Blogiversary and Last Birthday of My Twenties!

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It’s always easy to remember my blogiversary, because I started this blog on my 25th birthday. Today, I turn 29, which means I’ve hit something of a personal record in blogging. Not only have I been chronicling my life and personal soap boxes for four years, but I’ve done so consistently. I don’t think I’ve ever gone a full month without an update, even when I was working two jobs and going to grad school. Here’s hoping the anonymity I’ve employed allows me to do so for years to come and that I’ll have even more reason to celebrate each and every birthday, because I love birthdays. I don’t just mean my own, either. Nope. I’ve already chosen gifts for both Gail and Jake, each of whom I fully intend to celebrate with next month, despite the fact that the former finds birthdays only vaguely appealing and the latter insists that they’re downright juvenile. No one spends a birthday alone on my watch.

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My love of everyone’s birthday stems from the fact that my mother always did them up big, when I was a kid. Still, I always sort of assumed, that as I grew older, mine would lose their appeal, as everyone’s eventually do. I mean, my Facebook feed has been flooded with comments about how old we’re all getting since we were 24. I, myself, used the phrase “staring down the barrel of 30” just weeks before I hit 27, much to Gail’s horror. Surely, birthdays would lose their novelty in time.

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On the contrary, I have come to the very last birthday of my twenties and I could not be more excited about getting older… and this blog deserves much of the credit. For four years, I’ve been sharing every triumph, every failure, every heartache, and every cheesy lovey dovey thought with the 1,400 or so followers who subscribe to my blog. At times, I haven’t known if anyone but Gail was even reading, going off of likes and comments, but I’ve told the tale anyway, because I know one person who will always read and that’s Future Belle. I love to look back at the stories and thoughts I shared in a different time, as a different person. At 25, I never realized how much could change in four years, but here I am struggling to remember what it was like to be the single grad student rushing from one job to another, praying I’d have enough money to make it through the summer without substitute teaching. In another four years, I’m sure I’ll be looking back, wondering what it was like to go home to an empty apartment and have the entire evening to myself… and that’s just so exciting. 

At 16, if asked, I’d have predicted college, career, marriage, home ownership, and babies years ago, because that’s how it’s supposed to go in the South. Certainly, I wouldn’t have anticipated reentering the dating world after a divorce at 23, in tandem with starting graduate school. I wouldn’t have even guessed at the possibility of meeting the love of my life at 27 and still being unmarried at 29, let alone waiting until my 30’s to start a family. I’d have been horrified by what the timeline actually looks like.

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I have so many thrilling moments ahead of me, so much to accomplish and yet, so many achievements to boast. If my life has changed this much in the last four years, I can’t imagine how amazing it’ll be in the next four. Given the choice, I’d so much rather be 29 and where I am than 25 and where I was and I imagine I’ll say the same at 39. Being an adult, moving forward in life, just generally getting older is awesome!

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Things I Will Not Do as an Adult, Wife, and Mother

Gail’s engaged, y’all.

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I know, I know. After she’d lived with Terry for three and a half years, we’d all pretty much lost hope, but there it is: my best friend is getting married. Some people do buy the cow.

While some of the most pertinent to me, Gail’s pending nuptials are hardly the only big life news being announced. It seems anyone who isn’t planning a first wedding is subtly reclaiming their maiden name. What can I say? We’ve got a lot of twenty-something divorcees, here in the South. The rest are planning babies… possibly numbers two and three. We’re growing up. My Facebook feed is no longer flooded with beer pong photos and 4/20 shout-outs, not even college graduation pictures and new job announcements. Even the engagement announcements are usually for the aforementioned divorcees or some of mine and Jake’s younger friends. Today, it’s all babies and mortgages… and that’s awesome. Truly.

Everyone I know is complaining about getting older, but I would so much rather be 28 and where I am than 22 and where I was. Life is good and I aim to keep it that way, which is why I’m baffled at why so many of my peers are doing such awful things they don’t want to do. I’m sure many who read this will chuckle with a patronizing “Oh, you’ll see, when it’s your turn,” just as my parent acquaintances who hear me say my kids won’t have cell phones chuckle with the same comment, while wondering why their own children are such lazy assholes. I don’t care, because there are pins and posts all over Pinterest and Facebook that make both adulthood and parenthood sound awful and exhausting. Adults today are screwing themselves and if Future Belle reads this list and shakes her head, I hope she’ll at least consider the reminder of the things she once swore were neither healthy nor beneficial to anyone involved. Such as…

Having an Elaborate Wedding
Y’all, when Gail told me about her upcoming wedding, I immediately started hyperventilating about my own. It wasn’t because I expect Jake to propose soon, but because if ever and whenever he does, at this point, I know I’ll say yes. My stars, does it sound wonderful to actually be married to such a genuinely good man… but the part where we get married? I’ll pass. Is passing an option?

