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Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Six-Month Plan

For some of you, this Thursday Diary entry will not be much of a surprise.  For the rest of you, this entry will clear some things up...including why lately I have been looking ahead to six months from now. 

March 7, 2013

There’s a saying about the month of March.  I would imagine that most of you know what it is, but in case you don’t, the saying is this.

“If March comes in like a lamb, it will go out like a lion.  If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.”

Of course, everyone who has heard this saying knows that it has to do with weather conditions.  March is probably one of the most unpredictable months as far as weather conditions go as you never really know what to expect.  At least this is the case in Canada, where March is the month that sees the transition between winter and spring.

Lamb like weather includes warm sunny days with gentle breezes.  Lion like weather can include tons of snow, frigid temperatures, and even thunderstorms. 

(Just in case you were wondering, in my part of the country we ended up getting snow on March, I guess I could say that March has come in like a lion – albeit a little baby lion cub.)

But why should the lion/lamb analogy only be used to describe weather?  Why can’t we apply the same principle to our everyday lives?  I know I certainly can.  Only instead of just focusing on the month of March, I thought I would focus on the year 2013 so far.

Personally speaking, 2013 has come in like a big, bad, nasty lion.  When 2012 ended, I was trying to get over a couple of personal losses, as well as dealing with a couple of stressful situations.  And when 2013 rolled around, things didn’t seem much better.  Over the last three months, I’ve done quite a bit of soul-searching within myself, trying to come up with ideas in how to make things better for myself.  Instead, any ideas that I came up with ended up frustrating me even further.

You know how some writers end up with a condition known as “Writer’s Block”, in which try as they might they cannot come up with any creative ideas on how to advance a story? 

In my case, I’ve had a chronic case of “Life Block”. 

I’ll be completely honest with all of you.  I’m completely stuck in a rut.  I feel like one of those hamsters on one of those wheels that can be found in many pet cages, and I’m unable to find a way to jump off of it. 

I won’t go into too much detail, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes version.  At my job, I’ll still readily admit that the work isn’t tough, and that for the most part I get along with my co-workers...but I’m going to be completely realistic.  I don’t see myself progressing any further than my current position, and in all likelihood, the next opportunity in which I can go further won’t be for several months, or even a couple of years from now.  I suppose that I could wait around and stick it out, but I’m wondering what the payoff in doing that would be.  Even though I don’t mind my job right now, I have to wonder if I love it enough to stay with it knowing that I’ve gone as far as I can go.

And, then there’s the location that I’m currently in.  I’ll readily be the first one to admit that I’ve begun to appreciate my hometown a lot more than I used to, and I’m slowly immersing myself into the community (which I’ll be talking about one week from today).  At the same time, there are some instances in which I feel as though I am the only thirty-one year old single male in my entire community.  Most of the people my age are engaged or married, and it’s very difficult for me to meet people my own age in this area.  Ideally, I’d like to go to a larger town, and possibly come back home after a few years away, but the main obstacle in my way has always been financial.  It is common knowledge that the bigger the city the more expensive the rent.

So, as we were beginning a brand new year, nothing had really changed from the year before, and it seemed as though 2013 was going to be a reheated mess of leftovers from last year. 

But then I received a letter in the mail, and suddenly a lot more options began to open up for me.

As many of you know from my past entries, you know that I went off to university for two years, and for a multitude of reasons I never finished.  I did not get my degree, however I was “rewarded” with a wonderful $14,000 debt. 

(Though, given that I attended school in the early 2000s, I suppose I can count myself lucky that I only accumulated $14,000 debt compared to some others who may have had ten times that amount.)

It took me some time to begin paying off the debt, as it took me a year and a half to find a job, but once I landed the job, I began making payments every two weeks like clockwork.  For most of that time surprisingly, I never really bothered to check the balance of my debt.  As long as it continued to go down, I was satisfied.

So imagine my surprise when I opened up my statement that was sent to my mailbox monthly, and I realized that the debt was almost completely paid.  As of the beginning of March, I only owed a tenth of what I originally had to pay back!  After eleven years of paying off that debt, it was almost wiped out.  I did some calculations, and I figure that if I keep paying what I have been paying them every month, I will have that debt completely wiped out by the time September comes.

It makes me feel giddy inside.  Six months from now, I’ll be completely debt-free (well, for now anyway)!  It’s a fantastic feeling to have, and I’m actually looking forward to September!

Of course, this leads to the next question.  What do I do once September comes?

The fact that I’ve come up with a six-month plan for settling the last of the debt that I owe is the first step towards creating the life that I want to have for myself.  But once that hurdle is cleared, I have to look ahead to the next six months.

There’re several things that I have thought of doing...and each one has its merits.

IDEA #1:  Getting a transfer to a different store in the same chain.  This would require me to move to a different location where the opportunity to grow will potentially be higher.  And, hey, if it’ll improve my social life, all the more reason to go, right?

IDEA #2:  Getting a transfer to a different store and giving college another try.  Based on what I have learned, I know that I don’t have the ambition or the desire to go back to a university campus.  But if I attended a more specialized technical college, I could actually gain the skills that could help me land a better job and achieve a higher standard of living.  And, hey, if it’ll improve my social life, all the more reason to give school another chance, right?

IDEA #3:  Quit the retail business once and for all and try my hand in a different career field.  This move is incredibly risky for me given the state of the global economy, but if I’m heading into that challenge in a fairly good position financially, maybe it might be worth that risk.

IDEA #4:  Taking a year off from work to spend the entire year getting a book written and published.  If you asked me if I was considering this as an option a couple of years ago, I would have 86’ed that suggestion completely.  But considering that I want nothing more than to be a published writer, this option is starting to become very tempting.  And, if I can manage to save up enough money, I could feasibly spend the year crashing at El Cheapo motel rooms while I write about the exciting adventures that I’d likely have while touring across Canada getting inspiration.  You know what, now that I’ve typed that out, that idea is beginning to appeal to me more and more!

IDEA #5:  Toughing it out in my current situation for one more year so that I can ensure that I save the most amount of money possible to fund any one of the above four options.  The question is not whether I can do it, but whether I can handle my current situation without losing my mind.  As of right now, I could probably handle it, but you never know how I would be feeling six months from now.

I’m sure that as I think about it some more over the next six months, I’ll have a couple of more possibilities that could open up.  After all, we never can completely predict where we will be six months, six years, or six decades from now.  But I will say this.  I’ve never felt more optimistic about my future than I am right now at this moment. 

September is still six months away, so I have lots of time to perfect my six-month plan and come to a decision as to what to do.  No matter what happens, I know that somehow, it will all work out.

2013 may have come in like a lion for me personally...but with a little work, and a bit of planning, there’s no reason why the year can’t end like a lamb.

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