L-o-o-o-n-g weekend

I’m flying to Chicago tomorrow, for my first (and likely only) visit before our planned June move.

We have apartment showings lined up, as the goal of the trip is to find an apartment (or at least a floorplan + building combo) that we like and are comfortable living in for a year.

To anyone who knows me (myself included), none of this is normal Katie behavior. I still can’t believe I’m moving to a city where I know no one, with a guy I’ve known for less than a year.

My house should go on the market on Friday. I’ve applied to transfer to a new internal role at work that will allow me to work remotely. I’ve been downsizing my belongings for months. I plan to sell my car. All of these major, major changes, and I feel almost no anxiety about them. I’m a person who’s anxious about everything. It’s new and different for me to be staring into the face of such a massive life change without sheer terror.

I’ve never lived anywhere but my home town, with the exception of 4 years of college, including one semester studying abroad. But I always thought of it then as temporary, and that I’d be heading home when it was finished. Going from Charlottesville to Chicago is probably one of the biggest changes I could make.

Part of me is worried that I’ll get there tomorrow, take one look around at the massive city, and say “nope, I can’t do this.” The other part of me keeps repeating “you can do anything for one year.” That’s probably not the healthiest way to think about moving halfway across the country to be with a partner, and I haven’t voiced that to him. It seems that thinking of it as a temporary life adventure is the best way for me to cope with it, though.

I’ve been wanting to leave Charlottesville for years, and haven’t had the courage to do it. My chance is finally here. Chicago, here we come.

 

Current Dream Jobs

I’ve written before about how I’ve been working (since I finished grad school in 2011) in a field that’s not related to either of my degrees. I have a Bachelor’s in Professional Writing and a Master’s in Higher Education. I have almost 5 years of work experience in project management and business analysis in software development. I’ve never had a job that I’ve enjoyed, or felt that my work allowed me to make a positive difference.

Now that I’m job-hunting in Chicago, I’ve been thinking about how it’s an opportunity to completely start over, professionally speaking.

But here’s the thing: if I could do anything, I honestly don’t know what I would do.

I wanted to be an architect for my entire life. I still have an interest in that, but I don’t have the desire to go back to school for the training that’s required. I also don’t know for sure that it would remain my dream once it was my reality.

Interior design is something I’ve been interested in for almost as long as architecture, and while I think it would make me endlessly happy, I’m not sure I’d have the drive and the eye to be really great at it.

I’ve been thinking for the past year or so about getting into college recruiting for a large company. It’s a blend of the work I’ve done and my Master’s degree, but I don’t have the personality for sales, or the passion required to spend most days giving presentations to college students. I have a friend who works in Employer Relations for a university, and she has a dream job. She gets to visit employers to represent her department and to create job and internship opportunities for her students. I think I would absolutely love that.

From there, I started thinking about general recruiting, which I think I would really enjoy AND be good at. I’ve worked with enough software developers, project managers, and stakeholders to understand what’s really required to do a job well, and I’m a master internet stalker. I think I could find the right candidates for a job, again, I’m just not a huge fan of the “sales” portion that’s required.

I would love to work with animals or do something related to animal welfare. I’d love to have a position with an SPCA or other animal rescue. Not as a vet tech, but potentially in fundraising, outreach, or operations. Non-profit work means a pay cut, so that’s something to consider. I would love to be able to accomplish this dream at some point in my life. Maybe once I’ve retired from an illustrious and profitable career in something else. (Joking.)

Lastly, there’s writing and editing. I’ve become interested lately in doing some freelance projects, but I don’t have a portfolio, and none of my professional experience has allowed me opportunities to write anything marketable. I need to build up a portfolio, whether it be technical writing or much more relatable lifestyle pieces. Within a year, I’d like to have something I’ve written published by an online source.

This list covers the areas I’ve either always wanted to work in, or the ones I’ve been giving serious consideration to lately. In moving to a new city, I’m trying to strike the right chord when applying to jobs. I want to find something I’ll like, but I also want my application to be considered. I don’t enjoy the work I’ve been doing, but it’s the only work I’m qualified for. Do I need to take a major pay cut and apply for entry-level jobs in a field I might be more passionate about? Do I apply for positions I’m not qualified for and hope that my non-related experience is enough to get me considered? It’s a tough balancing act, and I don’t think there are right answers.

2016

It’s the first weekend of a new year, and I’ve got that chronic nostalgic feeling, mixed with the hopefulness that things can and will change.

