The Story of my Life

I lived off of refund checks in college.

If you don’t know what that means, I hate you a little bit.

I (my mom) would apply for as much financial aid as possible every semester.  After that financial aid was applied to tuition and such, the excess was sent to me via check.

Some people bought TVs with their refund checks.  I would budget.  I would make it last through the entire semester until the next check came in.  It was the alternative to asking my parents for money or getting a job.

Awesome story, though:  My last semester of college I got way more back than I thought I would (Keep in mind I would eventually have to pay all of this back).

With that extra money, I bought my sweetheart a ring!

Even more awesome story:  Sweetheart’s daddy gave me the engagement ring that he gave Sweetheart’s mother. I ended up only using the diamond and buying a new setting. I paid a little over $2000 for a ring that’s worth about $7000.

It made me look so loaded.

We were engaged on October 1, 2011. I graduated in December of 2011. We set our wedding date for April 15, 2012. So I had 4 months to find a job.

Thus began the most miserable experience of my life for many reasons.

1.  GET A JOB

A job search in general is just awful.  I applied everywhere. I filled out so many online applications for bank tellers, school teachers, those armored truck drivers, cable companies, pizza delivery drivers… again, name it.

“Back in the day” you would want to have a face to face meeting with a hopeful employer. Too many people wouldn’t get off my back about that so I went to Home Depot, Ruby Tuesday, and Academy to ask the managers for a job.

Their responses?

“Apply online.”

You kidding me?

There’s very little worse than putting yourself out there in this manner. The only people who can hope to gain from these types of experiences are the chittery-chattery extroverts.

I’m not an extrovert. Nor are extroverts the only people qualified for these positions.  They’re just giddy…  (I have nothing against extroverts.  Really, I envy them)

I mean… I was terrified to talk to girls (still am).  How am I going to talk to a potential employer who I’ve never seen or heard of before?  What is there to say other than “I need a job”?

I’m also extremely tender-hearted. I do not handle rejection well, I’m not confident in most things, and I take everything personally.

So not to puff myself up, but I was very brave to visit just 3 places of business to personally ask for a job.  Many of you can relate, I’m sure.

Oh yea, and the “don’t take no for an answer” thing?

I can imagine that would result in arrest these days.

Anyhows, I did apply online and it didn’t help.  Both methods brought with them an equal amount of rejection.

However, I did get a job in the middle of March making $12/hr and begging for more than 20 hours a week at Sylvan Learning Center in Montgomery, Alabama.

You may think Oh.  That’s pretty good.  Not a bad first job.

But let me tell you something about my “not bad first job.”

The morning hours at Sylvan were for “homeschooling” children.  VERY few of these children were homeschooling because their parents wanted them to be.  Most of them were at Sylvan because every other school in the vicinity had kicked them out.

They didn’t listen.  They were extremely rude.  They had no respect for authority.  They couldn’t remember the slope-intercept formula….

They were the epitome of what old people complain about kids for these days.  They were entitled little brats who thought they ruled the world.

And… they smelled bad.

2.  PARENTS

I’m not saying living with your parents after college is miserable. But living with your parents after college is miserable.

Clarification, I lived with my mom and step dad.  They aren’t miserable. But living with them is.

(Calm down Mama)

Ya know, you grow up living with them, they do everything they can to raise you up properly and get you out of the house, only to have you come back and mooch for another 4 months.

I hated it.

I was back to being completely dependent on my mother.  And I was 4 months away from being the sole provider to a family of my own.

I had no money.  I had no job.  And I had no freedom.

You can’t walk around pant-less in your Mama’s house when you’re 24 and not get some sort of “talkin’ to.” (Yes, I was 24 when I graduated college.  What are you gonna do about it?)

The only thing I had to look forward to was waking up and applying for more jobs online.  Or driving to ask for a job in person.

So… I didn’t have anything to look forward to.

I rarely saw my future wife because I didn’t have the money to drive to Montgomery from Camp Hill.  (Camp Hill is a tiny dot on an Alabama map)

And what are we gonna do when I get to Montgomery?  Sit around and starve?  Because I don’t have money to go eat with.

