I think all of us former college students can agree that there’s a grace period each year when the spring semester ends. During that grace period we could be flat broke and owe somebody money, but we don’t curr! We’re just happy the sun is shining and that we don’t have any homework! We’re focused on living our best broke lives at those amazing pool parties thrown at the nearby student apartment complexes. You know, the ones with the free pizza, giveaways, and a DJ that isn’t half bad because well…beer. That carefree feeling, those pool parties, and those summer nights that we’ll never forget last until around mid August, when classes start back. However, you aren’t completely sad because house parties continue throughout the year and let’s be honest, you’ve probably got a refund check on the way. So yes, classes have started and summer has left us, but you can still afford tons of pizza and shake ya tail featha.
When you graduate, it ain’t like that. You gotta find a coupon to buy your own pizza, no time for pool parties because you’re looking for a job, night time is for sleeping, and hefty refunds are no more. Most people are smart enough to go right into grad school to keep the cash flowing at the very least. But some are like me and decide to begin the job search…or they have a baby and have to figure out life very quickly *insert nervous laugh emoji*. I’d graduated in May so I was on a natural high. However, when June rolled around I had to face the music, my lease ended in July. I had no job lined up, probably because I was antisocial. I will definitely be advising the M&Ms to join organizations in college. Just take the free pizza, write ya name on the list, and join the stupid club!
So anywho, I moved home in the middle of June after securing a job as a secretary at a staffing agency in the great city of Hopkinsville. It was not even close to my field of study, but it was something. I mean, there are plenty of recent college grads who don’t go right into their field of study, so I wasn’t trippin. I was sleeping in the guest bedroom at my mom’s house with my colicky kid, going crazy. Y’all know how it is when you move back home with your parents; it’s 10 times worse when you have kids! I swear every time I stood up my mama asked me where I was going. TO THE KITCHEN! I’M STILL IN THE HOUSE AIN’T I?! GOT DANG! Your freedom is gone, they’re breathing down your neck. You leave one light on and you get a lecture about the bills you don’t pay. I couldn’t leave poopy diapers or old bottles laying around on accident (hush because I KNOW I ain’t the only mama who does that). And then BOOM! I found out I was expecting again. Jesus be a birth control pill. Good grief! I’m getting stressed out just thinking about it. I was uncomfortable.
I rushed out of my mom’s house right before Thanksgiving into a home with the father of my children, the man who I thought would be my forever love. Rush, adjective; to move with urgent haste. Haste, noun; to move with excessive speed. Excessive, adjective; more than is necessary. Necessary, adjective; needed, essential. I can’t think of a time when I’ve rushed somewhere and didn’t forget at least one thing. I also can’t think of a time when I’ve moved with excessive speed that didn’t involve an ankle rolling. And looking back over my life, anything I have ever truly needed has been provided for me with grace. I say all that to say, rushing was not the move.
Moving out of my mom’s house before I was ready caused me so many headaches. I had a 10 month old, a gut full of baby girl, no car, and my relationship was..well..we were just two people who happened to be in the same house at the same time every now and then. Along with all of that, I’d been laid off in February after only seven months at my new job. My children’s father had a great paying job, so I assumed we would be ok. I assumed providing for his family would be instinctive just off the strength that we had been together for damn near a decade. Not only that, but I had brought life into the world that we created. I was wrong and that’s unfortunate. But you know what? That happens far too often. My situation was far from ideal. And two months later my daughter was born.
Bill collectors were calling, I was unemployed, scraping up change for diapers, and my parents were basically paying my rent. It was too much and not enough all at once. I’ve always been a very independent and prideful person so this was hard for me. I felt like everyone was looking at me. I wanted to be any creature that lived in a shell so I could crawl into my hole. The reality is that I was going to get evicted. I couldn’t go back to my mom’s house because…pride. Duh. Plus, I would‘ve been back home with two kids announcing every time I wanted to pee or make a sandwich and I could NOT! So, Father’s Day weekend rolled around, I went to visit my dad and the rest is history. Someone told me I ran, as if to say I was a coward. I’ll be a coward allllll day! I absolutely ran, I ran for my life because my livelihood was on the line.
Anyone who knows my dad knows that he’s frugal, to say the least. He’s a barber who could put these little dudes out here to shame. He’s been cutting hair (making his own money) since he was 12. He prides himself on raising self-sufficient kids and having a great credit score. He ALWAYS reminds us that we are grown. When I ask him to assemble something, he does, but not without reminding me that I need a man who can either fix things or pay to get them fixed. In other words, when it comes to Tommy, if it don’t make dollars it don’t make sense/cents!
