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jessie does life

jessie's blog about life, leadership, mental health, relationship wisdom, empowerment, and a lot of misadventures

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A Brief Word on Privilege, because #blacklivesmatter

The news across the globe sucks these days. There is too much hate for me to handle the news or looking at social media much any more so I’ve been trying to avoid both.

I wanted to take a minute and take inventory of the fact that I live in a bubble of privilege. I want it known that I understand that, to the extent that it is possible for me to (there are limitations).

I’m white. I grew up upper middle class in the United States in a family with married, working parents. I went to college and have been gainfully employed for the majority of my life. I’ve traveled. I’ve cried and gotten out of speeding tickets (I cried as a natural reaction to getting in trouble, not to get out of the ticket). Unless I’m holding hands with a woman or a person who expresses their gender/sexual orientation outside of their assigned sex, no one can tell my sexual orientation. I typically dress in a normal fashion. I was baptized as a child though identify as a casual agnostic now (I don’t care to debate the existence of god, let’s just all be cool with each other and I’m good).

Those things add up to levels of privilege. Though I’m not at the top of the “privilege food chain” (picture white, male rapist Brock and that’s the poster child of privilege), I understand that I am very high up there.

I hate seeing any person left behind due to any factor beyond what’s truly relevant. If a black man is genuinely a threat, treat him as such (with the appropriate starting point of escalation, perhaps a gun isn’t the first step). However, he needs just as much benefit of the doubt as any white man. The US is built on the burial grounds of Native Americans. We have a history of African slavery, Chinese railway workers, Japanese internment camps, anti-homosexuality laws, considering immigrants second class citizens (when 90% of us are descended from immigrants), and even an entire political party rallying against its own president – perhaps because they truly don’t like his policies or perhaps because he’s not the same skin tone as them (I honestly suspect it’s blind racism).  It’s absurd.

By reacting to a person based on the color of their skin we are just perpetuating behaviors, beliefs, stereotypes, and we are engendering hatred among all of us. Just stop. These are perceptions – mere responses to random sequences of DNA, think about that for a minute.  How much sense does that make?

If you’re in a place of privilege, use that higher station to help the under-privileged person. Stand up for them. Be a comrade (a term I learned from this article posted OVER A YEAR AGO). Stop with with the #alllivesmatter. Yes, obviously all lives matter – but until all of the privileged people can really truly understand WHY #blacklivesmatter is so important to the people with black lives, shut up and listen. Listen, understand, help, advocate, be a voice that echoes #blacklivesmatter to our other privileged people so that maybe, just maybe THEY will listen too. Do something about this, don’t just stand idly by because it’s not “your problem”, even in a place of privilege, it is.

The Tao of Jessie

Hello internets!

I started this blog on one of my war paths toward a forced life goal where I was determined to succeed at something I wasn’t even sure about.  I wanted to become a life coach.  I still kind of maybe do.  But I wrote posts under the guise of educating the masses on business, money, life, and mental health through the stumblings of my life.  I did that, it was cool, I tried to force content out of myself and I didn’t like it, and then I stopped writing – a lot of the time.

I recently read the book The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff and although I got lost at times while reading it, the book’s messages struck a chord with me.  My favorite concept was Wu Wei.  According to the first thing that pops up in my Google search, I found this on the term:

 

Wu Wei (Chinese, literally “non-doing”) is an important concept of Taoism and means natural action, or in other words, action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort. Wu wei is the cultivation of a mental state in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the flow of life.

In the book, Benjamin uses water as a metaphor for explaining the concept by saying that water doesn’t try to push over rocks in a stream as it goes about its path, it simply flows around them.

I read that part of the book, while laying on a beach in the early morning, half distracted because I was also trying to figure out 5 different “life things” in my head at the same time, and I just had that moment of “Well, shit.  That’s a new concept I could probably use in my life.”  It’s completely obvious in hindsight, but having grown up stubborn, strong-willed, and often analytical to the point of either destruction or inaction, this was news to me.