Guess I’ll just spend the weekend with my mom and step dad……

3.  TEETH

Smokin’ Hot Wife has had serious teeth issues in the past.  And before you self-righteous, dentistry people say anything, it isn’t because she doesn’t take care of them.

She takes way better care of her teeth than I do mine, and I have had far less issues.

I have paid enough attention to Sherlock to know that her issues are genetic.

Ugh.  Whatever.

So before we got married (or maybe after… maybe both? I can’t remember when all of this took place), she needed a root canal.  And she needed it bad.  She may have needed more than one.  I really can’t remember.  I don’t like to.

She didn’t have insurance, and she didn’t have the money to get it done.

I didn’t have the money to get it done.

I remember one particular night, sitting in Camp Hill, talking to future Smokin’ Hot Wife on the phone, and she was in a tremendous amount of pain.

And I had nothing to offer.

I couldn’t do anything.  Completely and utterly helpless, I wanted to break down and cry.  I truly don’t remember ever feeling worse than that moment in my entire life.  Nothing to date has compared to that feeling.

She ended up getting work done by a student at UAB so it was cheaper than it would’ve been anywhere else, but the student caused her more pain than she needed to feel, and we still couldn’t afford the discounted price.

We had to ask Smokin’ Hot Wife’s brother for money.  He graciously gave.  But that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  And I never want to have to do it again.

And it wasn’t 20 bucks.  It was hundreds.  More than a thousand.

Maybe it’s society telling me what to do or maybe it’s a way of life engraved into my being, but I do not enjoy having to be provided for.

Absolute worst time of my life.

4.  THE WEDDING…

The wedding was awesome.  It was lots of fun.  One of the happiest days of my life.

The only part that sucked was that I contributed nothing.

I didn’t pay a dime.  I had no dimes.  I didn’t help monetarily at all.  Zero of my dollars went towards the wedding.  Zilch.

Smokin’ Hot Wife paid for a lot of the things she wanted on her own.  Her father graciously covered the rest.

As I write, I am thinking of other men who may have experienced similar circumstances because I can relate to you more, obviously.  I don’t mean to rule out women.  It’s just habit.  So please ignore if you must.

But as a man, as if I need to say it again, I can’t think of many things worse than not being able to provide for my family.  It’s a nightmare.  It is, in fact, my greatest fear.

And here I am beginning a family without the ability to care for one.

Misery.

5.  JAMAICA

We didn’t pay for Jamaica.  We had awesome people give us money so that we could go on a nice honeymoon.

Halfway to Atlanta, Smokin’ Hot Wife realizes she forgot her camera.  She’s upset.

At the airport, the guy behind the counter and I have a misunderstanding about payment.  I say some things I immediately regret.  He says some things he may or may not have regretted.

Smokin’ Hot Wife cries for the 2nd time on our first day of marriage.

Jamaica is fun.  I ruin my iPod in a waterfall.  Yes, I know I shouldn’t have my iPod in water.  But I wasn’t fully informed as to what type of activity this was.  I thought we were hiking up to some water.

No.  We hiked through water…

And the guy I handed my iPod to so that he could put it in his nifty little Ziploc bag DIDN’T EVEN ZIP HIS ZIPLOC BAG!

Why do you even have it here, man???  What was the point in bringing it?  Is this your new idea of a wallet?  I don’t get it.

And he was an elderly chap.  Knowledge and wisdom had, at his point in life, had ample opportunity to rest in his cerebral cortex.

And he didn’t zip up… a ZIP TO LOCK bag….

While all of this runs through my brain as we walk out of the cold water we just hiked through, I get swindled into buying two little, carved, wooden figurines from some guy who pretty much said Here.  I made this for you.  It’s free.  That’ll be $20.

Immediately after, I’m asked by the tour guides for a tip, which I gave without thinking about how they just ruined my day.

*Sigh*  How did this happen…

6.  FLEAS

We had a cat.  Her name was Alba.  Alba wasn’t very healthy.  Alba had a flea allergy.

