|Yes, my coffee table is made out of cardboard moving boxes.|
It was a super good idea in theory. In reality, though...not so much. As you can see there is a big blank spot on this blog since we moved. I also haven't been able to easily do my homework (remember I'm taking the last nine credits of my masters program remotely) or pay our bills. I wasn't able to use the library internet because I couldn't get a library card until I got something "official" in the mail to prove I really do live where I say I do (thank you power company for your prompt billing—got it Thursday). Using wifi at the coffee shop isn't free — gotta buy a coffee — and isn't really secure either. It is really amazing how important internet access is these days. Directions, communications, news, job searching, entertainment, phone numbers, hours of operation, calendars. Virtually everything involving any of these topics is much harder to find or do without the internet. And if you are thinking, "Yeah, but you did it for a full two weeks," think again. I used up my entire month's cell phone data plan in about five days, and had to purchase more. Not very gazelle-y. Not very gazelle-y at all.
I gave in. We got internet. I am so relieved. You can now expect to hear from me more regularly. I really enjoy sharing my experiences and thoughts in this way, and plan to post each weekday by 7:30 a.m. EST, starting now. Go ahead and set a reminder on your phone alarm or jot that down in your calendar. I'll wait.
Besides my internet fiasco, things around here have been....interesting. And pretty expensive, if I'm being honest. The apartment is small but lovely, with lots of natural light. It feels pretty spacious right now, mostly because all of the furniture we own is staging our house in Minnesota. We brought with us two folding camp chairs and a thin foam mattress. We're using cardboard boxes as tables, and the floor as a dresser. Who wants to buy more furniture—even cheap and used—when you expect you may get the call that the house has sold any day and you can go get your good furniture? Besides something off the free page on craigslist we picked up last week and a small lamp from the store, we haven't brought more furniture in. I'm hoping that we can fight the urge for as long as possible. Unless it's free. I'm down with free.
Still, there are lots of little things you end up having to buy when you move cross country. A toilet bowl brush. Household cleaners. A shower curtain and rings. Etcetera. Although we've tried to watch our spending, there certainly has been plenty. We are still spending more than our monthly income due in large part to the mortgage in Minnesota, and also because we spend a lot on groceries. Our new kitchen is tiny and has no counter space, and that free piece of furniture we got yesterday will help with that, but up until now we've been purchasing an excessive amount of prepackaged foods (think frozen pizza and canned beans). Try as I might to find things to cut, I'm having a hard time breaking this habit of convenience.
I am looking for a part-time job I can work along with my unpaid internship that would allow us to start a new cash-only system. I'm hoping using limited amounts of cash for things like groceries will help us reduce our spending. But as a thirty-something who has never waitressed and barely cashiered, it's hard to find something in the help wanted pages that I feel like I can do. Which is damn depressing.
I'm quite sure that most of you reading this blog have been through times of financial strain (or maybe are going through them now). If so, you know how hard it is to constantly worry about money, when the numbers don't add up, no matter how many times you run them. When you want so badly to be out of debt, but can't seem to find extra at the end of the month to start to pay it down. When you feel like you are drowning in a lifetime of bad financial choices. I've been rereading some Dave Ramsey philosophy, which is encouraging my gazelle to get its shit together before it gets eaten. (Have you read Total Money Makeover yet? It was the first book that gave me hope that I could be debt free and financially secure someday. There are numerous religious references in it, but if you are not religious, they are easy to read past. Really. This is a good book.)
We are learning to love the free things in life. I am learning to want less, or make do with what we have more. I sometimes feel like our small bit of stuff is still too much. And even my handsome husband, who never really liked this idea of being thrifty, is making frugal purchasing choices. The concept of living within our means is finally really sinking in, and now we just need more practice. For better or worse, I see a lot of opportunity for that ahead. And it is a worthwhile endeavor.
So here is what I've learned about myself so far this year:
1. Moving is really expensive, even if you are paying attention.
2. I have a long way to go to become the green gazelle I hope to be.
3. As much as I fantasized that it would, moving didn't change my situation, habits, or personality. I didn't magically become a social butterfly or independently wealthy or a dedicated from-scratch bean maker or a daily exerciser or anxiety and depression free. It just gave me a new environment, not a new me.
4. That said, I am really sensitive to my environment. A walk in the forest feeds my soul (it's true -
I can feel it). The prairie we lived on in Minnesota—which many folks I know think is beautiful and calming—broke my spirit. Yes, moving is stressful and expensive and unpredictable. But here in the mountains, my whole body sighs with relief. I feel like I am supposed to be here. And that makes everything else - all the possible negatives - seem so small and unimportant. Because I'm home, a thousand miles from where I grew up. I'm home.
The biggest life lesson I have taken away from this experience is this: Figure out what you need, really need, to thrive in this life, and find a way to get it. Whether it is deep friendships, or a meaningful job, or religion, or adventure, or time to create, or mountains on your horizon...find a way to make it happen. Changing my environment didn't fix all of my problems, but it gives them a chance to be fixable.
What do you need to thrive?