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Jake loves weddings, so it’s really not. Yes, I found the one man who thinks weddings are so hunky dory that he’s been in like ten of them. That’s not even an exaggerative Belle-isim. I frequently joke that his online dating headline was “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” For Jake, a boy, a wedding is an awesome party where he and his best friends dress to the nines and enjoy free food and booze. Not until he got himself a researcher for a girlfriend did Jake know that the average cost of a wedding is $26,444.* When I look at pictures of other people’s weddings, the obvious expense stresses me out. It’s a party, y’all. It just happens to be one where I’m expected to spend $200 on engagement photos, $900 on invitations, $1,500 on flowers and decorations, and $700 on wedding favors.*

You know what my wedding favors are going to be? Free food and booze. That’s it. I’m not paying hundreds of dollars to have flash drives or plastic stadium cups or even cutesy Hershey bars made that no one will remember. That also means no programs, or rustic wooden backdrops, or burlap… ugggggh, the fucking burlap…, or twinkle lights, or mason jar chandeliers, or lace tablecloths. I’m not spending the first hour of my reception taking photos that look like I’m cutting a cake, even though I’m not really cutting a cake, and another 30 minutes personally thanking each person for coming. My perfect wedding plans involve butcher paper, crayons, and Sam’s Club cupcakes and if Jake will let me get away with it, that’s what I’ll do. I want to have fun and I want to do it on the cheap. I’m not missing my own wedding, because Pinterest told me I’d forever regret not taking a photo where Jake and I spell out L-O-V-E with our hands while laughing in a field of blue bonnets. I’m also not going into debt for a party. I. Will. Not.

Altering or Defending My Choices About Adulthood/Mommyhood
Jake and I talk about money more than I would imagine most married people do. I think it’s great that he’s so opposed to any and all debt, but this means that we would likely not buy a house until my student loans are cleared, in which case we’d buy outright. Now, as heartbreaking as a future without Jake sounds, I have always maintained a Belle Goes Solo version, as well. In this, I still wait until my loans have been cleared, because only at that point can I afford both a mortgage and a new roof. In short, with or without Jake, I will not be a homeowner until I am at least 36 years old.

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For some reason, in the South, owning a home is the pinnacle of adulthood, regardless of whether or not you can afford it. I’ve been told numerous times that renting is “wasting money,” but until you’re paying on the principle, “owning” is exactly the same, except for the part where you replace your own roof. While Solo Belle likely wouldn’t have any other choice than to take a mortgage, Jake and I wouldn’t be “wasting” any money renting that we wouldn’t be paying in interest and upkeep. For us, buying outright is the most desirable option. That wasn’t the case for Gail and Catherine, who are both thrilled to have recently bought homes the traditional way and more power to them. I’m not going to defend my choice not to buy before I’m ready, though, to anyone with whom I wouldn’t discuss any other financial matters. Nor will I defend my choice not to roll the existing loan on my used car into the price of a new one, which I might add is terrible advice, Dad. While we’re at it, I’m also not defending the aforementioned student loans, because it’s my money that I dedicated to build my career.

It amazes me that people will ask a near stranger about their finances, but this pales in comparison to the audacity it takes to ask a woman about her Mommyhood choices. My birth plan is to be high as a kite. I’m going to vaccinate. I will never breastfeed. In regards to my birth plan, anything and everything involving my vagina is and will remain private. I’ve had friends criticize me for my breastfeeding decision, though, and I don’t have children. I had a reduction at fifteen and can’t breastfeed, but it’s bizarre to me that I’m supposed to explain this to a nosy woman in the grocery store who tells me “breast is best.” I swear on the sorcerer’s stone that if anyone ever says that to me, I will at the very least respond with “so is minding your own business.” I’ve heard women complain that a stranger scolded them for not having shoes on their baby in a carrier, in July. I’ve listened to friends complain that a lady at the gas station mocked them for extended rear-facing.