We came home to her having scratched her neck raw.  Poor kitty cat.

We go into our bedroom to unpack, and as I’m standing by the bed, the strings that hang off the sheets were rubbing up against my legs and bothering me no matter how often I reached down and brushed them off.

Finally, after realizing that we don’t have any strings hanging off of our sheets, I look down to see my legs are covered with fleas. Minimum 20 fleas on me.  Minimum.

We had a flea bomb for some reason that we set off and went and rode around and sat in the car with the cat for however long you’re supposed to be out of the house for.

Came back home.  It was late.  I had to work the next morning with devil children.  Our first night home from our honeymoon, my wife slept on the couch, and I slept on the floor.

I desperately want people to comment with some sort of home remedy for fleas.  Because I highly doubt you have one that we didn’t try.  And before you ask, it was all hardwood.  No carpet.

They spread and multiplied and mated and produced offspring quicker than anything I’ve ever seen before.

We vacuumed twice a day, used basil leaves, bought bombs and flea spray, took the cat to the pound because we were too poor to take care of her flea allergy, etc.  We did everything short of burning down the building.

Finally, we called a professional service who could not uphold their  guarantee since we lived in an apartment type set up.  It was really a house, but it was set up for 4 different tenants to live in.

I told them to bring it on in.

They sprayed.  We paid them $80.  We didn’t eat out again that month.

Two weeks later, I called them back and said I need you to come back.  I’ll pay you 80 more dollars.

He said Nope.  We guarantee they will leave within a month or we’ll do it for free.

I did not remind him of the original non-guarantee they made.

The fleas finally left us alone.  And we enjoyed our apartment.

7.  THE JOB THAT NEVER ENDS

I was hoping for Sylvan to be a stepping stone, a very short stepping stone, into a teaching job that paid what I considered pretty decent.

I had no passion for teaching, mind you.  I just didn’t know what else I was gonna do.  Remember the math degree thing?  Yea…

I’ll make this extra long story rather short.  I wanted to get out of there and make money, but more so to get insurance so I wouldn’t have to worry about my wife getting sick or hurt.  I thought surely by the end of the semester I would get a teaching job somewhere.  Then, by the end of the summer someone would hire me.  Then, by the end of December someone would hire me.

Nope.

I did have a guy at the State Department of Transportation that had a job lined up for me.  He told me about it in September of 2012.  And that was great!  I was so excited.  But nothing ever came of it.  I kept waiting and waiting on a word from him.  He just told me to be patient.  It was coming.  It came… 9 months later… when I already had another job.

Also, my boss and her boss on different occasions creeped carefully around the idea that maybe I didn’t need to work there.

That’s just like Alabama.  No need to hurry.  We’ll get to it when we get to it.  (i.e. No Child Left Behind.. anyone?  anyone?)

Also, during this time I was studying for the first actuarial exam.  I wanted to be an actuary because I was qualified, and they make lots of money after they’ve aced all the tests.  But I had to do the first 2 on my own.

I studied hard and often.  I practiced much.

And I failed the test.

All of this spans the time frame from when I graduated college until about a year after we have been married.  I left a lot out.  But you get the gist.  Is it gist?  Or jist?  Gist.  Jist has a red squiggly under it.

Let’s go through them again.

1. GET A JOB

As you can tell, I know that it isn’t fun.  It’s heavy, it’s mean, it’s embarrassing, it’s a nightmare to us introverts.

But if I, a naive, tender-hearted, horrible with meeting new people introvert, can put myself out there a hundred times and eventually find a job that way, anyone can.

Unfortunately, I have no fool-proof process other than just do whatever you have to do.

Clean the toilets like they’ve never been cleaned before, bag the groceries like they’ve never been bagged before, serve food, rake leaves.  Parts stores, retail stores, fast-food restaurants.

Teach the children who have been rejected from every school because they’re punks.  Maybe even love them sometimes.

Get a job doing something.  Get paid very little.  Take your lunch.  Be the very best worker at wherever you’re working.  Go home.  Apply for more jobs.