This was about 3 weeks ago.  I’ve applied the shit out of it since then (after a minor ((read: major)) hiccup that I had to analyze into destruction) and it’s been really quite nice.  I have tried to shove nearly everything in my life into nice, neat boxes.  I have tried to put aspects of my life on planned-out trajectories that are often completely arbitrary but “I MUST know where I’m going!  How will I ever get to XYZ if I don’t know where/what/who that is??”  None of this has worked for me.

This Wu Wei concept in life is fantastic.  I now am keeping an open mind about EVERYTHING.  I actually had a titanic self-discovery yesterday that I’ll be writing about next (read: I use “titanic” because it’s actually not fun or good and involves a lot of bad acting on my part).

I’m writing now because I want to announce that as of today, the direction of this blog is in fact, directionless!  From here on out, I’m going to treat it like it’s just my medium to tell anyone on the internets that life is weird and this is how it plays out on MY adventure.  There might be business-y things, or mental health discussions, or postings of my own personal failures – who knows??  I don’t, yet!  I realized that there already are TONS of blogs on how to do business-y life things successfully.  Or stuff about this or that.  You know what’s NOT already on the internets???  MY take on life as I stumble through it, one adventure at a time.

There you have it, Jessie Does Life through Tao.  I hope you stick around!

Break up, shake up, make up

Alas, the expiration date on my current relationship has come to pass.

This is NOT a pity party – in fact, it is the exact OPPOSITE.

You know those relationships where at one point you both brought out the most shining, aspirational version of each other but after many months of bickering and fault-finding it escalates to not only highlighting but inspiring the worst parts of each other to come out?  Yeah, that.  That’s what happened this time.

Now it might be the fact that I’ve quasi-successfully made it out of my twenties and am now a solid “early thirties” person, but this time I’ve got that perspective that all of my previous breakups lacked.  I don’t find myself pining, wondering “what if”, thinking “if only -this- -that-“, or even desperately trying to find someone else to fill the void left behind by his absence.  In fact, I don’t even feel a void.

I have advice for you.  This advice may be coming from my “I’m in my thirties now so I know pretty much everything” high horse, but I’m hopeful that it can be helpful to someone out there in a rut after a breakup.  Perhaps 19-year-old Jessie could have saved herself a lot of grief (and notebooks full of horrible angsty teenage poetry) had she read this post.

I present to you, the three stages of ending a relationship:

breakupmakeup

Step 1:  Breakup
Do it – just rip the band-aid off.  Get it over quickly to avoid any further suffering for any party involved.  This won’t be easy to do or even to recognize that it should be done but the best thing I’ve found in this most recent ending is this:  Are we making each other happy?  If not, have we talked about it openly?  After talking about it, have we both genuinely given it our best to make the other partner happy?

Happiness and communication are key.  Something I’m learning through my HR endeavors at my 9-5 is called a Performance Improvement Plan – what applies here are the steps taken.  1. Communicate the issue, 2. Give the opportunity for improvement, 3. Explain the outcomes of what will happen if the improvements are/are not made, 4. Measure the success of the improvement, 5. Carry out said outcomes established from step 3.  Of course none of this takes into consideration the immense (usually illogical) role the heart plays in things like this.  I realize it’s very difficult to walk away from someone who once had the ability to make you happier than a kitten riding a unicorn, but you have got to consider what makes you happy NOW and how much your happiness is worth.

Step 2. Shake up
Once you’ve given yourself some time to heal a bit (be sure you don’t over-indulge in the “me time” and become a hermit!) it’s time for some change.  Sometimes a serious relationship can reduce a person to half of an equation, take away one component of the equation and that other part doesn’t make sense on its own.  Your job now is to try anything and everything to find something that helps define you outside of the “relationship equation.”
In the words of the great rock band, the Cars, “don’t let nobody pick your fun, shake it up.”  Get out in the great wide world and TRY THINGS.  Do ALL THE THINGS.  Take dance lessons, go on solo picnics, start birding, read the collective works of Shakespeare, try dating sites, go vegetarian, or if you’re religious, perhaps try a new place of worship!
Now, these are all of the things that people who were/are in steady situations regardless of their partners can say with ease.  In my situation I had moved in with my partner (only 4 months before), asked my employer if I could go down to 32 hours a week since my partner didn’t ask for rent (and I could use that extra day to work on my domination plans), had JUST been in a car accident that totaled my car, and I had been focusing on helping him achieve his goals because they were greater at the time.  “Shake up” in my situation meant “Holy sh*t, I’ve got to find a place, buy a car, figure out how to pay for those things, and DAMMIT where did MY dreams go???”
So, your “shake up” will look different than mine (hopefully!) but it’s an exploratory phase that you need to embrace wholeheartedly.

