Monday, April 13, 2015

Adapting to the New World

The other day, I decided to watch a documentary about The Great Depression in the United States. It is an hour long, so you may not even want to watch it yourself, but I'll still post it here just in case.

They focus a lot on Ford, because it turns out that you can see the steps in the process of exactly how and why there was an economic decline. The thing that made me so angry, though, was seeing just how much the events paralleled my parent's generation, and how history really does repeat itself.

I know that I will be over-simplifying the causes of The Great Depression, and the causes of our current Depression. However, the parallels are undeniable. Let me start off with what they talk about in this documentary with the Ford workers.

1.) Thousands of people immigrate to the United States and find jobs that pay more than they had ever imagined being paid. Lower class people who were already US citizens working labor jobs also sign up for work. Ford paid $5 per day. According to the Inflation Calculator, $5.00 per day in 1920 was like making $58.43. That is actually spot-on with today's national average minimum wage of someone working full-time. The cost of living was also much lower. Back then, people could thrive on $5 per day. One woman says, "I felt rich. I had never had so much money in my life". You see a black and white photograph of her standing in furs, leaning against her new car.

2) These people establish credit. They buy cars and houses on this credit, due to their new-found sense of security in this new job that pays them well. They settle down and start families.

3) Lots of people try to get a job with Ford, because they hear it's good stuff, and it becomes a status symbol.

4) Ford decides to lower wages and lay people off, because they realize they can afford to. They begin only paying their workers $4.25, which is what other car companies paid.

5) After a few years, people just aren't buying as many cars. The people who could afford cars had already bought them, and they obviously did not need a new one every year. It did not make sense for Ford to produce so many cars, so they began laying people off. One of the workers who was laid off sympathized with Ford's situation, "What was Ford going to pay us to do? Take cars apart and put them back together again? If nobody's buying cars, there was nothing we could do about it."

6) There were more people laid off than there were available jobs in Detroit. People start losing their homes, because they can no longer afford their mortgages. People become homeless, because they are so far away from their home country or city. Children are starving. People are desperate.

.....Do you see the parallel?
In the 1990's, the economy was booming. People were buying things on credit left and right. It was the era of the McMansion. New companies with new jobs sprouted out of nowhere. Dot Com companies, useless junk you don't need...Fight Club talks all about it. It was a generation of people who were obsessed with stuff. People lived as if their income was infinite, and no one seemed prepared for the massive amounts of lay-offs.

When I turned 18, I went to Target to establish my first credit card right away, and my credit score was 0. I was only working part-time at minimum wage, but they were happy to give the card to me.
Today, in 2015, my brother Phil just turned 18, and there is no way in hell Target would give him a credit card. My other brother, John, is 22 now, and when he was 18, he actually had to pay Capital One $50 in order to open his first credit card.
I have actually had people say to me, "Wow, you must have great credit," when they see my Target card. Nope...Not really. I just got in before the new banking laws were put into place in...when was it? 2009? I can't remember and I'm too lazy to look it up.

When you look back in history, it is easy to say: "Of course the US automobile industry could not sustain itself at that pace forever." But the majority of the jobs that exist today are in industries that are equally as fragile. Retail stores are closing and merging left and right. Banks are merging and being acquired. Hubs of employment and commerce in communities across America are gone now. There is no guarantee that anything is going to go on forever anymore.

When you get a mortgage, you are promising a bank that you will be able to have the same income every month for the next 30 years or longer. Even if I were to miraculously get a full-time job that paid well tomorrow, or if my business were to suddenly skyrocket, I can't say that I would choose to get a mortgage. I just don't want that life. I see it as a huge ball and chain. I feel like there are too many things that could potentially go wrong in the next 30 years of my life. If I were to buy a house, it would be a cheap fixer-upper that I paid for in cash. However, it will take me years of saving to even get me to that point.

So, my definition of "adapting to the new world" and learning from my ancestors in the Great Depression would be to not buy anything unless I can actually afford it. Once my student loans and credit cards are paid off, I don't want to get myself into any more debt. However, if I stick by that, there are a lot of American Dream type things I won't have. Unfortunately, our culture's rights of passage are tied to credit. I am really, really stubborn in not being forced into the cycle of debt. However, what will become of me? And what will become of my generation?

All around me, I feel as though people are either in denial, or they are terrified of speaking out and admit that they will not be able to live like their parents, either. It's just some food for thought.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Daily Adventures: Life, Life, Life

My brother's inner child wanted a Dinosaur Cake for his 27th Birthday.
I said I was going to do all sorts of "Daily Adventures" this blog, but really, I just end up posting random shit. Today, I felt like giving a general life update, and talk about how I've been feeling lately.

