Breaking Point

2016 has been a year.

Culturally and politically, as a Black woman, it’s been rough. We have a presidential candidate endorsed by the K_K_K who has yet to disavow said endorsement. We lost Prince. It’s apparently open warfare between the police and the Black community.

Personally, it’s also been a trial. My third wedding anniversary is coming up next month and we’ve been together for 8 years now. In all that time, we had never had a real falling out. You know, the kind where one person can’t stand to look at the other and is afraid this might be the end? Yeah, we finally had one of those. We’re back to normal now but that kind of ruined a full month of my summer. Things at my job have been. . . challenging, to say the least. If you know me personally, you know what I’ve been dealing with and if you don’t–just use your imagination. All I will say here is that I’m considering my options. Just three days ago was the first anniversary of my friend’s death. I’ve thought about him every day since he passed and it still doesn’t seem real. Riding an emotional rollercoaster on two fronts has me feeling like a crazy person. I like to stay at equilibrium. People always comment on my restraint, but it’s self preservation for me. Emotional extremes are just exhausting and if I’m too far on either side of the spectrum, it’s hard for me to buckle down and be productive.

Today I almost had a full blown anxiety attack, which has only happened to me two or three other times in my entire life. It’s the red flag, flashing lights, blaring siren sound from my subconscious to me that SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT HERE. I know exactly what needs to change and while the more prudent thing may be to wait, I’m at a point where my physical and emotional health are being compromised and that is simply not acceptable. I will find a way to do what I need to do.

I can tell from my social media newsfeeds that I’m not the only one struggling, either. The devil is busy and we all need to pray for each other.

I’m back

This blog has gotten awfully dusty. First it was because I was in an unemployment-related funk and didn’t have anything to say. Then it was because I was having an inner struggle about how much is too much of yourself to reveal on the internet. Then it was because I was just too damn busy.

Well, better late than never. Things are going pretty well. I’m getting into the groove at work and feeling less like a rookie by the day. Tex got a promotion and even though his hours have gotten almost as long as mine, he’s really loving his job. Two months after the passing of our friend, I’m finally starting to feel back to normal. I’m sleeping better and feeling less “bleh” in general. I’ve still got a lot on my plate at work but it doesn’t feel quite so impossible.

I’ve been thinking more and more about having kids. NO, I’m not nearly ready to have them but we are going to become godparents in December. I suppose I need the practice. It seems like another friend or family member gets pregnant every week now (a lot of them are MY AGE!) and I just can’t wrap my head around it. I can barely handle taking care of myself and my husband right now. I just paid off my law school credit card debt, and now I’m getting ready to make a couple balloon payments on my car note before my student loan deferment ends. I mean, we wouldn’t be broke if we had a kid but it’s not just the money (because let’s face it, as long as parents want to give their kids the world no amount of money will be enough). But the time, the energy, the sheer monumental effort…geez louise. I’m not ready for that yet.

What I have come to realize is that money/work are not important to me. At least, not the way they seem to be to society at large. I need to focus on stacking paper while we’re living that DINK* life and just know that I will need to budget to live below my means after that. Because I’m not interested in being a full time working mom, nor do I want to be a housewife. I want something in between. I’d like to be a part-time/contract lawyer so I can set my own hours and only take on as many clients as I want to. But the full time firm lawyer thing is just not gonna cut it forever. But hey, as long as I’m making more than I would folding shirts at Macy’s I’m good.

It’s become solidified for me that I’m far more interested in “leaning in” to my husband and our family than any job. Tex and I have weathered many a storm during our first two years of marriage- extended unemployment, relocation, living with his parents, and the death of one of our closest friends. And being able to count on him during those times has made me fall more in love with him than ever. He’s the best part of my life (no pun intended). I’m not going to go to my deathbed regretting that I didn’t spend enough time working. I care about my career- I worked hard to become a lawyer and I enjoy it. But as long as we have enough money to meet our needs and take a few  vacations, I’m good.

