Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

State of My Union

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Total Black: $83.69
Total Red: $229,225.06

I couldn’t help but co-opt the title for today’s entry from the main feature in the American press: President Obama’s first State of the Union address.  This morning as I was in the dentist’s chair, MSNBC turned on in the background, I couldn’t help but notice an odd similarity of mine to President Obama.  Not that I’m in any way comparable to a man of his caliber and accomplishments, but in a small way, I noticed that we share one similarity: seems that nothing either of us do can appease any of our critics.  He’s taken the fall for the bank bailouts, whether a wise move or not, when it was actually President Bush and Congress who approved it.  His efforts on health care were sabotaged, and even though everyone in the country wanted something done to improve the current system, no one will give him credit for getting something done.  Likewise the economy hasn’t recovered as quickly or as fully as we all would have liked; ask anyone and it is single-handedly all his fault.  Every bemoans the Stimulus Plan as having had no effect.  I can personally say that without it, I wouldn’t have been in that dentist’s chair this morning.  It also got me an additional $25 a week in unemployment benefits back when I was still on the dole.  Sadly, that little bit extra did make a difference.  I could go on with additional examples, but the few I’ve cited suffice.  I suppose unless you’ve achieved something just short of herculean or heroic, people will only go on about your short-comings or missteps.  So, how is the state of my union? Emotionally I’ve been a bit more stressed than usual.  We’re about two weeks into this contract attorney position and we were initially told two to four, so that all-too-familiar unease is returning.  Temp attorneys know it too well.  Exercising is definitely helping to keep that stress at bay.  In fact, I’ve never craved it as I do now.  I used to avoid the treadmill like a fat lady avoids regular Coke.  Now I’m up to thirty-minutes and climbing steadily. 

Socially, not much happening.  Still no friends in New York though I hold out hope for the theatre gig to produce some.  And I’ve not kept the resolution that I set in Resolutions For the New Year.  No, I take that back.  I do recall now going out one evening about a week or two ago.  I met this Puerto Rican guy from the Bronx, married with two children, who, I eventually came to understand, was looking to hook up with a guy and a girl.  I was in a gay bar.  That he was looking to cheat on his wife was enough for me; didn’t matter what the gender of the cheatee would have been.  I don’t enable that sort of behavior.  I ditched him, but not after at least forty minutes talking with him trying to figure out what he was going on about.  English wasn’t his first language.  Initially thought he was asking me where he could find a transgendered person.  Like a female with male parts.  Anyway . . .   Some digression, eh?  Otherwise, though, I suppose socially and emotionally my union is all right.  Coming off the medical experiment drugs left my mood a bit unpredictable, but that’s subsided.

How’s my financial union?  Well, I guess that’s visible each day.  As we can see from the numbers above, total black hasn’t changed in the past few days.  But that will change tomorrow when paychecks come through.  Total red came down, but is back up a bit for three reasons: 1) I’m on the board of directors of a non-profit organization and my membership had expired; my term on the board is also up for renewal, and I’d like to serve for another two years, so I had to renew my membership; 2) our mid-year meeting is coming up soon and I had to pay to travel to that meeting; and 3) my cellphone service was suspended yesterday morning and I opted to pay the entire bill.  Thankfully, I had the space available on a credit card to cover all of those costs, but it also means that total red shot up.  And it will probably go higher because I don’t think everything’s fully posted yet.  Were they necessary expenses?  Cell phone bill yes.  Although I don’t want to re-engage in the “iPhone Debates” from prior posts, clearly I needed to have my phone turned back on.  Membership renewal?  Yes, because the position is career-building and enhances my resume and overall experience.  Plus I couldn’t serve another term without first being a member, so I had to renew my membership.  Travel to our meeting?  Not so much, but it only came out to about $300 or so for flight and two nights at a hotel.  The organization usually feeds us, or takes us out, so food shouldn’t cost much, if anything at all, and public transportation will take me to and from the airport.  If I’m up for re-election, and possibly a seat on the executive committee, being there in person means much more than would a voice on a conference call line.  At least it will qualify as a business expense that I can claim on next year’s taxes.

I’ve also decided that I am now a debt racer and am going to race down my debt like the Women in Red reported in the article by MP Dunleavey on MSN Money: “How To Pay Off $10 Million in Debt.”  For example, with some of this week and next week’s checks I will send back to my credit card the money I had to charge for those expenses above.  Rather than let them linger and accrue interest and higher finance charges as I would have in the past.  It’s a bit risky paying debt down quickly, but getting the money on to the debts and out of my hands is best.  At least until I gain a bit more self-control (more on that one below too).  The goal still remains the same: reduce what goes out and increase what comes in.  Working long hours and pulling in as much income as possible is helping.  For example, today’s entry is being surreptitiously written at the temp agency while on a break.  I got a late start today because of the dentist appointment referenced above and therefore got into the temp agency late.  I’m still working just before midnight, hoping to push through as long as possible.  Both Monday and Tuesday I clocked thirteen hours.  I’ll have to stay until 3am today to hit that mark today.  I probably would have the work here to keep me until 3am, but I’m not sure I’d have the stamina. 

But otherwise, how are things going?  Today, my slow progress got to me for the first time.  I received an email from one of the artists who had been involved in the Recession Art Sale.  At first I was excited to hear from her . . . until I thought about sharing my progress with her and realized that in the four months since we last spoke, my total debt only came down about $2,000.  (And now just went back up.)  That was a pretty demoralizing way to start my day and it colored my mood until about 5pm when I decided to hit the gym and the treadmill for that thirty minutes.  I’ve admitted in prior posts to not being all that wise with money, even since starting this project.  I’m human.  I slip up.  It happens.  It’s happened much less since The Rat Race and since the deluge of negative comments began.  As an example, today while walking back to the office from the gym, I stopped in a nearby deli to pick up a drink, which I would have had to charge to my credit card since I don’t have any cash, and which I told myself I “deserve” since pay is coming through tomorrow.  As I was about to grab a bottle of some soft drink, I stopped, recalled all the venom from commenters, and turned and walked out of the store and across the street to the temp agency where I grabbed myself a free cup of tea instead.  Another example: this afternoon I nearly vomited the lunch I hadn’t yet eaten when I opened the can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew I had bought a few days prior at a discount store and saw the dog-food look-alike lunch I was about to ingest.  But into the microwave it went and into my mouth as well.  It’s a meal.  And at $1.99 it is cheaper than anything else nearby.  My point?  I’m getting there.  Slowly but surely. 

One Response

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  1. You are “getting there.” Keep it up. Like Conan said: work hard and be kind, good things will happen.

    keep truckin'

    January 28, 2010 at 12:52


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