1. About a month ago, I started working at my old job again at the college, after being gone and living on only my business income for a year. The idea came up around Christmas time, when I went to visit my co-workers to give them cards and little treats. They asked if I wanted to come back to work with them. At the time, I flat-out said "no", because I do not want to go back to what I was doing before, which was being an aid and note taker for kids with special needs during their college courses. (Basically the movie Groundhog's Day. I was forced to repeat Freshman year forever.) It turns out that they are interested in trying to start up a night shift for the department, and they knew they could trust me to do the admin stuff and test proctoring, so I am in a sort of experimental phase a couple nights a week. We don't know if the college will allow it to stick, but I'm thankfully in a situation where I'll be alright with money if it falls through. It's the perfect part-time job. It does not interfere with my business at all, because most of my operations happen during the day

2. I decided to do an American Sign Language course to help one of our students. It feels really good to have the power to turn down working the classes I don't want (like Freshman math and English) and only say "yes" to the topics I'm actually interested in learning! I was really hyped about ASL at first, but since I came in mid-semester, I don't really understand a whole lot, but I still pick up on random vocabulary.

3. I was offered a wholesale collaboration with a local business owner that could have been really profitable....But the guy who offered to do the deal asked me out to dinner about two weeks into the project. On one hand, I couldn't help but feel a little flattered, because the moment I stepped out of my little hermit cave of social hiatus I took during all of 2014, someone is asking me out. On the other hand, it SUCKS. A LOT. I'm not interested  in this guy. We have zero chemistry, and he's way too old for me. I was very polite when I turned him down, and I am finding a way to slowly back out of this deal, but on the inside, I am screaming, REALLY DUDE!? It's too awkward and uncomfortable for me to continue the deal. So we both lose out on life-changing money. Unless he can find another e-commerce person in this area that has my track record, he took a $40k risk in order to see if he has a shot at asking me out. I feel like it's not even flattering at that point. It's just stupid. I did not give him any reason to think I would be interested. I was 100% all about the business and the numbers, and I never flirted with him. So it was literally like putting all his chips on one number on the roulette table and asking to spin.

4. I started going back to the gym. I really, truly feel so much more content with life when I add in green juice and exercise. I'm such an academic, nerdy couch potato, and yet I truly get addicted to having a healthy lifestyle once I get off my ass and begin doing it. The last time I had a gym membership, it was at an expensive health club. There were a lot of catty women who were clearly judging one another. I loved that gym, because it was so gorgeous, but I never loved the people who went there. Now that I am working at the college again, I get to use their gym for free. I am surrounded by the athletes who are putting in the weight lifting and cardio hours their coaches require of them. No one is judging one another. It's small, there definitely isn't a jacuzzi or sauna, but it's like the room has this vibe of mutual respect, because all of us are there to get fit. I love it.

5. It has finally been getting at least a little bit warmer lately, so that lifts my spirits. I thrive in warm weather. Gas prices are also going down, which is amazing. My plan is- now that I have multiple incomes, maybe I can finally afford to take more day trips. That is really the #1 reason why I chose the life of an e-commerce entrepreneur, and eventually (hopefully) a writer. I want the freedom to go wherever I want, whenever I want, and I may not even work during the summer, since most of our students don't even do summer classes. It just has me generally feeling hopeful and happy about the near future.






Friday, March 20, 2015

Plea from a Desperately Teddy-less Girl

In the past year or more, you could say that I have been a contender for the worst friend ever, and that goes for a lot of people. I suck. I know. I’m sorry.

I have an old friend who I care about very, very much. He is traveling, trying to fight for a cause that makes me proud to have ever known him. 
He had a rare trip home, and invited me to lunch in December, but I missed the message, because it was on my old work e-mail.
The last time we spoke, we had a fight, and stopped talking.
Since we last spoke, I got rid of my cellphone, and I got rid of a lot of ways he used to talk to me. The last time we spoke, I still had that job. He probably sent me the message on my work e-mail as a last ditch effort to contact me.

He probably assumed that I read it and ignored it, because normal people check their e-mail every day. He probably felt hurt by me ignoring him, and wanted to cut things off, and now that I have finally seen the message 3 months later, I can’t even e-mail him back. I really doubt if he will ever try again.

I’m going to regret this the rest of my life.
I’ve been thinking about what to do for the past two weeks. I am completely powerless.

I even tried Facebook messaging his mom, since he took law school really seriously and does not use social media. But through this, I found out that if you are not friends with someone, your messages go in an “untitled” spam folder. (Go check our your inbox, you probably have hidden messages on there too. I actually had a few myself.) So his mom, or any of this friends I may try to contact, won’t see my messages, either.

