to get it smog tested and registered, pushing it up to little over $2000. For the first year that I owned it, things were nice and easy. Then early last year, it started systematically breaking down and requiring frequent repair. Out of curiosity, I tallied the totals of my service invoices in a spreadsheet and found that I’ve invested almost $2500 in auto repairs over the past six months.

AUto Service Repair Log

As a result, I’ve spent this entire time period in a rolling state of debt, regularly drawing on future income through direct deposit advances and payday loans. Since my vehicle is the household car and how my roommate and I get to and from work, keeping it up and running takes top priority along with rent and core utilities. This means that I’ve been through spells where I’ve had to forego other basic expenses such as groceries and mobile phone service, and am currently in the middle of one as I try to compensate for the recent wave of repairs, which like those that have come before it cropped up right before the end of the month when rent is due.

Mentally Weakened…

Being in a constant state of financial hardship because of these car repairs has not only been mentally demotivating because of the obvious reasons, but also because of the feelings of self-resentment that those circumstances stir up. The ultimate fix to these issues would be the ability generate more income. I’m currently still working the temporary contractor job I picked up last Spring with Union Bank via a local staffing agency. It pays less than I was making at my previous job and the responsibilities of the position don’t come anywhere near fully utilizing my professional capabilities, but I stick with it because it makes giving the roommate an 11 mile ride to his workplace in the morning easy when mine is only two blocks down the way. Ideally, this wouldn’t be an issue because I’d be able to leverage my down-time to freelance and make money on the side doing content generation and web development. However, since my skills on those fronts aren’t up to present-day standards & requirements, I instead use my time to self-study and acquire the skills that would allow for that to become a viable prospect (as well as allow me to land a better paying day job). Time investment on that front and household chores are what have kept me from seeking out a second job.

All of that together has culminated in a back-to-the-wall and trapped feeling, one that wouldn’t even be an issue if I’d spent my 20’s like most do, studying and training for expertise in a particular discipline and forming the foundation of a career. Instead, I’ve spent mine experimenting with different team environments and working jobs to cover basic living costs while I sorted myself out. Since one of the resolutions that came out of that effort was refusing to place further blame on circumstances in life, the only place to direct the resulting resentment is towards myself.

And Physically Too…

At the end of December, I was doing really well on the exercise front. I was regularly running my 5+ mile route, and had built up the stamina to complete the entire jaunt without having to slow down or stop. Then things fell apart during the first week of January. On my last run on [date], I broke my running armband. I went to change the playing tracked, and my hand slipped, pushing the phone away from the armband with just enough force to snap the plastic clip on the rear plate of the case that joins it to the band. When I got home, I noticed my heart rate monitor stopped piping information along to my phone. I assumed it was due to the battery needing to be replaced, which I couldn’t afford at the time. When I went to take a shower, I hopped on the scale to get a reading, and was greeted with a dead battery notification. Something else that needed maintenance, and something else that I couldn’t afford to fix.

The following week, the polar vortex hit the US. Even though I was comparatively unaffected living in “Sunny San Diego”, I am a born and raised desert boy with a sensitivity to cold, and temperatures still dropped enough here to render the and I only two pairs of workout shorts & tees insufficient for the climate change, especially with early winter nights being well settled in. And because of all the financial hurdles, my kitchen’s been largely empty throughout the month. When you’re making it through on random free food at work and cheap (read: unhealthy), burning off calories and working up an appetite when you know you have nothing to come home to becomes an impossible sell to make to yourself. In fact, I willingly allowed myself to neglect my exercise efforts. I was doing so well that the few clothes that I do have were starting to fit too loosely, and since I don’t have money to invest into new & smaller clothes, I had to make do with the few outfits I already own. One month of sloth and careless indulgence later, and I find myself 3lbs heavier.

Recovery

The first half of the month, I spent largely in a drone-like zombie mode, waking up and going through my days doing the minimum, waiting out my next paychecks to be able to start taking action on some of my problems. After some careful budgeting and a generous amount of overtime at work, I was expecting to be caught up and current last Friday. Then the car broke down again. That issue was dealt with, and this week’s challenge is going to be working on a $0 budget after paying rent. As long as the car doesn’t break down again, I should be out of the rolling-debt-hole in two weeks. In preparation, I’ve started ramping up activity on the fitness front again. I ran my route a couple times at the start of the week, and was disappointed to find that my three-week hiatus undermined most of my previous work — my stamina has dropped back down to a pitiful level, and the two days after my second run, I felt sore and wrecked as if I were doing it for the first time all over again.

Somewhere in between the first two weeks of the month and the car failure last week, I got all the necessary repairs made to my phone. All my fitness sensors are back up and running again, so now I just need to work myself back to the place where I was at the end of December when I was rapidly shedding off the pounds. I’m hesitant to say that after x number of weeks I’ll be back on track financially, since I realized that the opening sentence to this post is one that I’ve written at the start of each post I’ve drafted after a lack of updates throughout the course of the past six months. I’ve been operationally confined by circumstances, and I’ve had my fill of yielding to them. I’ll admit, a large part of me has felt an obligation to endure the struggle, paying my “dues” to the the universe and handling all these problems on my own. I suppose that’s part of why I haven’t been writing much — all I’ve known for the past few months is a repeating cycle of hardship. But I’ve grown tired of simply surviving; I want to feel like I’m once again thriving.

To that end, I’ve been fiercely attacking my computer programming lessons. Once I get this introductory course out of the way, I’m going to move on to web coding and server-side scripting, and with the proper knowledge under my command, set out to start doing what I really want to be doing in life. In the mean time, lots of running, more frugality, and higher writing output is the name of the game.

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