Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What a difference a year makes

I'm still in a reflective mood, so forgive me if you're sick of the now-and-then posts. Now that the first month of 2011 is over and done with, I was thinking about all that I accomplished in January. Then I remembered what happened last January — where I was, how I felt, the outlook I had on my life. I'm kind of blown away by how much my life has changed.


January 2010: I start the year off sick and sobbing on a bathroom floor. I spend January 1, 2010, being hungover and feeling sorry for myself.

I am living at my mom's house. I don't have a bedroom to myself; just a nook in the back of the house where my bed and a small nightstand sit, semi-shielded by a bookcase for privacy. I have lived there for four months and want to move out soon. Financially, I think I can swing it.

I crunch some numbers and realize that I am $8,000+ in debt. My mom thinks I've been saving my paychecks for the last four months and wonders why I haven't built up any savings to speak of. I've actually been making huge credit-card payments, although even those don't seem to make a dent in my debt.

I break down and tell my mother, red-faced and teary-eyed, about the financial mess that I've gotten myself into over the last four years. I am embarrassed and ashamed, and I feel like I've disappointed her. She gives no indication that she's disappointed, and instead helps me craft a plan to get out of debt. The plan is simple, but there are no shortcuts. I'll have to budget, save and becoming responsible with my money if I want to be independent. I am scared. I feel very much like a child.

I have just been dumped; I am heartbroken. I attempt to date again much too soon. I feel tired, chubby and lazy. I don't exercise at all; instead, I eat big dinners and let the boxed wine flow freely on weeknights. I stay up late and am tired again the next morning. Eat. Drink. Repeat.

I like my job enough, but the two hours of commuting each day is a huge drain. I lack the energy to do much besides ride the bus, work and sleep. I wonder if this is what my life will be like until I retire or die — whichever comes first.

I come to the conclusion that yes, it will be.


January 2011: I start the year off by drinking hot cocoa while watching the Space Needle fireworks at midnight — both on TV and from my living room window. I go to sleep at 12:30 a.m. — sober. I spend January 1, 2011, running an exhilarating 5K, eating delicious food and catching up on a favorite TV show.

I am living in a lovely, light-filled townhouse with two of my best friends. I have walls, a closet, a door and even a balcony in my bedroom. I have a bedroom. I have lived here for a few weeks and don't want to move out anytime soon.

I want to buy a new laptop and a digital SLR camera. Even though I'm now paying for rent, utilities and food, financially, I can swing it. I buy the new laptop and camera, paying with my debit card and not worrying about what effect these purchases will have on my finances because I've planned for this for a long time. The new laptop blows my mind. The new camera is stuck somewhere in the shipping process due to snowstorms.

My mom emails me not to school me on finances, but to remind me that I should forward my mail and that I'll be getting my tax forms soon. I reply that I've not only forwarded my mail, but I've received my tax forms and have completed my taxes — a nice refund is already on its way. I create an account on to nail down a new budget for independent living and am pleased to find that my "net worth" is far more than the amount I was in debt just a year ago.

I have not just been dumped; in fact, I'm with a fantastic guy. He hung around and was just my friend when I felt like it was too soon for me to date again. Now, we share interests and activities, spend time with each other's friends and families, and make each other laugh. Constantly.

I exercise quite a bit and even join a nearby gym. In total, I run 52 miles in January. I look forward to breaking my 5K record in an upcoming race, as well as challenging myself with new distances for the rest of the year. I eat light dinners, like salads and sauteed vegetables, and try not to drink on weeknights. My wine comes in bottles.

I like my job enough, and the twenty-minute commute is amazing. I struggle to balance activities and keep up with friends while also working, running, blogging and spending time with a very special guy. It's a good problem to have, and I wonder if this is what my life will be like until I retire.

I sure hope so.

What a difference a year makes.


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