I only wrote two blog posts in 2015. A lot happened in the past year, I suppose, because life happens, but in a way, many things are still the same. I still struggle with the same things I’ve written about here time and time again (namely, my job and a lack of any real sense of life purpose), but I won’t go into too much detail about all that right now.

I’ve been struggling to come up with new year’s resolutions. Part of me knows that change is an ongoing process that must be continually worked on, and so I hesitate to write down goals and then forget about them until January of next year. The other part is hopeful and wants to share something publicly, check back in often, report on progress, and be held accountable.

Because it’s been floating around in my head for a few days (and because I’ve been attuned to these things for years), here’s a brain dump of my goals. Not necessarily for 2016, but things to focus on because they’re important to me.

  1. Figure out what I want to do next. I read (or heard, or talked to someone — I can’t remember now) that you shouldn’t think about jobs in terms of “what do I want to do with my life?” but rather, “what do I want to do next?” So that’s what I want to do this year. Sub-goal: Don’t accept a new job unless it’s something different than what I do now, and something that I’m reasonably sure that I’ll enjoy.
  2. Leave Charlottesville. This one is self-explanatory. I spent the better part of 2015 making preparations and telling all the people I’m close with that I was finally going to leave my home town. I spent months thinking about a cross-country road trip, planning destinations, purging my belongings, and doing targeted job searches, but then put it on hold. For one particular reason, I’m still here. Maybe I’ll write more about that in the future.
  3. Keep running. I slacked off in a major way for the second part of 2015. Last spring, I PRed my 5k and 10k times during the Ukrop’s 10k and I’d like to do it again. I might even want to run my second half marathon this year.
  4. Eat healthier, respect my body. Pretty straightforward. My sister does a variant of the Paleo diet and I’ve seen how it’s transformed her body. Lean, muscular limbs have always been my goal.
  5. “Run my own race.” I have a history of comparing myself (my choices, my body, my finances, my life experiences, my clothing, etc.) to others, and it’s not healthy and it’s not productive. I just want to remember to run my own race — to do the things that are special or meaningful to me, on my own schedule. Make time for the things that make me happy, without regard to the things other people are doing. I have one life, and it is unique to me.
  6. Cook at home. This goal is simple, but evasive. Mostly because I hate washing dishes.
  7. Write. I love writing and reflecting. Writing forces me to think about things that I otherwise wouldn’t, and publishing my thoughts anonymously on the internet (hopefully) won’t hurt anybody.

So there we have it. A list of things to aspire to, now and in the future. I have some ideas for things I’d like to start blogging about, so I hope to be back here more than twice this year. See you soon, internet!

 

 

Investment Property

Today’s A to Z post on the theme of “my 20-something goals” is about Investment Property.

I achieved my life-long goal of buying a house in January. I’m currently renting out a bedroom to a roommate, which helps cut down my monthly mortgage payment.

HOWEVER: now that I’ve got one house, I don’t want to stop. My next goal is to buy an additional property every five years. (If I’m being honest, I’d prefer to do it every 3 years.) Eventually (but hopefully sooner than later), I’d like to be able to live off of the income from my various properties.

I live in Charlottesville, which is known for extremely high real estate costs. I find this to be supremely frustrating, but it’s a challenge that I think I can overcome. I’ve learned that there are deals to be found, if you’re willing to be patient (which I did when buying my current house — I checked the MLS every day for close to two years!).

Being a landlord fits nicely with my life-long love of houses and my desire to live freely outside of the 9-to-5 office setting. Now all I’ve got to do is make it happen…

Design

Today’s A to Z post topic is Design.

When I was a little kid, I used to dream about houses and then wake up and scramble to sketch out the floor plans before they vanished from my memory. My favorite notebooks were graph paper so I could complete to-scale drawings. I used to (and still do) monitor the local MLS daily, and back when my mom was a Realtor I’d beg her to take me to see fresh-on-the-market homes that appealed to me. I rarely miss the Charlottesville Parade of Homes, because I’ve always been interested in the latest and greatest trends in new home construction.

I started watching Trading Spaces on TLC way back before interior design was “trendy.” Once HGTV hit the big-time, I spent my teenage years glued to it rather than anything on MTV or any of the other networks watched by my peers. I knew from the time I was 8 or so years old that I wanted to be an architect when I grew up. I took two years of Technical Drawing and Architectural Drawing classes in high school, only to have a crisis of confidence my senior year and decide to apply to college as an undeclared major, because I didn’t think I’d get in to Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture.