I didn’t say a word when Jake and I had hibachi for dinner the other day with a four-year-old who spent the entire time loudly laughing at a tablet, even though I thought it was unimaginably rude to ignore the chef’s show and disturb the other diners. It’s not my business or my problem that you’re raising a disrespectful little shit, just as it’s none of yours that my child will have horrible detachment issues, night terrors, a desire to harm small animals, or whatever it is that people think results from formula feeding. Why are we, as capable adults, answering to these rude and nosy people?!?!

Spending More Time and Money on My Children’s Happiness than Mine
Oh em jingles have parents today made the whole gig harder. I admit, I’m not a parent, but that means I can be entirely objective when I ask: why are you people exhausting yourselves over your Pinterest orders?!?! Y’all can’t just wrap presents as a couple, while eating cookies, on Christmas Eve. You have to spend the month of December coming up with increasingly complex and elaborate Elf on the Shelf scenes. You can’t just take everyone’s favorite fruit snacks to pre-k. You have to stay up all night making strawberries that look like lady bugs, because heaven forbid your children eat anything non-organic. You can’t buy the one time use Halloween costume at Wal-Mart. You have to spend $120 on Etsy, so your daughter can look more like Elsa than the 47 other Elsas at the church carnival. I don’t know about you guys, but my skating rink birthday parties, where someone else made the cake and did the cleaning, made for great memories. Your children don’t need tiered cakes to make them happy, or at least they didn’t until you started convincing them that tiered cakes were for anything other than weddings.

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I understand that some people genuinely love making cutesy snacks or complicated costumes or designing unique family t-shirts for the Disney trip. I, myself, will be the parent who plans elaborate birthday parties, because I love birthdays. I struggle with the idea that anyone genuinely enjoys being expected to do all of these things. Maybe it really does fill you with joy to buy your seven-year-old that pair of $120 basketball shoes or give your 12-year-old the Uggs she so desperately wants. I’m not saying that I’m never going to do nice things for my children or enjoy making them happy. I’m saying that I’m not going to spend all of my time and all of my financial resources satisfying their every whim. I’m not neglecting my marriage or my retirement fund for my children, with the exception of some life-threatening illness. I’m not going to scratch my head over why my sex life is nonexistent as I, once again, lie in a bed with all three of my children between my husband and I. I’m not buying the newest game system, planning a trip to Disney World, and paying for brand new fencing equipment for my beginner fencer.

By today’s standards, maybe it makes me selfish to say it, but building a happy marriage and strong financial future will come before my children. If we took a family vacation one year and only have the means for one big trip the next year, the kids can have a fun-filled week with grandma and grandpa, while mom and dad remember why they got married. Given the choice between a good night’s sleep and my child having the most convincing costume for Dress as Your Hero day, I choose sleep. I also choose $80 worth of groceries over $80 worth of costume supplies.

It’s wonderful that our society cares so much about children, but we’re all so fucking miserable, because we’ve been told we’re supposed to stop caring about ourselves. I’ll tell you from experience though, that having mentally and financially stable parents who loved each other would’ve trumped the MacBook every day of the week.

Citations

http://www.costofwedding.com/

THE GREATEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE HAS OCCURRED!

It’s true. I have peaked. This news shall not be surpassed by my wedding day, the births of my children, or the announcement that Hollywood has remade Titanic and Rose chooses Cal over Jack…*

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*probably not true

…  because this week, I finally got the call. I HAVE BEEN PROMOTED TO FULL TIME SUPERVISORY LIBRARIAN! 

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When I was 21 years old, a year and half out from graduating with my bachelor’s in family and consumer science education (home-ec), I announced to the world that I wasn’t going to teach. I was going to immediately enter the graduate program to receive my master’s degree in library and information studies. The general consensus was a resounding scoff.

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“A librarian? Do they even have librarians anymore? Isn’t that mostly a dying field?” – everyone ever

Before I met Jake, every date I ever had was with a man who either openly mocked my profession or downplayed it as a secretarial hobby job. After I finished my master’s degree, the exact same people who rant about entitled millennials expecting to start at the top, berated me for working only half time after spending so many years in school. As much as I love my daddy lunches, I began to dread the moment he’d ask if I had heard about any more job openings. Four months into my relationship with Jake, I hesitantly asked him…

Me: “Does it bother you that I’m only half time?”
Jake: “What? No. Not at all. If that’s all you were doing and you couldn’t pay your bills, I wouldn’t be here, but you work.”