I have done everything I can do, except this.  I know that he would not try again, unless I gave him a reason to. If you’re reading this, Teddy, just try again. Please. I promise I’ll be there this time. The next time you're in town, even if it's years from now and we are old and gray, let’s go to JG Melons and have a burger and you can tell me all about your adventures. That’s all I could ever ask for.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Re-Occuring Nightmares

I got my Associate's Degree in Psychology, because I was always really interested in what makes people tick. Learning so much during those two years helped me get at least a broader understanding about people, the way we think, etc. There are some nightmares that everyone apparrently has (Ever dream about your teeth falling out? Well, that means you're worried about getting older!)

My dreams are almost always very vivid, and unfortunately, they are sometimes really mundane and realistic...So much so, that there have been times where I confuse my dreams with reality (For example, it has happened more than once: "Wait, isn't she mad at me? We just had a fight yesterday...Wait, no we didn't! I just dreamed that! Thank God!)

There are some dreams and nightmares, however, that are unique to us. I think our nightmares say a lot about who we are as people, especially when they are re-occurring.

My first reoccurring nightmare that I used to get all the time was that I miss the school bus. It does not matter that I have my Bachelor's Degree. It does not matter that I have been driving my own cars for the past 8 years. It does not matter that I even had to drive two hours each way to get to my university. I still have the nightmare, and I look out my window to see the bus leaving without me, and I feel this surge of anxiety and panic, as if this is the worst possible thing. I feel so stupid and irresponsible. Apparently, it means that I am experiencing a major setback on one of my goals, feeling lost, unsure of what to do, etc. Yeah. I can see that. I have not had this dream in a while, so I guess that's a good sign.

My second reoccurring nightmare also has to do with school. In the dream, I am contacted by my high school, informing me that I actually failed math, and that they are revoking my High School Diploma unless I go back and re-take Calculus. (In reality, I got a C in Calculus, which is practically like failing by my standards.) I remember sitting down with my principal, asking him if there was any way to avoid the problem. I explain that I have a Bachelor's Degree, I show him my transcripts with my college-level math, I try to remind him that everyone was only required to pass Algebra 2, and I was actually in the advanced math track. No matter what I do, the Principal always says no, I MUST come back and finish this math course, or my whole academic transcript is worthless. Obviously, this is not how real life works, but in the Dream World, it does. That first part of the dream is always the same.

In the first version of the math class dream, I sit in with teenage kids, feeling very old. I am embaressed, and I can feel everyone judging me. This version of the dream happened many times, and it was always a huge relief to wake up and realize it was not real.
In another version, I ignore the Principal's demands, thinking, "I know this is bullshit. I passed math. This is not real," and decide to walk around the school and hang out with my favorite teachers. (This may have been a lucid dream.)
In one of the final versions, I walk out of the Principal's office to find all of my old High School friends gathered in the hall. It turns out we all had classes we needed to re-take. Instead of mixing us with younger kids, we are all in the same classroom at night, We all have these busy lives outside of what we are being forced to do, but we find a way to have fun.

It is actually what's called a "serial dream", which is a dream that is the same story line, but it evolves and changes as your mind works through the issue. It's like several episodes in a serial drama. The longer it takes for your mind to work around the issue, the more seasons will air on your brainwaves.

There is nothing online that could really interpret my dream for me, but if I were to guess, I think it has a lot to do with me feeling disappointed in where I am in my life.
I grew up being told by everyone around me that if I went to college, I would find a good job, and make a lot of money. Since I always got good grades, and people always commented on how mature I was for my age, I was told by people over, and over, and over again that they thought I was going to be very successful.
Maybe, if I was born 10 years earlier, that would have been true. No one knew that our economy would go to shit the way it did. However, it didn't stop me from blaming myself and taking it as a personal failure that I am not making as much money at 25 as I thought I would be my entire life. I also used to think I would go on to get my PhD or JD, which is not currently happening, either.

Everything I thought I knew about myself has been turned upside-down in the past two years. I spent a long time beating myself up over my failures. The few friends from high school I stayed close with ended up with their dream careers despite the economic issues, so I used that to justify how much of a failure I must be.
I think the serial dream only began to transform when I realized more and more that I am truly not the only person who is not exactly where I expected to be at 25. Even my friends who got their dream careers are not as happy with it as they thought they would be. 