Step 3: Make up
NOT WITH YOUR EX!!!  Make up your mind, after you’ve shaken things up, where you’re going next.  Hopefully through shedding your “one part of an equation” identity then trying to find possible alternative you’s, it’s time to get to the bottom of who you will be now.  What goals do you have for the next year?  Three years?  Ten years?  How can YOU empower yourself to achieve them?  If you want to share that experience with a partner, what do they look like? What qualities do they possess?  What are the absolute deal-breakers that you’re prepared to walk away from should they come up?
Make up your mind (of course, knowing that you’re allowed to change it at any time) to give yourself a purpose and a direction to head into.  Make up a list of your favorite qualities about YOURSELF that you never want to lose to the “relationship equation” again.  Keep that list handy at all times to remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be – adjust as-needed, but be sure not to give up the good things.

You’ll get through this.  Millions of people do this every day.  And millions of people find true love every day.  And millions of people adopt shelter animals every day (ok, maybe not millions, but if you’re looking to shake up – perhaps rescuing a furry companion is a good idea?).

Public Speaking for the Introvert

As a member of a business women’s group I’ve been to many conferences and monthly meetings which equates to seeing roughly about 500 public speakers in my life. Perhaps it’s more like 100-150, but still, that’s a lot! For every 20 mediocre speakers there’s one stand-out inspiring speaker who can motivate you to change the way you see things, sometimes it’s how you do business, how you see yourself, or how you relate to others, but regardless of the topic, this person CHANGES you. For the past couple of years I’ve quietly (and secretly) said in my head, I want to do that.  I want to be someone who inspires others to do more, be more, or just look at things in a new way.

Last year I ran for a position on the National Board of Directors of my business women’s association which required that I give a 3 minute speech on what sparked my interest in the group and how I planned to help the association should I be elected.  I’m not a shy person by any means (I AM an introvert, though), but giving a prepared speech still to this day makes my nerves all jittery.  I did not win that election but the experience I gained from stretching so far outside of my comfort zone was incredible. I actually networked with professional adults! Me! Talking to business-y stranger-adults! I got a little more comfortable with the public speaking thing but I knew I had to do more.

Now it’s 2016, b*tches! and one of my goals is to master public speaking.  I joined a local Toastmasters group to find my tribe of fellow personal improvement junkies and get to work on really addressing my “needs improvement” areas.  I like this group a lot – I tried one out where my old office was and every time you said “uh, um, you know” or a filler like that, they would honk a horn.  That completely throws ANYONE off, even pros.  This club just counts them and reports your numbers at the end.

Toastmasters Logo Color PNG

So far I’ve only given one prepared speech – the Icebreaker – but I’ve won RIBBONS!  A portion of the meeting is dedicated to something called Table Topics which is to help with off-the-cuff speaking skills, I’ve talked about “butt-stuffing”*, twice, and won ribbons for other table topics because, I’ll toot my own horn here and say admittedly, I can be entertaining at times.

The Toastmasters program gives you two workbooks that you can complete for some super official letters after your name within the TM world – which I LOVE.  They have the Competent Communication and Competent Leadership, so you get these checklists in each one to accomplish and mark off.  That’s so up my alley, if only they had gold stars in there too.

Why does this matter TO YOU???  When you speak publicly on a topic, you magically become perceived as an expert. Of course, you DO have to know your stuff and speak competently on your topic (while adding your own personal voice) but aside from publishing a book, public speaking is an excellent way to become an expert in the eyes of the public. You can start out small and present to local business groups in your area to build up confidence/gain feedback, then build your portfolio of public speaking and it can actually be a PAID gig kind of thing! Neat, huh?

