Since my last post, an awful lot has happened. Instead of talking about the cousins trip on my itinerary, I am talking about a global pandemic! In about 2 months the markets have tanked, unemployment has skyrocketed. Major industries have come to a screeching halt. I have been furloughed from my job for what looks like at least 2 months, so I am navigating some new waters myself. I wanted to write down a few things about how we are handling this, how past decisions are impacting our current days, and what we hope is the outcome.
There are two lifestyle habits that I think really set us up to handle this turn in events due to COVID-19.
- Setting up at least one year’s worth of living expenses as an emergency fund in case things like this happened. I remember having conversations with people about how it’s smarter to invest that money rather than save at my age, but being moderate and investing some and saving a year’s expenses has made this transition considerably less stressful. I have Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich for this. Money wasn’t really a topic we comfortably spoke about in my family growing up. My parents made sure we were taken care of and that was the extent of our money conversations during my childhood. Arriving in my early twenties with a financial blank slate had me searching for mentors and methods to live my financial life by, and a combination the idea of not being in debt to others wherever possible and Ramit’s book on growing our income helped me reach these goals. Essentially
- Carry no debt whenever possible, with the exception of housing ( and even then, housing well well within your means and payments fully covered by emergency funds for at least a year ).
- Do not have more expenditures than a single income can cover, no matter how many incomes live in the household.
- First give to community, then put aside an emergency fund, then submit a percentage of all income to investments, and only then live off the remainder.
- Generate a second income stream using a secondary skill you develop.
- I decided to prioritize postive, respectful relationships and cut out self-centered ones. A few years ago, I hear a friend say ‘Empathy without boundaries is self destruction’. It really hit home. I gave some people a pass because they always had some excuse or another for their shitty behavior. I changed my mind about that and I learned to never excuse toxic behavior, regardless of the underlying reasons (mental health, illness, past abuse). I learned to value myself enough that those are never reasons anyone can ever have to abuse or misuse me. It led me to cut out certain relationships and put some distance in others, and with my newfound mental and emotional space, I was able to invest in the wonderful, kind, thoughtful, positive people that would actually be there for me. It’s not that these people didn’t have problems, or never suffered abuse, or didn’t have mental health issues. These were people who had dealt with all these things, but had chosen to respond to those things with a growth mindset. They didn’t let those things turn them into abusers. Knowing that I wanted to be surrounded by survivors who chose to do better, I made some decisions. I removed people who did not value our relationship but valued what they could get out of me for themselves. I removed people whose mood was an excuse for abuse. After I had what I called “relationship layoffs”, I found it easier to take all that energy and invest in kind, empathetic people. In return, they were respectful, expressed gratitude, and appreciated what I did for them. I was able to make a positive difference. Now, during this isolation period, those same people are reaching out and caring for me. Benefits include sending books, phone calls, sending recipes, encouraging my healthy activities, remote movie nights, genuine interest in me as a person and my state of being. Best part is that I have the opportunity to do the same. Its filling a huge space in my heart and life right now and I want to thank my past self for changing course! It took a while to believe this: I deserve a community that gives back to me too.
Here are the habits I’m building in the middle of Isolation:
- Take medical authority seriously. I am not going anywhere at all except to get groceries. I am wearing a mask and carrying disinfectant wipes for my hands and surfaces I touch. We get enough food that groceries are a 2-3 week activity. I have chosen not to have a giant head and assume I know better than everyone. I’m approaching this situation with curiosity for the truth and consideration for my fellow man.
- Not watching 2000 hours of TV. In fact I in the last 4 weeks, I’ve seen 10 hours of television total. Seven of those hours were Tiger King, but since then I’ve written off watching shows about stupid people making selfish decisions.
- Moving. I am taking long walks in the evenings away from others and using my workout equipment at home. Asking for a full weight set, bench, and padded space for Christmas was the best decision I think I’ve made this year.
- Learning, training, doing! There are going to be few times in my career that I will have 40 – 60 solid hours a week to dedicate to sharpening my craft. I am so excited about using this time to learn more things for my career.
- Making social activity a priority. I’m calling family and friends. I’m sending fun letters to cheer up people I care about. I’m attending remote Netflix nights where we make fun of terrible pandemic movies. Animal Crossing has been on my switch giving me lots to do in my downtime.
- Cooking!! We are cooking together and producing some nice dishes. I am proud of us, and it’s something we can look forward to.
- Reading. I have a set of books to settle into at night. It eases my tension to escape into another world for a while.
- Not panicking about my job situation. The reason for having emergency funds and a conservative lifestyle is so I’m not a slave to the job hunt. I hope to find myself back at Macy’s eventually since I enjoy their culture. If that doesn’t happen, I want to find good opportunities not any opportunities. I’ve been talking to recruiters and assessing the Atlanta area job market but I am not jumping into anything right now.
I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy! So far I am grateful my family and my friends have not been infected with COVID-19. Fingers crossed it stays this way until we are on the way out of the woods. There’s also a lot of people who do not have the safety nets I had the opportunity to build. I’ve been looking for ways to support our community and I keep coming back to Nicholas House. The biggest benefit of a financial way of life that I’ve listed is that it allows for supporting the community during rough times. Please consider donating to Nicholas House in Grant Park, Atlanta. They are a very successful program that gets people out of homelessness permanently with an amazing success rate. They address a lot of the underlying issues contributing to homelessness and they are outcome centered!
For every $20 donated to Nicholas House, I will send you a matted print of one of my works – just shoot me an e-mail with the receipt. :)