I am slowly beginning to love my life, so much so that I no longer feel very bad when someone questions my choices. Right now, what matters most to me is my freedom. I want to be able to spend my time in whatever way I want. I never want to tie my identity to a career so closely that if I get laid off or fired, I do not know who I am anymore.
I have worked for myself long enough now that I am truly ruined. I can never be anything except an entrepreneur ever again. I recently started working for my old job at night again, but it is because I want to. It is because I enjoy spending time with these people, and it gets me out of the house. If a better opportunity comes along, I will not think twice about leaving, but for now, it makes me happy. The money does not even matter at this point, because I am doing what I want to do. I am not being forced into anything due to the fact that I have to take what I can get, which is more than a lot of people can say in this economy.

So, the serial dream has gone away. I'm sure I will miss the bus again once or twice. Failure is inevitable. What matters more is what we do with that failure. We can't let it ruin us. We have to take it, learn from it, and move forward with the new knowledge about ourselves. Remember that you can turn your life around at any moment. Any age. No matter how big of a mistake you make, you can always redeem yourself.
 If you are experiencing a reoccurring nightmare, asking yourself "why", and see what you can do to bring that serial to the finale.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Baker

Yesterday, I was making one of my trips to a business park only 5 minutes outside Philadelphia. The park holds the United States Postal Service main distribution center, which is a campus of buildings running everything the smaller offices need to get letters and packages to the rest of the world. This campus is right down the street from one of my inventory warehouses. I was taking a break from sorting through the items I would bring home with me by mailing off the things that had already sold.

The air always smells like funnel cake, which I am told is thanks to a local bar that decided it was a good idea to add it to the menu. On sunny days, the smell only intensifies, and it's a strange thing to see long stretches of concrete roads and walls accented by the sweet scent I usually associate with roller coasters and arcades. I often forget where the smell comes from, and I look off into the direction of where the Tastykake bakery used to be. My mom used to take us there when we were kids, bringing home cheap bread and snacks that were about to expire. It's really no wonder why I was always such a fat kid.

"Are you a Baker?" someone asked me as I was walking down the Post Office steps.
I turned, and saw an elderly man holding on to a mail cart. He looked far too old to still be working. He should be home, watching television, soaking up his great government pension and social security instead of working in the massive blizzard we got last week.
My first thought was, Tastykakes.
"No, I'm not a baker," I said.
"Sarah Baker," he said. This time, I looked at him straight in the face. His eyes were lit up with such joy, like he was seeing an old friend for the first time in years. "Are you related to her? You look just like her...She was my High School Sweetheart. Are you sure you're not related?"
"No, sorry, I'm a Quinn," I told him.
"A Quinn, huh..." he said, returning to his cart. I wondered if he had any association with the Quinns. After all, only a few miles from where we stood, this man lived in the generation where my grandfather, with the rest of the Irish boys created empires, raising 6 kids each who would grow to be business owners and princesses, while their grandchildren were reduced to student loan-enslaved, un or under-employed kids who have no idea what's going on with the world. Being a Quinn is not as exciting as being a Baker. Not when a Baker is connected to his first love.

When you really love somebody, you won't forget.  Not even when you're 75 years old, working a job to keep yourself busy. If he loved her so much, why didn't he marry Sarah Baker? And what must it feel like to see the ghost of the one person you loved most? Do I really look just like her, or does he miss her so much that he is still trying to hold on to the things he remembers? Maybe it was the long hair, or my nose, or something that triggered it. I guess lost true love dooms us to keep searching for ghosts.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Daily Adventures: Snow Day Pajama Day

Desk essentials: Daruma, Business cards, tape, pens/scissors, & candle
I woke up this morning to see that we had gotten around 4 inches of light, powdery snow. I kept my pajamas on entirely too long. When I had to leave the house every day, waking up to snow was such a pain in the ass. When you work from home, there is something about waking up to snow that triggers my childhood reaction of: "SNOW DAY!" When, in truth, there is no difference between today and any other day, but it still felt like an excuse to wear my pajamas until 2PM. And...why not? When you work from home, there is no dress code.

I am surprised that I feel motivated to even blog about such a normal day. For the longest time, I had no inspiration to write blog posts. I put a lot of pressure of myself to come up with something good and interesting, but I suppose since no one is reading this anyway, it's OK to write every day about absolutely nothing if I really want to.

My mom and I are both having issues with eBay for the past couple days. I went on the sellers Facebook group to see that we are not the only ones with problems, so it must be some kind of glitch. It is annoying, because it throws a wrench into my original plans today, which was to max out my inventory for my monthly allotment. That is the one huge downside with relying on any single sales outlet, which is why I am trying to expand.

