I swear my mother had me balancing checkbooks by the time I was six. Forget learning to spell, I was budgeting monopoly money like a pro, owning Pacific Avenue and Pennsylvania Railroad with money to spare. That's what happens when your mother is a banker.
In college, I worked six days a week serving dinner at a ski lodge, balancing a full time class load on a tray full of burgers for other people. My social life was severely lacking, but I could sacrifice a few nights out if it meant going back to Australia.
I was paying for all of the expenses myself. Round trip flights from New Hampshire to Sydney: $1,300. Rent: $1,600. Weekly bus tickets over a 16 week period of time: $350. Factor in spending money, estimated monthly phone bills, and food (which is twice as expensive in Australia), and I was looking at a pricy trip, but I wasn't concerned. I had a notebook with precise financial calculations which would successfully carry me through my excursion.
What I did not calculate was how I would survive once I came home. With a suitcase full of stellar memories and $100 left in my bank account, I knew that I was in serious trouble. I've always been good at budgeting, that is, when I actually had money in my bank account.
I quit my job before leaving for Australia, and no longer lived in the mountains. My previous job serving bar food to snowboarders and voraciously pocketing tip money was two hours away.
I panicked. Car insurance, student loans, and phone bills were coming at me from all directions. I was jobless, and had and nothing to give out but high fives.
For the record, Verizon Wireless does NOT accept monthly high fives.
After spending my first three days home fighting severe jet lag, I dragged my 14-hour-ahead-of-schedule "you know what" out of the house and started job hunting. My best friend gave me a heads up that the restaurant she worked at was hiring, and despite my aversion to taking another restaurant gig, empty pockets urged me to accept the hostess position the restaurant offered me.
I felt trapped. I wanted so badly to salvage my independence. I wanted freedom from my parent's house and a savings account that I could put toward my future. Instead, I made $250 a week and was unable to save any of the money I made. I could barely afford putting gas in my tank after paying my student loans.
I sucked it up knowing the feeling would be temporary, and picked up every spare shift I could. Working at the restaurant was intellectually unfulfilling, but it paid my bills and kept me from going insane. Soon enough, I was able to pick up a second job nannying two children five days a week, and a third job coaching a high school volleyball team shortly followed.
My work schedule went from night shifts at a restaurant four nights a week, to twelve hour days seven days a week. The stress of not being able to pay my bills subsided, but the reality of being a 21st century young person in a downward spiraling economy has proven to be a challenge. The long work hours and the bills haven't stopped. If anything, they have become longer and larger as the months pass, but it has all paid off. Signing the lease for my apartment seven months ago gave me a feeling of accomplishment similar to landing on free parking in Monopoly.
Carley is a twenty four year old currently living in New Hampshire. After graduating college with a degree in English, and taking a couple of years to travel the globe (ahem, while constantly getting lost using foreign public transportation in large cities) she now resides back in her home town. She is somewhere between trying to have it all figured out, and not even being close, but she writes in hopes that somebody out there thinks the way she does. She has a NikonD3000 that could be considered a third arm, and she may seek surgical help for this eventually. Carley thinks speaking in third person is incredibly awkward, but she's glad you're here anyway. You can find Carley on her personal blog (http://findingravity.com) or on twitter @carbarton. *fistbump*