Work I did. Some weeks, I worked 65 hours only to go home and do 20 cumulative hours of graduate school work. In the beginning, I was substitute teaching and working at the community center for minimum wage. Those 65 hours wouldn’t even pay my bills. Later, I saw a wage increase when I got my first library job, working circulation, but even that was only  $11.50 an hour. Finally, after graduation, I was promoted to half time librarian, where I am today. I was overjoyed that I could finally afford my bills without financial aid assistance, but only just. Between substitute teaching and working as a very well-paid (hourly) librarian, I was still only pulling in $30,000 a year, with no benefits save for the year and a half I qualified for my dad’s health insurance. I had to pay student loan debt and buy a new car, after discovering that that wasn’t condensation leaking from the engine. All the while, I hoped and prayed for my health, because even a single hospital stay could financially ruin me.

Over the last 10 years, my entire adult life, the closest I have ever come to a sense of financial security were the months I subbed every day I could, averaging out to that 65 hours per week. Not only was I too exhausted to enjoy it, but it still didn’t mean anything, because I had to save that money to get me through the summers without substitute teaching. Sure, I could’ve gotten another job, but not one that paid me any more and allowed me my nights and weekends at the library. If I worked full time, I wouldn’t be able to take off for interviews, if and when I got them. I couldn’t work a weekday that a coworker was out, go to staff development or state conference, or do any of the things that would make me a competitive candidate for a full time librarian position. Substitute teaching may have only averaged $10 per hour, but it allowed me to work the hours I chose. So, I worked every day I was able, lamenting any time off I took because there weren’t open sub jobs or school was closed for snow or a power outage. I looked forward to the days I only worked one job or the other, because I might have as many as ten waking hours free.

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Just five weeks ago, I was devastated to learn that I’d been passed up for a position, after an interview I felt went really well. I cried inconsolably into frozen pizza and even refused to answer the phone, when Jake called me. For two days, I could barely speak a sentence without bursting into tears. I had to, of course, because I worked both jobs to afford the aforementioned frozen pizza. I was exhausted and considering looking for office jobs or teaching positions just to have benefits and a comfortable wage. I convinced myself to wait it out, though. My system recently announced several internal openings. If I couldn’t get one of those, fine, my career with the system was over. I wasn’t being dramatic, either. If I was qualified, experienced, and interested, but still couldn’t wow anyone in regards to an internal postion, for which I had little competition, there wasn’t a lot of hope for any forward momentum.

I got the email three weeks ago, that I would sit down at my library for a short interview. After only two days of preparation, the meeting on which my career was riding took all of ten minutes. For a moment, I genuinely started to hyperventilate, which is not considered a desirable leadership trait. Ultimately, I thought it went alright, but how much can you really tell from ten minutes?

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This time, I told no one about the interview, in part because every one of my coworkers knew I’d go for the job and it took place at my own library. If I didn’t get it, they would all know, eventually, that I’d been turned down. I hoped I’d hear back before the holiday, so I could enjoy my Thanksgiving (or skip it and eat pie in tears), but had no such luck. For nearly two weeks, I literally waited by the phone. I vacillated between two extremes: either my career was over or just beginning. I went into deep bouts of depression and got very little sleep, all in silence, because I couldn’t bear to break the news to my family and friends that I’d failed. Then, on Monday, I couldn’t find a sub job. I knew I’d hear back that day and quite literally stared at my phone all morning. I tried to do things that would distract me like starting a Harry Potter marathon. During The Sorcerer’s Stone, I received the e-mail that a different position I’d applied for would no longer be filled. I was still looking at the phone, because if HR was sending e-mails, then I’d be getting something soon. The screen lit up…

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… and my adult life started. I finally feel like a grownup. I start my new supervisory librarian position the first week in January. I get excellent retirement benefits and health care. The wait is over. I did the college thing. I worked my way up. I have financial security. Come Christmas break, I’ll no longer substitute teach. I can buy Christmas presents and get my car repaired and start paying off some of my debt. I can get new glasses and see a dentist. I can move and finally get a cat! I can afford to turn on the heat!!!!!!

I’m not only going to be okay, I am going to be wonderful, doing the job I love, the job I’ve dreamed of for years and taking care of myself. It all worked out and it was worth every second of struggle. Five years ago, I was a broke, terrified, 23-year-old graduate student, just days from filing for divorce. Today, almost all of my dreams have come true.