Last week I wrote about how I’d reached my breaking point. I’m pretty unhappy with my professional life, which is not great. And as many of you pointed out in the comments, this is not a dress rehearsal. It matters that I’m happy in my day to day.
Thank you to everyone who left me words of support and encouragement in the comments. I am so thankful for this online community- you’ve helped change my life in amazing ways, and your support when I’m down is truly appreciated.
After writing that article, and coming face to face with the stark reality of just how unhappy I am, I’ve decided to make some changes in my life.
One of my best and worst attributes is that I’m a planner. I love knowing what I’m going to do, and the steps to take to get there. Part of why I’m struggling so much is because I don’t feel like my current jobs are leading me anywhere. I don’t want to be in the events/food service world, and I don’t want to be in the nonprofit world. And of course, neither pays very well. So…what am I killing myself for?
I remembered this quote this weekend while I was catering Friday and Saturday nights. I’m paraphrasing here, and I have no one to attribute it to, but I can tell you it hit me hard. This is exactly my life. I’m stuck in a cycle that I don’t want because I’m too full of fear to go after what I do want.
The thing is, now is the right time. I’m not working a really lucrative job, and I’m not climbing the career ladder rapidly. I’m working two jobs I hate and making squat. Now is the time to take a risk, and to go live the life I really want.
In order to not jump off a cliff into the unknown, I’m preparing myself and my finances to absorb these changes gradually. With that said, I’ve set new goals for myself this year.
- Be Happy– I’ve been intermittently happy for the last year and a half while I paid off debt and beefed up savings. I’ve been working insane hours steadily for what feels like forever. I keep sacrificing my ‘now’ in pursuit of my future. This has to end.
- Become a Freelance Writer– I’ve always wanted to write. I have journals and notebooks full of short stories, the starts of novels, and poems. I’ve always put this dream on hold because there was something more pressing to do: go to college, find a job, pay off debt. But you know what? There’s nothing that pressing in my life right now. I’m debt free, I’ve got my spending under control, and I’ve got some savings. Things will never be totally perfect to pursue a dream, but now is pretty close.
Financially, my goals are changing too.
- Put $7,000 towards retirement– Initially, I wanted to put $10,000 towards retirement this year. That’s just not going to be possible. I’m on track to max out my IRA in a few weeks, which is awesome. If I can tuck away another $1,500 this year after that, I’ll consider this year a success.
- Have a $5,600 emergency fund by August– I’m close to this goal, and I think I can do it with one final push. Having this amount of money in my emergency fund is less than I wanted at the start of the year, but definitely enough to cover any emergencies I should run into.
I don’t know if everyone knows this about me yet, but I am a woman of action. I get something in my brain, and I want to do it NOW. Accepting just how unhappy I am got my butt into gear. I decided to take some action.
About three hours after I hit ‘publish’ last Thursday, I came up with a new plan and started taking steps to achieve it.
- Cater Less, But Don’t Stop Completely– In May and June, I’m only going to cater two times a month. I’ll pick one weekend, cater Friday and Saturday, and be done with it. This will relieve me of some stress right NOW, but keep my side income flowing. I am going to cater through the end of 2016, and will pick up the pace again in August.
- Leave My Nonprofit Job Entirely– This may be controversial, but I really believe it’s the right choice. It’s a time consuming, stressful job that I don’t like. So, at the end of June, I’ll be leaving my nonprofit job!
- Start a Fuck-it-Fund– This is my get out of work jail free fund. I plan to save $2,000 over the next two and a half months, which is enough for health insurance and gas for six months, plus one month’s rent. I realized that if I put extra money into my emergency fund, I would feel like I could only spend it if the sky was falling. A Fuck-it-Fund though, makes me want to shout ‘Kara OUT’ and moonwalk backward out of my office. That’s money I’ll feel comfortable spending in the months of underemployment. Brains are weird like that.
- Travel– Like I mentioned in my last post, I already have travel plans set in motion. While I am undergoing some financial risk in leaving my nonprofit job, I’m not planning on sacrificing my travel. I estimate I need $3,000 this year to travel, and I’ve already begun saving for it.
I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and my eyes have been opened. This plan has its risks, but it feels so right. I’m excited thinking about implementing these changes over the next few months. I can’t wait to start living the life I really want.
Kara Perez is the original founder of From Frugal To Free. She is a money expert, speaker and founder of Bravely Go, a feminist financial education company. Her work has been featured on NPR, Business Insider, Forbes, and Elite Daily.