50/50

While speaking with my good friend, Josh Scales, this weekend, he aptly described his situation.

50/50. I can’t really tell the difference between handling it well or pretending I’m ok.

I feel like this describes my situation precisely.

Because here is the reality:

  • As of today, I owe roughly $38,000 in student loans and payments start in three weeks
  • I owe my Dad $1500 for helping me move
  • I have about $600 on credit cards (no accrued interest, I pay off the balance monthly)
  • I have about $1500 of liquid funds to my name as of today
  • I make $11/hour and work less than 40 hours/week (I budget for 35 hours)
  • I live in Seattle where the lowest living wage is $11.19/hour at 40 hours per week

I dare you to do the math and not wince. This is the stark reality I am living. It is bleak. This is an abnormal reality, especially from what I had thought I would be doing 4 months ago.

Story time!

June 15th I arrived in Seattle thinking I had found my golden ticket growing on a green shrub.

Oh yeah, you guessed it: Cannabis.

To clear the water, and just air out my laundry,  here are some facts. I inherited a green thumb from my mother. I love to grow plants. I studied horticulture for that reason. I have smoked or ingested cannabis on a few occasions, in legal settings, in small amounts. Sue me, I have experienced the mind altering affects of THC. It is not that big of a deal  For one, I consider it writer’s research, but I am also curious. I do not, however, consider myself a recreational user. If I did, I am among the lowest rank of recreational users. I would bubble in the ‘0-1 uses per month’ answer on a survey. I haven’t even bought cannabis. It has only been offered to me. I would rather buy a beer. Beer tastes ten times better AND I can enjoy it in public. Anyway, cannabis is a business opportunity in my eyes. I took the lesson from Scarface: do not use what you plan to sell.

*Dismount soapbox*

I have a degree in horticulture with an emphasis in production, which I would consider well received in the budding (just get ready for the endless puns in this post) cannabis industry. I was valued, at least in the eyes of my friend. This friend of mine has been working in the cannabis industry for 7 years (yes, that means he was also doing it back when it was illegal).

To go back to the start, I contacted him in early May searching for connections in the industry. I was looking for connections into the Denver market, but he did not have any there. However, he did say he could get me a job making $50-60k a year in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) because that is where he works. Imagine what this kind of information would do to you, if you were me; put yourself in my shoes as they say.

I was graduating, with nothing but two very expensive pieces of paper. Both of my fields of study rely heavily on prior industry experience or network connections to get an entry-level job. I have zero industry experience in either field, but I did have network connections. But I also wanted to leave Texas. Take away 90% of that network, and that left me with slim pickings and thin connections.

Hence my sudden burst of hope when I was told I could get a job making twice as much as I was thinking I was going to make AND it meant moving back to the PNW. Pumped is an understatement.

The first thing I did was call my friend. I may be rash sometimes, but that does not mean I forgo digging deeper into the situation. He did a great job selling the opportunity:

  • $50-60k salary with bonuses and only room to grow (hehe)
  • A work schedule of three days on and three days off
  • Flexible scheduling during those days with only 4-5 hours of work normally needed per day
  • Stake in the new company
  • Industry experience

The only problem was that every time I talked to him, his answer changed. So when I called, this high paying job that he said he could set me up in, was not actually happening until the next year. However, he could get me a job at a dispensary making decent money in the meantime, and I could help with smaller medicinal cannabis operations making cash on the side. Overall, it would be close to $50k per year. He invited me to visit him in Seattle and check everything out.

I hinted at my skepticism. I was not going to move half way across the country, as well as skip moving to Denver to live with my girlfriend, unless I had a great job opportunity as justification. He said he would get me a meeting with his HR manager so I could talk employment directly to the company. That made me feel better. I hung up and began planning.

This would be the beginning of more changes, bad communication, and decent into darkness.

