Our path to eliminate debt has not been easy or simple so far (and if you know me, you know my life hardly ever is). No matter how many times I crunch the numbers, research cost-effective options, and plan for every scenario I can think of, there’s always a wild card I could’ve never planned for.
About a month ago, a week before classes began, at graduate school orientation, I found out that the GI Bill I earned as a veteran would not be enough cover my tuition. It wouldn’t even be close. I would’ve needed nearly $60,000 in loans to complete the degree due to a stipulation I had been asking about for several months that I was told wasn’t a problem. What a time to find out it actually was a problem! I withdrew from the university and applied to another university that did not have the same stipulation the first organization did regarding the GI Bill. So late in the game, the second university could only accept me as a non-degree student in a different field than I had intended to study. While changing the course of my educational focus is upsetting enough, I was panicked about not being able to pay our rent. I had quit part of my job last year so I could attend grad school full time this year since we could use the monthly housing allowance to make up the deficit created by my downsized work schedule. With the last minute change of educational institution, and some sketchy wording in the policy around non-degree student status for the GI Bill, I am still nervous the GI Bill isn’t going to come through. We are still waiting and hoping for it to come through.
With this uncertainty, I officially, and thankfully only momentarily, became irresponsibly responsible this past week. Because my school schedule had been built around weekend classes and a daytime internship two weekdays at the first university, having to take all night classes at the second university has been quite the adjustment. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, I work as a public school music teacher. After teaching all day on Mondays, I rush to the university for two grad classes from 4:30-10 pm. After teaching all day on Tuesday, I dash out the door to teach a few private piano lessons before class at the university from 7-10 pm. As an introvert, being busy for two 16-hour days back to back (not including getting up at 4:30 am to go to the gym!!!), I am absolutely spent on Tuesday night when I finally get home. Thankfully, I have Wednesday off during the day, so I can sleep in just a bit before taking our pup out on a hike and heading to yoga to restore some balance in my life. I spend the afternoons studying before teaching private piano lessons for 5 hours in the evening. Thursdays, I’m back in the public school teaching, and my Fridays look a lot like Wednesdays except I teach 6 private music students on Friday afternoons. On Saturday, I teach private lessons from 10-5ish. With three graduate classes, a total of 32 private piano students, and 3 days a week teaching music in school, I am already stretched pretty thin. If we lived in a small suburban area where everything was within 20 minutes driving distance, I think this would be less stressful, but I spend so, so, so much time in the car, stuck in traffic. Welcome to D.C.!
Anyway, back on track, this week, I was offered an additional one-day teaching position in the county where I teach to supplement my three days. When I initially withdrew from the first university, I reached out to human resources in the county to see if there were any other teaching jobs available, even before I applied to the second university. There weren’t any jobs at that time, so I continued to I throw my name in every hat I could find, hoping something would work out so we could make ends meet. By picking up work at a second piano studio and teaching lessons almost everyday of the week, I was able to establish a schedule that lessens the financial blow from all of this folly. Also, I was accepted into the second university, clearly, but I still don’t know if the GI Bill is going to cover my tuition or bring the monthly housing allowance. At this point earlier this week, I also had not received a paycheck from my public school gig (the county only pays once a month- rough times!), so I was/still am in hyper-vigilant financial mode. The additional job I was offered was a Wednesday day job and it would be FIFTY miles round trip from our apartment. Um, I’m already feeling like I live in my car as it is. 50 miles is way too far, especially around D.C., where it takes a ridiculously long time to get anywhere. Also, having Wednesdays to myself is necessary for me to recharge and restore some balance to the craziness of Mondays and Tuesdays. Having Wednesdays off feels sacred to me. I initially accepted the job, though. It seemed like the most responsible thing to do. Without knowing about the GI Bill, it seemed like the only thing to do, actually. And after all, I did ask for more work in the county.
I was immediately unhappy with my decision. I was absolutely dreading the idea of three 16-hour days back to back (talk about unreasonable), plus teaching on Thursday before getting a break on Friday morning only, and then having a day slammed with 15 private students on Saturday at the studio. On top of that, I am already struggling to get my work done for my grad classes without feeling rushed.
I’m really thankful for the supportive friends and family members that I have, because nobody told me I couldn’t do it, or that it was just plain stupid (and let’s be honest, it just was). I’m also really thankful for having the courage to listen to the voice inside of me that said this wasn’t right.
I knew it was going to be a busy year, and I put a little note to myself on the fridge before the year began: “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” The more I acknowledged how I was feeling about the position, the more I realized I was not being responsible at all, because I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was trying desperately to pour from an empty cup. And there’s no way I would’ve been able to do everything even remotely well if I had taken the extra position.
On Friday morning, a weight lifted off my shoulders when I declined the position on Wednesdays. My schedule is busy enough, and while there is a chance the GI Bill will not come through, I’m going to trust that there will be another option there for Lerma and me if we need it when we get there. For now, we are okay, although we’re not throwing a bunch of money at the debt as I’d like to, we are making a really crappy situation work.
I really wanted to share my adventure of the week on the blog to affirm the fact that I am indeed human, and so are you. The extra day of work would’ve certainly meant more money to throw at our debt, but at what expense to my health, happiness, and sense of well-being? I have been working on being to be kind to myself this year, and I would rather honor myself than be in shambles and debt-free.
Until next time,