 

 

*Dual income, no kids.

Gone.

My friend died last weekend.

I was at the airport, heading home from my girlfriend’s wedding when Tex and I got the news. We had just seen him three weeks ago. Nobody knows what happened except that it was unknown natural causes, and he died at home with his parents.

I work for a solo practitioner, so I only took one day off and went back to work this week. But everything feels hard. I force myself to stuff the grief down long enough to do my job, which increasingly requires more and more hours. But I can feel it choking me as the demands and my to do list pile up and I fantasize about quitting, running away, yelling, screaming…anything but pretend my life is the same as it was before August 2, 2015.

The feeling of being overwhelmed at work will probably pass. If it doesn’t, I’ll explore options and figure something out. But my friend is not coming back. I’ll never get to go to his wedding, or invite his kids to play with mine, or watch a terrible movie and laugh about how bad it is. We won’t build his business together the way planned to. My only consolation is that he spent his life surrounded by the love of friends and family; there’s no question that he went to the other side knowing he’d be deeply, deeply missed.

And I’m still here, and Tex is still here, even though I know he’s trying even harder than I am to deal with the fact that his friend–no, really his brother–is gone.

Gone.

On the come up.

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Good news! I found a job as a lawyer! I really enjoy the work, my boss is supportive and treats me with respect, and I have a 10-15 minute commute. Plus, now that we have a second income I can finally replace my car, buy tickets to fly out for Jaleesa’s fall wedding, and upgrade my wardrobe. The car thing is pretty urgent- I have just one working window, the A/C is out, the engine idles high, it starts up sluggishly…it could probably be repaired, but the repairs would certainly cost more than its current value. So things are pretty good. My one regret is that I didn’t negotiate better for my salary- I was so dumbstruck when I received the offer that I couldn’t think straight! But this is my first real job, I’m making enough for us to have some significant breathing room in our budget, and if I bring in a case I receive a healthy chunk of the fees. My boss has also said several times in the three weeks I’ve been working that he’s impressed with me, so come this time next year I should have ample ammunition to broach the subject of a raise. 

I know part of my unease comes from the fact that I’ve been worried about money virtually since I knew what it was. A part of me is terrified that I’ll never have an opportunity to make more money, so even the loss of a couple hundred dollars a month extra is going to tragically limit me down the line. Never mind that I’m in a profession with unlimited earning potential, or that my husband is a computer engineer working at a universally recognized company who will almost certainly be making  six figures within a decade. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I suffer from “poverty brain“- I’ve never gone hungry or been out on the street, but I knew growing up that we didn’t have a lot of money for extras. I suppose I suffered from a bit of cognitive dissonance. My parents are educated and cultured. They took us to the zoo, the ballet, gave us music lessons and SAT prep classes. I went to college on scholarship, so I had to scrimp and save money for my spring break trips that left me broke for the rest of the month. And after experiencing long term unemployment and having to uproot my life to live my in-laws, I know that the cost of living is not as cheap as you want it to be.

On the flip side, we don’t currently live an extravagant lifestyle, and I plan to keep it that way. I don’t want to end up like all the Baby Boomers who fell for the lie that the economy could expand ad infinitum and trapped themselves into bloated mortgages, too-big houses, a new car note every decade, and the other trappings of conspicuous consumption, and therefore can’t retire. I’m working on trying to pare down my wardrobe and buy only affordable, but quality pieces (no more Payless or Forever 21!) that I love and will wear regularly. I’m drawing up a new budget this weekend to make sure we don’t fritter away our second income stream on things that won’t appreciate.  But I know I also need to work on being thankful, present and faithful. This isn’t the first or the last opportunity that God has for me and I need to act like it.

