Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reconnecting and slowing down

I park about 20 minutes away from work now in order to save money. Depending on when I get in, I either park up a large hill (if I'm in early) or I park by the pond in front of the art museum (if I'm in a bit later). This morning, I parked up the hill. And I had a nice little walk. Things have been a bit tense in the lab recently--then again, when are they not?--and I've been having lots of anxiety in the morning before I leave for work.

This morning was perfect--nice temperature, mild breeze, blue skies with crisp white clouds. The walk from the hill gave me a chance to slow down and breathe. I walk past cute houses and townhouses, in front of little gardens, and then through Little Italy. It's really a good time to reflect and center before I head into work. Although my walk back up the hill at night is not quite as enjoyable (especially when the temperature is in the 90s), I think choosing to park far and walk has helped my anxiety.

I really appreciated the chance to take a beautiful walk this morning. I've been thinking a lot about money (as you can tell from yesterday's post). It's due mostly to the fact that we've had a month of unexpected expenses. Tim's truck needed a lot of work done to it, we've had lots of annual or semi-annual bills all pop up at the same time, and we've got to pay Tim's fall tuition bill. It all adds up to several thousand dollars. Some of it, like the tuition and some bills, we've expected. Others, like the truck, we hadn't planned for. And since I am a planner and a budgeter, I don't like financial surprises.

Hence the second job idea. I'm still looking into teaching/tutoring gigs (thanks for the suggestion Kara!), and I've been updating my CV this morning. I think something like that would be best. Teaching/tutoring would help with the money, true, but it would also add to my CV. And really, if I am taking time away from when I could be with Sophie and Tim, I want it to be the best use of my time.

We are very fortunate, and it is times like this morning when I have the chance to slow down and remember that. We don't have extra money for vacations or plasma TVs or the like. But we have a roof over our head, clothes on our back, and food on the table. There are many people in this world who aren't that fortunate. We work hard to live within our means. Because of my childhood, financial security is one of the things I value most. We've never carried a credit card balance month to month (unless it was a 0% balance transfer). I refuse to. I'd rather go without something (like the fence we so desperately want) than have a credit card balance.

That makes a lot of financial sense, but it sure as heck isn't easy. We've got mostly hand me down furniture (although his parents keep everything in beautiful shape), we've got cars with 110,000 and 165,000 miles on them, we don't take vacations, we almost never eat out, and the biggest splurges we have are usually for paint and supplies at the hardware store. I think moving last year was the biggest financial splurge we'll ever have. I'm not ready to call it a mistake--I love my commute, I love the house, and we could stay here forever. If I had it to do over again, knowing that the old house would take 10 months to sell and the real estate market would tank, would I move again? Probably not. But I still don't know if or when the real estate market would've let us make a move like this again. So who knows?

Sure, the bigger mortgage payment, plus day care, plus me losing $400 a month from my stipend, have all made the last month or two very stressful. But at least we don't have two mortgages anymore. And we can't save for retirement like we used to at the old house, but we also aren't having to carry credit card balances just to eat. It's all a balance. And not every month will be as tight as this month has been. And besides, that's why they call them emergency funds. We don't use them every month, but they are there in case we need them.

So I think if I got a job like tutoring that was very part time, brought in a little money, and also helped my resume, that's perfect. I don't want to spend my precious time on a job just to have more money. We are making ends meet (if we weren't, the second job would be mandatory). As long as we are making ends meet, and we have a way to get past the unexpected bills, we'll be ok. It may mean that there are many years before we can afford a fence, or a deck, or a vacation. But if giving those things up means that I can spend more time with Sophie and Tim (because I'm not working a second or third job), then I am ok with that decision.

I tend to get anxious when I feel like things are out of control. And I've felt that way a lot lately. I think trying to fix the money situation is my way of re-establishing control. But, once I've realized the deeper issues behind the anxiety, I can start to let things go. And days like today, where I get to take a nice walk and just breathe for a bit, go a long way towards helping my mental health.

Of course, getting finished with lab and moving on to med school would be the best prescription for my mental health, but there's only so much I can do to help that on a daily basis...

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