“I never quit a job until I had another job.”  –  Ashton Kutcher

2.  PARENTS

Looking back, I should have been more appreciative about this “issue.”  I didn’t have to worry about anything because sweet ol’ Mama was taking care of me.

That’s 4 months where I didn’t have to pay for anything.  She fed me.  That’s awesome!

I should not have complained.

Go live with Mama and Daddy.  Don’t spend unnecessary money.  They don’t mind.  They love you.

Pull your weight.  Don’t be a bum.  Help out any way you can around the house.  When the time is right, you’ll get out of there and maybe even repay them.

3.  TEETH

I pray that no one ever again has teeth issues in any way.

When my beloved was in pain, I was in pain.  I needed to do whatever it took to ensure that she was without pain.  And it took a brother to help.

It’s hard asking for help.  But we must learn how to receive.  And we all need people who are willing to give to us in a time of despair.

I’m very serious about this:  most of my ability to get by in college and my early post-college life was because I was able to receive.  Now, I didn’t have much of a choice, but I had to take help where I needed it.  And being stubborn does no one any good.

When you do not accept a gift, you are stealing a blessing from the giver.  Don’t be no thief.

“Please swallow your pride if I have things you need to borrow,

For it won’t be long til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.”

4.  THE WEDDING

It is my hope that all would marry.

I’ve only recently begun watching The Office.  And it is great.

I’m just passed the part where Michael and Jan are living together and Jan has racked up an enormous amount of debt for Michael.  It’s very interesting because the ever cheerful, carefree Michael Scott is all of a sudden upset and clearly worried about his financial situation, even if it’s only for 1 episode.

His reaction was to jump a train and leave town, which is hilarious.  But Jan’s response is actually wonderful.

She basically says we will get through this together.

My wife never made me feel inferior for not having a job or not throwing in any money for the wedding.  When I had student loans to pay off, she never said do that with your own money.

As mentioned in another post, we were extremely fortunate for her not to have any debt.  But she took on my debt, and she never made a fuss about it.  I mean, she knew it was not ideal.  But she knew it was her burden along with mine.  And burdens are much lighter when carried together.

I’ve been married for 4 years so I’m an expert….

Every moderate to critical financial decision should be made together.  If you are in serious debt, every decision is critical.

If you are already married and the two of you decide to spend more money than you have, the solution would be for both of you to produce or repay that money.  Also, if you marry into debt, lacking a better way to put it, you are now in debt.  Because you are NEVER your own person when you are married.  Everything is shared.  And that’s exciting.

My wife and I wanted to take the Bible literally; “…a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

We wanted to become a completely independent person.  One person.

There was a little overlap.  Her father continued her car payment until it was paid off (about 6 months).  My father continued paying my car insurance for a little while (about a year?  I can’t remember).  We’re very thankful for both.

Other than that, we wanted to do it ourselves.  And there’s no possible way either of us could have done what we did together on our own.  And I do mean financially.  There is no need for separate bank accounts.  There is no need to split bills.  There is no need to have your own money.  Impulse buying is bad.  Shopping addictions are bad.  Hoarding a secret stash from your spouse is bad.

These things tear apart what was intended to be sown together.

I’m very fortunate to have married a woman who thinks $15 for a nice, dine-out meal is expensive.  It’s adorable.  She is as frugal and patient as they come (too patient really, I do not enjoy looking in every store for the best deal).

I realize that it isn’t always the woman, but the man who may be the issue.  Neither circumstance wins.

If you find yourself (or yourselves) in a situation such as these I actually urge you to seek marriage counseling.  As a matter of fact, I feel so strongly about this, that if you email me directly with your hometown information, I will personally research the best possible marriage counseling options in your area.

It will be a Christian.  Go ahead and expect it.  They’ll pray and stuff.

5.  JAMAICA

That was just a free story.  Nothing else to talk about, but I do advise that everyone leave the country and enjoy an all-inclusive resort before you die.

6.  FLEAS

I hope you don’t get fleas.  I hope nothing bad ever happens to you.  But chances are bad things will happen.