I majored in English (because it was easy and I was good at it), and I regret settling. During my senior year of college, I applied to grad schools, two of which were the Masters in Architecture at Virginia Tech and the Masters program in Interior Design at George Washington University. I was accepted to both. I turned both offers down. I’ve regretted it ever since.

I’ve spent the four years since college graduation immersing myself in interior design and DIY blogs every day. I find myself feeling alternating surges of jealousy of those bloggers who jumped on the bandwagon circa 2009, before the DIY-blog train took off, and anger at myself for not doing the same thing (even though, to be fair, in 2009 I was a senior in college with no money and living in an apartment with three strangers – not the best material for a design blog). I can’t help but think that there are so many DIY/design bloggers out there who don’t have any actual design skill, but who instead have gotten by on a lot of luck and good timing.

Anyway, this hateful venting isn’t where I set out to go with this.

Interior design, architecture, houses, and real estate have been my passions for my entire life. I know this. But I haven’t acted on it. More recently, I’ve become interested in event design, wedding planning, and even print and graphic design. I have no idea if I have what it takes to turn these passions into a paying career, but I’ve been paralyzed by fear of trying for far too long.

So that brings me to my next goal for my 20’s: Design something. Be it a fantastic room for a client, the blueprints for my next home, or even just a logo in PhotoShop – I have to start somewhere. I’ve been itching to see my design vision accomplished for well over a decade. I owe it to myself to produce something real. (And maybe to share photos with the internet.)

Is there anyone else out there who’s ever denied a life-long dream? What happened when you acted on it? 

Commit

Today’s A to Z post topic is Commitment.

I’m pretty certain that I’ve written before about my life-long habit of missing out on most of my present-day life due to dreaming about the future. I have a terrible tendency to freeze in indecision, bury myself away in doubts or insecurities, and generally let opportunities pass me by. As a result I wind up feeling that my “real life” or my “future” is just around the next corner, and that then I’ll be truly happy with everything I have, and I’ll be able to settle in and live it up. But the fact is: this is my life. Including all the many pieces I’m not completely happy with.

So my goal for the rest of my 20’s is to commit. To commit to my life, my choices, and my activities – because this is the one and only chance I have. Whether this means *finally* taking the leap and quitting the job that isn’t “the one,” trying to start up my own business, moving away from my childhood town, or even just owning all my decisions and not sweating the small stuff, I need to commit. Because failing to do so results in stagnation, and there’s nothing worse than wasting all the precious opportunities that life brings and being left with nothing but nagging thoughts and countless lonely Saturday nights.

How about all of you out there? Have you mastered the art of commitment? Are there areas of your life that you’ve learned (with time) to take ownership of, in order to feel fulfilled?

Budget

I think I’ve settled on “My 20-something To-Do List” as my A to Z theme this year. I’ll chronicle tasks/dreams/goals that I aspire to complete during my 20s (I’m halfway to 30, so I’ve still got time to achieve all of them). It’s a sufficiently broad enough topic to include many things, and it will also serve the purpose of getting many areas of my life back on track: one of which will be blogging regularly! 

Today’s topic is Budgeting.

I’m 25 years old, unmarried, and I just bought my first house – making me house poor. (Not really, because I wouldn’t have purchased a home that I couldn’t afford on my own, but it sometimes feels that way.)

I have pretty lofty financial goals of owning several investment properties, retiring by the time I’m 30 (ha!), traveling extensively, and becoming debt-free.

You’d think I would keep a fairly strict budget, no? Alas, I do not. There was about a 1-year period during which I wired up an Excel spreadsheet with formulas to track my income (twice-monthly paychecks) and expenses (student loan payment) each month, but that was as deep as my tracking went. No line items for groceries, credit card bills, rent, gas, etc, etc. My intention was to figure out how much money I’d have in savings at the end of the year, and obviously, my calculations were a bit off.

I’ve flirted with the idea of using a Google Doc budget template (I’ve found several nice, simple-ish, free ones), but for some reason I just won’t take the time to sit down and actually fill it out. I think I’m a little bit afraid of seeing all my monthly expenses laid out in one place, rather than as different bills that come in the mail at different times throughout the month.

I would love to be more on top of my finances, and to live up to that John Maxwell quote made famous by Dave Ramsey:

“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”

Creating a monthly budget that I’ll actually reference and rely on is something I need to do sooner than later.

For those of you who keep a budget, how do you do it? Do you find that it helps? Do you use Excel? Google Docs? Old-fashioned pen and paper?