I poured $350 into a late plane ticket for a two day stint to check out this opportunity in mid-June. Two of my sisters live in Seattle, so I was able to visit, and it meant that moving up there would be easier with a safety net. So I arrived and my friend flaked out on first meeting. He had to stay at work. Work that he decided to schedule even though we had made business plans.On top of that, it turned out he didn’t even make a meeting with HR like he said he would.

Instead of moping, I went into talk with him while he was working. I only had two days. I needed to get as much out of them as I could. I was frustrated to say the least, but I tried to be positive. Shit happens, I understand. At the dispensary he worked at, we talked about the opportunity to work in his small production operation and working at the dispensary, this is when he told me to send my information to him and he would get it to HR. Another change. We also arranged for him to pick me up later that evening so I could see his own operation.

He held to that plan and picked me up as scheduled and I got to see the small, secretive operation he was running out of the garage at his house. It was clean, but also not exactly professional, but I knew it would be experience, and hands-on experience is key to getting into the cannabis industry. So, I did not discredit it. I took it as the first step to success. Overall, I saw potential, and while I had some fears, playing it safe was just going to put me back even more. I assessed the risk and was satisfied.

I flew home a day later and decided that I was going to go for it. It was a chance at a great beginning and it was the best shot I’d found thus far. A month later, I arrived back in Seattle, after a fantastic road trip I might add, with little communication from my friend despite my ample attempts to setup meetings and get confirmation that he was helping with the dispensary job. Shortly after, I had to leave Seattle for a few days to go to my sister’s wedding and when I got back, I received the worst news.

My friend had taken a dive off the deep end and taken my opportunities with him. In a month, his life had gone to shambles. The details are not mine to share, but I can tell you it was not pretty.

So there I was, broke, jobless, and stuck in Seattle. My job-hunting experience is a story for another post. That is a long story on its own and this post is already becoming an allegorical essay. No body likes essays. In short, I found a job and at least I have some funds to work with now.

My point is that I am living the reality that most of us read about and never think will happen. I thought I was going to be valued for my work experience, and I am, but not by the people that count. I am struggling. I am handling it one day and freaking out another. Up and down. Up and down.

It is tough. It sucks, but it is important that we remember the cold truth: Time will never stop for us to catch up. We have to catch up ourselves.

My plan to catch up is three fold:

  1. Budget
  2. Hustle
  3. Write

Budgets bridge the gap between the present and goals. How? Let’s say your goal is to go to Cancun for spring break. It will cost you $2,000. Your income is $2,500 a month and your expenses are out of control; you just float on the tide. You have 5 months to save $2,000 to make the trip happen. What do you do? The easiest way to save that money is to put aside a certain amount of your income every month to go toward that trip. That is a budget, a very simple budget. It is the financial plan that takes you from point A to point B. Month by month, year by year, goal by goal. A budget will keep me on course and put me ahead in the long run.

I have to hustle. I make $11/hour. I won’t survive on that. I have to look for another job, sell possessions I don’t need, work hard at the job I do have, and diversify my skills. I have to find ways to turn the talents I do have into a profit. By doing all of that, I’ll squeeze every penny that I can out of my daily life. Every penny counts toward my budget.

I recently had an interview for a position as a Corporate IT Recruiter. The interview went well, but turned into a peep talk about chasing my passion within twenty minutes. They asked what my passion was and I could not lie. I want to write. I love writing and it is probably my strongest talent (if you find my writing to be terrible, then just take a guess at the strength of the rest of my skills). If you do what you love, you will work harder, produce better work, and really enjoy your life. I believe that. I live for that truth. Thus, writing is an important part of my plan, because I am going to leverage my talent to make extra money, to increase my budget, so I can achieve my goals. And I will enjoy every minute of it.

In light of this plan, for now on Mondays will be The Custom Update. I will post updates about my budgeting process, how my journey is going, and any lessons I think go with the theme of the post.

Right now, I am 50/50, but the tide is changing.

P.S. Special shout-out to Josh Scales, my good friend and fellow writer. You can read about his journey back to writing here.

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