So if you’re a self-improvement junkie like me, or your looking for more ways to reach out with your business knowledge, give Toastmasters a try.  You can find a club near you here.  I promise it’s a good way to either baby-step your way into public speaking or just jump right into the deep end and give a speech at every meeting.  Your participation level is up to you.  Even for introverts I find that the TM community is incredibly supportive.

 

*Butt-stuffing is the stuffing from Thanksgiving that is prepared in the turkey.  I’m told there’s an actual term for this, “dressing”, but I’ll always call it butt-stuffing.

Your Credit Score – Friend or Foe?

Oh boy. . . Here goes more of my open book philosophy.

Here’s a little story about a girl who wasn’t really taught about money (even though her mom’s an accountant, go figure!) so she fell into the debt trap when the credit card companies handed out Mastercards like candy in the Student Union and she took out a student loan to finish her bonus half year of college.  (I went for four and a half years, I say it was to get a BS rather than a BA, but really, I was chosen to be my sorority’s Social Chair which ran Spring to Fall and they gave me thousands of dollars to plan formals – so yeah, I stayed another semester and took out a loan to cover it!)

So I graduated college about $10,000 in the hole, moved back home for a year which you think would have had me paying off that debt, but NO!  I just spent the money and deferred the loan – I had no concept of what debt was, how interest accrued, and I didn’t even bother with my company’s 401K.

Fast forward TEN FREAKING YEARS (that makes me feel old, and even more old for saying it makes me feel old) and I’m FINALLY getting my poop in a group with my finances.  I paid off that first credit card a while ago – then swore off all credit cards so as not to fall into the debt trap again – MISTAKE NUMBER ONE!  Our credit economy DEMANDS that you use credit – if you want to buy a house you have to prove you’re a viable candidate who can use multiple lines of credit responsibly.  So you MUST have several forms of debt – or at least credit.  Right now I have a student loan, car loan, and one $300 limit credit card (I JUST got it, in order to appease the credit gods).  As you’ll see in my screen shots from CreditKarma.com further down, this is not enough for the credit gods.

Another big mistake – although using your credit card is important – OVER-UTILIZING it is a no-no.  You’ll see in the screen shots that in December I left a balance of $202 on my $300 limit card, and even though I paid that off right away, it still hurt my credit score.  So now, I put stuff on my credit card, and then I go home and pay it off almost immediately.  Take that, credit gods!

The other factor on your credit score that was news to me is the inquiries.  I had been trying to get a credit card, to you know, establish credit.  But the damn credit gods and their catch 22, I didn’t have enough credit established to merit a credit card!!!!!  What in the what???  Thus, I have a little baby $300 limit credit card that, if I’m lucky and the credit gods shine down upon me (or really, I pay on time for the first 5 months) the limit will increase to $500.  Whoa, that’s huge.  (sarcasm)  Inquiries are things like if you apply for a new apartment and they run a credit check, or a car loan, etc.  Or if you’re applying for credit cards left and right – each one pings your credit score!

Those are the few big things I’ve learned so far.  Now for some real-life examples – AKA my actual finances as shown through CreditKarma.com.  This site is great, I love how easy it is to use, they send me updates, it’s COMPLETELY FREE (I assume because they have deals with credit card companies because they’ll show you cards that you could apply for and likely get – if you NEED to build credit, this is great, if you’re getting out of debt – DO NOT FALL FOR THIS TRICK!!!!), and they update my score weekly so I can keep a  super close eye on my credit.

Now, my friends, here is my taboo truths of my credit score and all that comes with it.  (I think this means we’re pretty much best friends now – sharing secrets and stuff)

 

December 9th I checked my credit score and it was woefully low.  Below you’ll see why!

DecScoreSo this is my overall score according to TransUnion and Equifax – they differ slightly because they get their information a little differently.  When you look at the image below of what impacted my score, you’ll see that Equifax got word of what my Credit Card Utilization was and was not having any of it – so they marked me down 71 points from my last report date.

 

DecImpact
This shows all of the factors that impact my score and how heavily they’re weighted in that impact. Like I said, apparently have 4-5 lines of credit does not appease the credit gods.  But I’m weary of getting another credit card because then that inquiry will hit and lower that score – fortunately, both of these things are considered “low impact.”  The age of my credit is also hurting my overall score, so if you’re considering whether or not to take the leap and get a credit card (RESPONSIBLY!!!), do it sooner rather than later!

