hustle

I didn’t talk about this terribly extensively last year, but I was essentially unemployed for half of the year.  My teaching assistantship ended in June, and I didn’t find a proper job after that until December, so I cobbled together my savings and tutoring income to make ends meet.  I’ve always lived a pretty skimpy lifestyle, maintaining this whole horse habit on a TA salary (it started around $1500/month after taxes).  But June-December epitomized “stretched thin” for me.

I put together an income by picking up a ton of tutoring clients, not turning down a single job that was offered to me (except that salaried one in Santa Cruz, but let’s ignore that), accepting some help from my parents and friends, and not spending money on absolutely anything that I didn’t need to.  If it wasn’t gas (to get to work), food for me or one of the animals, or rent (human or equine), it wasn’t being had.

I managed to make things work (I’m here, after all), but not without some heavy exercising of the credit card (that’s how those function though, right? use it or lose it?), an insane schedule, and — let’s face it — some serious help from my friends and family.  I regularly drove 100 miles a day, getting back and forth between all the students that wanted my attention. I lived essentially rent-free at a few peoples’ houses, put all my stuff in another friend’s barn, and nobody ever thought to kick me out or make my life difficult because things weren’t going according to plan.  I even had to let my barn owners know that I needed to pay board late a few times because paychecks were delayed for one reason or the other, and they didn’t blink.  Murray received the same excellent level of care he’d been getting all year long, and if his grain was down to one pound instead of two each day, I don’t think he noticed or cared.


considering that he spent those months almost entirely asleep…

I found out I’d be hired on for a 50% contract in early December, and this week my contract was increased to 100% while we take advantage of some grant money.  I’m earning what is considered a small salary for many, but is an absurdly lavish amount of money for me (2.1x my prior salary, but full time, if you want to know).  I have health insurance, my horse’s rent is paid, the credit card bills are almost gone, and I’ll be able to survive for a few months after the position ends while I look for a new job — even with a horse show or two in my life.  I keep up with a couple of my tutoring clients after hours and on weekends, even though it makes riding that much harder.  Every hour I struggle through with one of my students — which really is not that many, to be honest; they are mostly great kids — I think about the next bill that will get paid off, my new dressage saddle, an entry fee, or Ellie’s upcoming orthopedic surgery.  I don’t love not getting home until 8:30 to eat, but I also didn’t love not knowing if I’d have to move back in with my parentes in any given two week period.

And through all of this, I’ve been incredibly privileged. Nobody once questioned what I was doing with my life, why I didn’t just get a job or work harder, or threaten to throw me or my animals out because I wasn’t paying on time. At one point I lost my deodorant and smelled AWFUL despite upping my shower frequency, and still my friends tolerated me (as a result of this I now have sticks of deodorant squirreled away everywhere).  There are so many people who are unluckier than I am in similar circumstances.  I have parents to move back in with, who wouldn’t consider it a great burden to have me for a few extra weeks or months.

I am lucky.

I’m working three jobs right now, and I don’t regret it.  It’s not always easy, but I make it work, and I try to squeeze a private life in there on the weekends somehow.  The goal is one job — ideally a flexible one where I don’t have to sit in the office 9-5 so I can go ride in the daylight sometimes — that meets all my needs, but if I don’t have that for now, it’s fine.  I know I can make ends meet.

If you’re in that boat — keep hustling.  I will.

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20 thoughts on “hustle

  1. Without getting into too much detail, I actually just came out of a very similar every-dollar-being-stretched-super-duper-thin-but-I’m-still-kinda-actually-poor situation, and my friends, BO and family were just as supportive and helpful as yours. Time periods like that make you realize the truly good people in your life, and the extended support system we all (hopefully) have while we’re chasing that dream career and doing this horsey thing. Glad you have a steady income now, and you can breathe a little easier!

    Oh, and Shark Tank FTW. Frickin love that show.

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  2. I think this is reality for a lot of people our age these days! Work isn’t always guaranteed to be there, and I know many people (myself included) that work multiple part-time jobs in addition to their ‘career’ job in order to make ends meet and have the life we want. How wonderful that you have such an understanding support system in your life! I’m so glad that finances are steadier for you now – and OMG how rich do you feel!?

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  3. Ugh yes this was me last year for five months- I had a fairly significant savings for emergencies and blew through that and into my credit card before finding this job (which is a 9-5 where I sit and stare out the window thinking of how I’m wasting daylight hours inside and evening hours outside, one day…). Now I’ve recovered and then some, but man it was tough. And like you it was only possible with support from family and friends. Glad you’re doing well and that horse shows are on the calendar! I want to come watch one!

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  4. My husband got fired from a really nice Fortune 200 job and then spent two years un/underemployed, so I completely understand. It changes you forever, living like that, and you’ll appreciate every dollar you earn for the rest of your life. Congrats on the new job!

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  5. Oh man I feel this post in my soul. ❤

    When my husband was unemployed for 8 months in 2016 I had to carry all of our bills, plus the bills for three horses (because I am ridiculous). There were days I literally filled my gas tank up with change I found in my house and under the seats of my car because that was all the money I had to my name. It was not fun but it was worth it. It sure makes me appreciate the little things (like buying razor blades and deodorant – what luxuries!) now that things are back on track.

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  6. I remember those days as a post grad. I worked in the barn to cover my board, catch rode anything, and worked every single temp job Kelly Scientific could find me. I couldn’t do it now, and I’m not even sure how I did it then. Keep your head up, it sounds like you’ve got great friends to support you… as long as you don’t lose your deodorant again.

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  7. When you have your horse staff on your side it really helps! When I was unemployed in 2009 / 2010 my vet and farrier happily took late or partial payments on all my bills. It really helped me stress less, and my housemate let me clean the whole house for free utilities (my rent was already dirt cheap)

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  8. I’m glad you have a good job now and can do more horsey things again. And not stress about life. And be happy. That must have really sucked. I’ve been unemployed for a few months now and it definitely sucks so I totally sympathize though I thankful have an employed spouse to help me out.

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  9. I’m so glad that you found the job and that life is getting easier for you. I’ve been there and know what it’s like to kill yourself just so you can survive and still keep that one thing (horse) that makes it worth pushing through the hard times. Wishing you the best!

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  10. Firstly – congrats on the job! Yay to a regular paycheck and adult things like health insurance, money to pay for utilities, etc. Keep hustling girl. It’s hard to stay positive when things are rough but being able to support yourself is such a rewarding feeling in the end

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