And there is always something.  Always.

And many times these somethings will take precedence over the trip to Disney you wanted to take next Summer.  In our case, it’s a trip to Europe that keeps being postponed.

We returned from our first vacation to a flea infestation.  We returned from another vacation to find 2 separate traffic violations in the mail (they make them $60 and don’t deduct points from your record just so you won’t fight it, regardless of how bad you want to) and a letter from the IRS stating we messed up on our tax return and we actually owed money instead of receiving a refund.  We returned from another vacation to find our cat had completely destroyed our leather couch by….. turning it into his litter box.

We bought a house, and now we must maintain it constantly.  Phoenix digs holes all the time, the new sink is leaking, the dish washer broke shortly after moving in, the light in the closet won’t turn on all of a sudden (it isn’t the bulbs, punks, already tried that).

There is always something.  And there will likely always be something.  We have to prioritize and pay money at times when and where we really don’t want to.

You may have to grab those shoes at the dollar store instead of the mall.  Or you may have to eat at a fast food joint instead of a steak house.  Or you may have to eat the off-brand “shredded wheat” instead of the actual good stuff.

There’s no shame in any of this.  I hate that society screams otherwise.

7.  THE JOB THAT NEVER ENDS

Oh, but it does.

Would you like to know the greatest secret to finding a better job?

Have friends.

Seriously.  You have no idea how far that can go.  Yes, it helps greatly to have acquaintances and to know important people.  But having friends that truly care about your well-being will, in my opinion, be an even greater benefit.

I have a friend who is pretty cool, but he has a long way to go before he is as cool as his dad.  His dad was doing everything he could and more to help me find a job in our most desperate hour.  It didn’t work out, but it wasn’t due to his lack of trying, and it would have worked if not for a different calling on my life.  You can bet on that.

I was actually pulled out of Sylvan by another friend.  He pulled me into his job that (1) I didn’t know anything about and (2) I wasn’t qualified to do.

I thought I would be teaching and coaching because I didn’t know what else I could do, but I am still employed with this company, and it has been the source to more blessing in our home than I ever thought possible.

And now, because of where I am in this job, I have some time to focus my thoughts and ideas on other things that I am passionate about.  There is room for creativity that may make way for an even brighter future.  Who knows?  Even this blog is due to a friend’s idea.  I didn’t even think of it!

But it certainly didn’t come over night.  I was at Sylvan for more than  a year when I thought I might be there for 2 months.  I was studying to begin a career as an Actuary.  I had a job lined up with the state that I didn’t get a call for until after I had another job.

You may be stuck for a while.  There may be false glimpses of hope that pop up along the way that only leave you more frustrated and disappointed than before.  The only thing I can tell you is persevere.  And believe that it isn’t forever.

Nothing is forever except eternity, and we’ve already discussed that.

5 thoughts on “The Story of my Life”

  1. Kyle, God has given you such an amazing gift. What you have written here is glimpses of real life and real challenges we all face. I have had, and continue to have, similar challenges all the time. I was just telling Katie tonight about how I was complaining to God today about a recent one dealing with cars. I’ll tell you about it at Thanksgiving. Appreciate you sharing your life here.

  2. “You may be stuck for a while. There may be false glimpses of hope that pop up along the way that only leave you more frustrated and disappointed than before. The only thing I can tell you is persevere. And believe that it isn’t forever.”

    AWESOME post. Mimics our life in a few ways. We both grew up with LOTS of dysfunction/poverty in our homes and it messed us up for a long time. 30 years after adulthood, we finally understand God’s tremendous love for us and are healed spiritually, emotionally and physically. And the financial healing (years and years of spending trying to feel better/fit in/be accepted) has begun and is taking off well. Persevere. That’s the key. Oh, and Jesus. Him first. 🙂

    P.S. We had a BAD infestation of fleas at our old house. The vet sold us this stuff called “Knockout” that did the job. That, and washing every living thing in our house in piping hot water. But it worked.

    Great posts. Keep up the good work.

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