Facing Financial Fears

Facing Financial Fears

I’ve talked about my career change and the positive aspects of working with preschoolers, but I have yet to dive into the most challenging part of making the shift away from a steady 9-5 job: the financial side. Though I’ve covered plenty of personal topics on this blog, something about money feels even more personal. It seems as though money is quite a taboo topic, something we don’t often chat about with friends. We’ll talk about relationships without hesitation, but somehow bringing up money seems too difficult. There’s an element of embarrassment or fear of failure that goes along with finances that is similar, but still distinctly unique, from our feelings about dating or other common topics. I feel scared writing this blog post, but I know it’s a topic I need to talk about more. So here I go!

When I made the leap from working at a large, corporate company, to working at a small, fairly new preschool, I knew the risk I was taking financially. But I don’t think I understood, or wanted to understand, the full extent of what my choice meant. It’s no secret teachers don’t earn as much money as other fields, and I soon learned “childcare workers”, as I’m defined in the preschool world, earn even less than “school-age” educators (kindergarten through high school teachers). To put it candidly — and this makes me so scared to write for some reason, I think I’m afraid of looking weak but I’m saying it anyway— it’s nearly impossible to make a living as a preschool teacher. All of the teachers I work with have multiple side-jobs.

All that is to say, I took a huge financial risk to become a preschool teacher. For the past few months as I adjusted to my new job, I adapted an attitude of avoidance, thinking “it will all work out” in regard to my finances, without developing any sort of plan. My monthly income was cut drastically, and I was scared to confront that reality. I felt intense anxiety whenever I thought about my finances, and my coping mechanism was to just ignore, ignore, ignore. Like a monster under the bed, I was afraid of what I’d find hidden in the dark if I took the time to really examine my newfound financial situation. I knew deep down I’d need to put in a lot of work to figure out how to earn more money and put together a budget, and it made me feel exhausted thinking about it. So I chose a route of avoidance.

With the exception of a few small changes, I continued spending in the same manner I had when I was at my previous job. I saw the number in my checking account decreasing steadily, but I didn’t want to deal with what that meant. I was stubbornly hoping I could continue living the same way I had before, that nothing needed to change, and magically things would all work out. Ignore, ignore, ignore.

Finally, slowly, I came to terms with the fact that I needed to stop this denial and start being real with myself. I needed to find alternative forms of income, and I needed to cut back on my expenses each month. Nothing was going to magically work out if I didn’t put in the work myself. I knew I needed a wake-up call, so I made a to-do list and started crossing things off:

  • I found a freelance job writing resumes and cover letters for clients.
  • I started putting feelers out and working more irregular gigs like babysitting, petsitting, and social media management.
  • I took a look at exactly how much I’m earning versus how much I’m spending each month, identifying how much extra money I need per month and areas I can cut back on spending.
  • I started opening up to friends and family about this topic.

The funny thing about avoidance is we know deep down it’s not going to help. Ignoring my finances didn’t magically give me more money, or assuage my anxieties. I still had a nagging voice in my head saying “You need to confront this. You can’t keep this up forever, Shelly!” My savings were still depleting. Those months I spent not paying attention to my spending, blindly hoping I was making enough money to support for my spending habits, I was just prolonging the inevitable. I eventually had to come back to reality and put in the work to get on the right track.

I was right that the work I needed to put in would be tiring. I don’t have everything figured out yet. I still have more work to do to feel confident in my financial situation. I still have the same anxiety about money, and the same embarrassment around talking about it. I don’t know if any of that will ever change, but I know one thing has changed: I’m facing my fears rather than avoiding. I’m taking action rather than remaining passive. I’m talking about this topic rather than bottling it all up. Leaving the world of avoidance and entering the world of action may still bring its fair share of exhaustion and anxiety, but it has also made me feel empowered and given me hope. It may take a while, but I know everything will work out, because I’m finally doing the work.

Do you have fears around money? Do you feel embarrassed or scared or anxious to talk about it? Have you ever made a career change and had to reevaluate your income? Let’s talk about it! I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Two Years After College: What I’ve Learned

Two Years After College: What I’ve Learned

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Tomorrow marks exactly two years since I walked across the stage at Texas Christian University to accept my diploma for a Bachelor of Science in Strategic Communication. It’s crazy to think that two years have already passed, but at the same time, college seems like ages ago.

As I was reflecting on the past two years, I realized living life outside of college comes with many challenges, and that it takes a lot of effort to have a happy, successful life outside of the college bubble. Though I am in no way an expert in any of the following areas, here are the top three challenges I’ve encountered since graduating, and how I have learned to put in the effort to navigate them.