The real solution to this problem is: Pivot. In the past, I think I would have used this eBay glitch as an excuse to not do any work all day. After all, it is snowing, and it's the kind of day where it feels cozy and delicious to just snuggle up with a good movie. It would be easy to justify being lazy, and think, "Well, it's not my fault. I can't help that eBay is glitching."

However, I just had to change my plans. Instead of working on eBay, I spent all day working exclusively on Etsy. I also did a photo shoot, more Photoshop work, and I will continue to make drafts and organize photos.

I think that kind of attitude can be applied to so many different things in life. We can either make excuses, or find solutions. Hopefully, 2015 will be filled with more and more solutions.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Daily Adventure Day One



It's the perfect size!
I dropped off my packages at the post office and went to pick up some new inventory. Unfortunately, I found more things that I plan on keeping for myself than anything I can make a profit on. On one hand, I am super happy to have a few new things that I wanted (pajamas, a new sketchbook, etc.), and maybe I needed retail therapy...but I still needed to get work done, so I decided to drive myself to my old workplace/campus.

To my shock and amazement, they remodeled a lot of the campus, including the library! The former study rooms were each given new carpet, tables, and chairs.

I was actually really happy about this, because just last night, I was trying to look into renting the meeting rooms of my local library. I have also been looking at prices for office space. Obviously, I can't keep anything in these meeting rooms, but there is nothing stopping me from taking advantage of the free space.

I truly did blast through my work. (Tiesto is amazing to listen to while I Photoshop.) I looked up from my computer feeling shocked that it was already 3:00PM. The one and only downside was that the Internet connection was lagging, and I could not do everything I had planned to do. I decided to head back to my inventory spot to give it another go.

My first mistake was driving during rush hour....In a Philadelphia suburb. I even took the back roads, hoping that it would somehow be less crowded. I got stuck behind one of those huge 18-wheeler trucks, and it was stop-and-go traffic, reaching top speeds of 4 MPH when I was going. I only had to drive about 2 or 3 miles from where I was, and it took over 30 minutes. It was ridiculous. I could not believe I used to deal with this all the time.

I remained calm, telling myself, "You made a mistake, but it's OK. Just never do this again."
I looked in my rear-view mirror to see a 40-something year old woman driving the car behind me. Her eyes looked glazed over. She looked exhausted, and yet she had zero emotion to the whole situation. She was used to it. She eventually turned down a side street where she most likely lived.

I never want that to be me, I thought.
Driving so slowly forced me to glance left and right, because there was nothing else to occupy my attention. I started noticing many run-down apartments and houses.
I would never want to pay to live there, I thought.

Maybe I am spoiled, because I grew up in a nice house, with a nice bedroom, with plenty of land. Even if I cannot get along with my family all the time, I love my house. So, imagining a life where I find a halfway decent apartment only to pay around $2,000 a month to for rent and utilities to downgrade my living situation does not make any sense. I used to really admire and feel jealous of young people who found apartments, even in the most ghetto of areas, and worked hard to keep them. I used to think, It may be ghetto, but at least they got out! Now, I am not so sure.

Moving out has less to do with the surroundings, and more to do with independence. I crave that just as much as anyone my age...however, would I really be independent if I am tied down to rent every month? It's trading spaces of answering to my parents to answering to my landlord.

Let's stick with the $2,000 per month idea. That ends up being $67 just to stay alive, staring at your four walls with food in your stomach and heat keeping you warm. That does not even cover furniture, clothes, transportation, or anything else that goes along with living a halfway decent life. That money gets burned every day that you wake up in the morning and keep that apartment. The concept is so foreign to me, even though I used to work as a leasing consultant, encouraging people to rent. I never had to pay a month-to-month lease when I lived at school, but I am still paying back my student loans for the time I spent living in the New York area.

The thought crossed my mind, as I was stuck there in traffic,
Instead of spending more than $67 a day just to live, why don't I to drive places and spend a night in a $40 motel? That way, I can travel as many places as I possible can.
A girl can dream, right? At the very least, I think I'll start going back to New York more often, but we'll see what happens.

By the time I got home, I was disappointed that I actually did a lot of frustrating driving without delivering great results. During my second visit to my inventory spot, I found a vintage painting that can easily pay for my whole day's driving and retail therapy all on its own, but I still accomplished less than many of my days working from home in my pajamas. I may need to reserve driving to the library for days when I simply cannot concentrate at home, rather than my default working arrangement.

Just because I do not notice a huge difference today doesn't mean it will never work out...However, if I discover that taking my work outside of the home is a huge flop, at least I will have learned this lesson for free, rather than after renting office space. However, if my sales dramatically increase after working in my makeshift office, I just may have to consider it.