Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Adventures in Debt: Acceptance & Regret



Despite living off our credit cards this summer, I'm giving up my second job - today is my last shift at the wine shop. This might seem like a bad idea, and my bank account would probably agree with you, but after examining my schedule and listing all the things I need to accomplish during my last year in the MFA program, I realized there was no way I could do it all. With an MFA exam looming, family to visit, readings to organize, classes to teach, classes to take, and a thesis to write, something had to give. A big part of me feels terribly guilty for quitting this job, but I have to keep reminding myself that I'll still be working - my teaching assistantship is my main source of income, and there's no way I'd give that up. 

When I conducted my Reader Survey a few weeks ago, someone wrote that they were curious about our finances - our jobs, how we pay for school, etc. I had to laugh. The truth is, we can't actually afford our current lifestyle. We're living outside of our means, using our credit cards to pay for utilities and groceries, and it's simply not sustainable. This is a truth I try to ignore, except for those moments when I'm moving small amounts of money from one account to another so we don't overdraft, or calculating our income to see if we'll make rent this month.

Meanwhile, our student loans are piling up. Our credit scores are dropping. We've given up a lot of things - restaurants, decent wine, trips out of town, new clothes, a sense of security - in order to minimize the damage. And yet, even while I worry about paying our bills on time and stress about our financial future, I don't regret the choices we've made, and I'm not writing these confessions in order to garner pity. Nathan and I chose this situation. I knowingly quit a good paying job because I wanted to be a writer and felt an MFA would help me achieve that goal. Nathan decided to leave his field because it wasn't satisfying, and become a paramedic instead. We're both taking time away from the working world, in the hopes that when we return, we'll be able to find jobs that fulfill us more than just financially - though even that, too, is a gamble.

Don't get me wrong: I love my life right now, despite the darker moments. The question that haunts me is whether I'll feel the same way in ten or twenty years, if Future Chrissy will wish Present Chrissy had done things differently - taken out less loans, kept the job at the wine store, put the MFA off a few more years and kept working and saving money. There's no way to tell at this point, and so I just keep doing what I'm doing, trying to make responsible choices, hoping things will work out in the end. 

In one year, I'll have an MFA and a book, but I plan to start job hunting before that, sometime after the new year. Nathan will finish his program in six weeks (!) and just started working part time as an EMT, which will hopefully turn into a full time paramedic position. I feel like we're about to turn a corner, and I until then we just need to hold on and stay positive. Hopefully the next installment of this series will be titled, "Adventures in Getting Out of Debt." Fingers crossed.