1. You Have to Make an Effort to Have a Social Life

As I wrote in this blog post, college was a magical time where all of your friends were within walking distance, and for the most part, nobody had busy schedules apart from going to class and studying. When you graduate, you suddenly realize everyone has their own life and their own social schedule, and you have to try harder to see your friends. Not to mention, most of your college friends live in other places now, so making new friends is essential.

However, as long as you make an effort to make plans with people, while also remembering that everyone is as busy as you are, you can maintain a social life that is just as rich as it was in college. I feel very fortunate to have a lot of amazing friends in my life right now, from old friends I have kept in contact with over the course of many years, to new friends who weren’t even in my life this time last year.

2. You Have to Make an Effort to Continue Learning

As I mentioned in this post, it’s been a bigger adjustment than I had anticipated to get used to not having regular classes. When you graduate, you have to actively seek out ways to continue learning, whether that is by reading, listening to podcasts, attending webinars or networking events with panels and speakers, or some other method.

For me, my preferred methods of education have been a mix of some of the above. I got really into podcasts over the last couple of years, and have also been attending regular networking events with my coworkers. And as you all know, I am a big fan of reading books as well. Though it can be harder to find ways to actively learn in your post grad life, it is definitely doable if you put your mind to it (no pun intended).

3. You Have to Make an Effort to Have Hobbies Outside of Work

One topic I haven’t covered in a blog post yet (but that I definitely can if any of you would like me to expand on it) is the difference between having hobbies in college and having hobbies in the “real world.” In college, you are exposed to hundreds of different clubs and organizations, and though you still have to make an effort to join them, it’s relatively easy to do so. I joined a sorority the first week on campus, started working at the school newspaper the next semester, and tried out various other clubs throughout my four years. And for the most part, I found it easy to join them and was often encouraged to join by classmates and friends.

I struggled for a while after I graduated with finding interests and hobbies outside of work. But I finally got into the swing of things a little over a years ago. As you all know, I joined an improv class for about eight months which was a great experience. After I stopped taking the class, I dove into my blog and started organizing a Meetup group for bloggers in Austin. These activities, along with just spending time with friends and family and trying to exercise regularly, have kept me plenty busy and made me feel more fulfilled in my life.

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What are some of the pitfalls of post-grad life you’ve experienced, and how have you helped yourself move past them? Or, if you’re still in college, what are you most nervous about tackling once you leave and enter the “real world”? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: I Am Malala

Book Review: I Am Malala

“It was as though they wanted to remove all traces of womankind from public life.”

I’m back with another book review! Like I mentioned in my last review, I joined a book club. I’m excited to share my thoughts on our first book with you: I am Malala. 

I am Malala is a memoir written by a young girl named Malala, who grew up in Pakistan. She tells her experience fighting for the right to get an education, which ultimately lead to her being shot by the Taliban. The book includes a lot about the history of Pakistan, as well as Malala’s own family history and details about the Islamic faith. I enjoyed learning more about a culture that I didn’t previously know much about. It was definitely eye-opening to read about the struggles young girls and women face in other parts of the world.

Despite the many cultural differences I saw between the United States and Pakistan, I was surprised by how many similarities there were. For example, Malala mentioned the book series Twilight, which caught me off guard because I would have never thought girls in Pakistan were reading Twilight just like American girls. A quote that I loved was when she said “sometimes I think it’s easier to be a Twilight vampire than a girl in Swat.”

One of the most moving aspects of the book was Malala’s relationship with her father. Though she is close with everyone in her family, her bond with her father was really special to read about. They appear to be very similar in many ways, most notably their passion for women’s rights. Malala began campaigning for women’s rights alongside her father, and it was evident how proud he was of her, especially when he declared in one of his speeches, “In my part of the world most people are known by their sons. I am one of the few lucky fathers known by his daughter.”

Malala’s pure bravery was another thing that stood out to me in this book. Even when it was known that she was being targeted by the Taliban and could very well be in real danger, she claimed to not feel scared and she continued to fight for what she believed in. She said,”My feeling was nobody can stop death; it doesn’t matter if it comes from a [member of the Taliban] or cancer. So I should do what I want to do.”

I will admit this book can be a bit dull and difficult to get through at times, especially when she goes into detail about the history of her country and her family. However, it was worth it to me because I really learned a lot and I feel like I gained a better understanding of another culture, which I always find beneficial. I would definitely recommend reading this book if you like true stories, and if you are looking for something semi-educational but still interesting to read!

Let me know in the comments if you have read this book, and what you thought! If you haven’t read it, let me know what the last book you read was.