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A Different Kind of Christmas

This year, the holiday season was different from some in years past. First off, the husband & I are still going through a “for poorer” stage of our lives. I got a holiday retail job and while I’m certainly glad for the extra change, it’s definitely way too much work for minimum wage. (Stressed out, entitled holiday shoppers will turn anyone into a Scrooge). I actually had to work the closing shift on Christmas Eve and I get to do it all again the day after, plus I’m working New Year’s Eve and January 1st. Yay me  -_-  I’m not feeling the holiday spirit as much as usual. This year there was no singing Christmas carols and going to church with my family. But my sister and her husband are in Dallas visiting his parents, so on their way back to Atlanta they’re going to spend a couple days with us in Houston! I’m beyond excited to see them both. I know for sure I want to take them to the Galleria just to see the ridiculousness. The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle both seem like good movies to see, and they’ve got to have some authentic Texas barbecue! Can’t wait for the fun to begin.

Since I’m finding the silver lining, I should mention that I got a tutoring gig back in October working with a high school senior in AP Economics. She was borderline flunking the class when we started our sessions, but she got an 84 on her final exam! That was a great reward in itself. I got an econ certificate in undergrad but hadn’t looked at the material in years, and there were times when I wondered if I was getting through to her. I’m thrilled that she got so much out of our time together and I’m looking forward to working with her next semester. But the Christmas bonus in the card her parents gave me was certainly appreciated! In a couple of weeks, I’ll (hopefully) be done with retail since I start at a tax firm for a seasonal position. Who knew income tax law would come in handy so quickly? This job is going to give me some great client counseling experience. Plus, I’ll have the expertise to do tax preparation and and audit representation when I hang my own shingle. Tex got an interview through a friend of a friend of his dad’s, and we’re hoping that pans out. If so, then I’ll know we’ll be in Texas for the long haul and can start preparing for the July bar exam.

 

 

Life after law school

I’m still here. I’ve had a lot of life…stuff to catch up on, quality time with Tex being number one. Socializing would be second except for the fact that half my friends are in bar study purgatory, and the other half are, happily, gainfully employed. (I’m still working on that.) So, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and also wedding planning. Now we’re down to the nitty gritty details of decor–bouquets, tablecloths, centerpieces, the whole nine yards. Also, waiting on invitation RSVPs.

Bridezilla break- Can I just say that I hate logistics? Contrary to what my law degree would have you think, I’m a big picture person. I’m concerned about the feel of the day. Will I be a pretty white dress? Check.  Is it a nice place and do we have an ordained minister doing the ceremony? Double check. Will my groom, family & close friends be there? Triple check. I’m pretty much done after that. I don’t give a flying [expletive deleted] what kind of bouquets the bridesmaids have. In fact, after looking into florist prices and perusing the craft shop, I decided to chuck the whole thing and have them wear corsages. My sister almost had a heart attack when I said I didn’t want to carry a bouquet. It’s completely useless, other than the toss, but Tex said I couldn’t just show up with one at the ceremony so he wore me down on that one. We’re also going to buy some nice seasonal flowering plants that the fam can take home rather than drop a grand on floral decor we’re going to have to throw away.  If people come to my wedding and the only thing they take away is that they didn’t like the food, or the centerpieces weren’t fancy enough, then screw ’em! I don’t know, I’m just not that person who goes to a wedding and says, “Hmm, beautiful couple, but the walls were a bit bare”. That’s never what I take away. I remember doing the “Thriller” choreography with my brother on the dance floor, stifling laughter as my preacher uncle hijacks the prayer into a sermonette, and hoping my own special day will be half as much fun.

Oh well. I’m praying to find a job soon; living life as a “kept woman” seems appealing but it does get boring.There’s not terribly much to clean in a 1-bedroom apartment with two adults who generally pick up after themselves, and we don’t have the budget for me to spend all day alternating between mani/pedis, massages, a personal trainer and shopping.  I’ve given myself the project of brushing up on my Spanish on Duolingo (it tests your translations backwards & forwards as well as your pronounciation via the computer mic). I may be a casual Type A, but I’m a Type A nonetheless and I like to be doing stuff….But not for free. I’ve got two degrees now and in the words of Flavor Flav, “They gots to pay me boyyyeeeee!”