 

DecCreditCardUtilization
Here’s the big Debbie Downer on my score, my Credit Card Utilization.  On my card with a limit of $300, when this was run I had a balance of $202 which CreditKarma kindly maths for me to tell me is 67% utilization.  This is BAD.  You should be utilizing only 0-9% to keep your score really awesome.  Fine, whatever, I’ll pay off every time I use it!

 

 

January 20th I checked back in!

JanScore
Look, ma!  I’m fair!  Not the best score, hell, it’s not even in the green, but it’s better than poor!

 

JanImpact
Now, so far as I can tell, the age of my history is hurting me the most.  I can’t do anything to change this, other than wait and continue using credit.  I’ve been thinking about getting yet another credit card (I won’t be getting another car or buying a house any time soon so it’s down to credit cards as the viable option) but I’ll be waiting until I get to the $500 card limit, just so I don’t mess with the inquiries number too much.  Sometimes about seeing that blood red on this report makes my heart sad.

JanCreditCardUtilization
And look!  I mastered the Credit Card Utilization!

 

 

Lengthy post, I know, but I hope it was helpful for anyone who’s got their head in the sand about this whole credit score thing.  I promise it’s not that scary once you actually look it in the face and figure out where yours might need some work.

 

One of my favorite motivational quotes is about how you eat an elephant.  ONE BITE AT A TIME!

Inspiring Words from Martin Luther King Jr.

I wanted to pop in for a hot second and share my favorite quote from MLK. He has TONS of incredibly thought-provoking quotes, having been a great man who wanted to affect great change, but this one keeps my head on straight when things are bringing me down.

He’s also a fellow INFJ (blog coming up on that soon)!

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

In December of 2014 the boo and I visited Washington DC and MLK’s memorial was one of my top 2 amongst the many in the city (the other being the mini memorial for Eleanor Roosevelt that was part of FDR’s).  The quotes etched on the walls there are so inspirational – this man wanted equality for people so badly in a society that was in such turmoil that he put his life on the line numerous times (which lead to his unwarranted assassination).

I wish civil rights and the fight for equality were united again under a leader of such inspiring wisdom, we clearly could use it still to this day.

Jessie Does. . . Finances?

I hate to be one of those people who goes around saying “I heard on this podcast that ____.” but. . . I heard on this podcast, actually several podcasts, that retirement before 40 is a legitimate possibility if you actually plan and pay attention to your finances.  Sounds insane, right?

So now I have this crazy dream in my head to have enough money in savings and investments to be able to “retire” by 40. I’m 31 now and am in “ok” financial state when compared to peers my age who are still paying off student loans or crazy credit card debt. I’ve got a well-paying job that I don’t despise, no kids, no mortgage, no insane credit card debt, an affordable car that’s nearly paid off, and good health benefits so I’m off to a good start.

Come 2016 I’ll be implementing everything I learn from podcasts, blogs, books, and just good old-fashioned conversations to see if this whole retiring in 9 years is truly feasible.  I’m hopeful, but of course not merely blindly trusting.

I’ll be using my blog to document my path from debt, to becoming debt-free, to saving, and then hopefully investing!  I’ll share all my nitty gritty details with you like my current finances, my spending, and the steps I’m taking to remedy my bad money habits.  It’s not easy calling yourself out on your BS, let alone sharing it with whatever tiny part of the internet reads it, but I’m doing this for anyone else out there like me.  I’m tired of the consumerism hustle and I want to be free from working for the man; I don’t think I’m alone in that!

Stay tuned for my very first expose – on my own finances – this Friday!  I’ll be sharing with you the first step in taking control of your financial future.

Because. . . damn the man, save the empire!

“She turned to the sunlight And shook her yellow head,And whispered to her neighbor- -Winter is dead.”

(Preliminary disclaimer, I am in NO WAY a financial adviser.  In fact, you’ll see first-hand that I’m not with each post, but that’s the whole point, come learn WITH me!)

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