I had been living in my dad’s home rent free and driving his red minivan for about 3 months when he saw a forever21 package sitting at the front door. He brought the box up to my room and very nicely reminded me that he would need his van back one day and that he wouldn’t be spending his money all willy nilly if he were me. Did I mention he’s passive aggressive? I instantly went into brat mode, in my head of course. I thought, “Really dad? It was 57 bucks!” But do y’all know what a mom can buy with $57? Well, I’ll tell you *clears throat*:
2 boxes of name brand diapers and a jumbo pack of wipes (one month’s worth)
2 copays for a sick child visit (if you don’t have Medicaid)
1 pair of full priced Stride Rites
2 boxes of Little Remedies cold medicine and 1 Nose Freida
5 uniform shirts and 3 pair of khakis from The Children’s Place (when they’re on sale)
2 weeks worth of Garanimals shirts from Walmart
3 cans of formula
Needless to say, he was right. Plus, I ended up hating the cut of the pants and one of the shirts was made out of that material that stained even if a tear drop landed on it. The joys of online shopping! I know, you’re probably thinking my dad should chill and that it’s okay to treat myself every once in a while, right? But why was I treating myself? I was 24 years old living on someone else’s dime, driving someone else’s car. Asking permission to go places. I had no real plan of action on how to get my own. I had been scolded for buying myself clothes. Was this real life? And my kids, my kids man. I’d moved to another state, but my situation was the same. A broke mom with nothing in her name, subconsciously looking for the next handout.
One night after I put my babies to bed, I cried and cried and cried. I remember feeling so hopeless. How in the world was I going to be able to provide for 3 people in the city?! I mean, I had absolutely nothing. I was making $11.50 an hour and paying $800 a month for daycare alone! I needed a car. I needed everything! And somehow I was supposed to pay rent?! And utilities?! My mama’s house was sounding real good to me! Then something clicked, I just had to come to grips with my situation. What was crying going to do? I didn’t want to go back home. The life that I wanted to live was not there and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to move forward if I didn’t map some things out. Y’all know what they say, “failure to plan…”.
I had to really sit down and take a long hard look at my life, where I was, and where I wanted to be. Erykah Badu once said, “Write it down on real paper with a real pen. And watch shit get real.” And that’s exactly what I did. There’s beauty in slowing down, taking time to self reflect, and reminding yourself that your current position in life is not your final stop. It’s needed.
1.Think about where you want to be. Let your imagination run wild. Steve Harvey said, “Our imagination is the preview to our future.” The Word says He can do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). However, remain realistic and practical while in the beginning stages because when we aren’t real with ourselves, we set ourselves up for failure. This often leads to discouragement. That could put you in an even worse spot than you were in to begin with, especially mentally. Keep those big dreams in mind and go crazy AFTER you set the foundation.
2.Assess where you are now. What is your current state of affairs? What do you need? A car? A home? A job? A bank account? A license? To finish your degree? To schedule a doctor’s appointment? It can be anything because everyone’s needs are different. Again, be real with yourself. I needed alladat.
3.Prioritize those items. What needs to be done first? What’s most important? What can wait? What is overdue?
4.Write out the steps that need to be taken. This is especially important for bigger tasks. I’ll use applying to graduate school as an example. You’ll need to find out when the application deadline is, how much the application fee costs, how much transcripts costs, find the money to pay for the transcripts and the application, find qualified people to write your letters of recommendation, update your resume. Write out every single step!
5.Get the money right. How much money do you have? How much money do you need? What fixed bills do you have? Write down every single one! Don’t forget Tithes, cell phone, Netflix, Apple Music, Audible, HBO. Even if it’s not a bill, but something that you pay for consistently every month; diapers, wipes, groceries, cigarettes (aye, be real with yourself)! Then, calculate how much money you make. Can you afford your life? BE REAL! If not, what can you live without? Do you HAVE to have the name brand? Do you need another job?
6.Write out a budget and STICK TO IT. This is where discipline comes in because every dollar counts. If you don’t know where your money is going you can count on one thing, you won’t be going very far. It’s like driving a car with a broken gas hand when your funds are low and you know you didn’t fill the tank up! Your luck will run out one day and you’ll run out of gas. Yes, this literally happened to me in my dad’s glorious red minivan.
7.Pray. Often. Devine intervention is always needed because most of the time we’re so broken down and anxious we have no clue how to help ourselves. Ask God to give you guidance, discipline, and wisdom. Pray over your life, pray for your children, your finances, your desires. Most importantly, pray for God’s will and not your own because one place you don’t want to end up is outside of God’s will. And trust me, you’ll know when you aren’t in it.
8.Stay positive. Fill your mind with positivity. Listen to your favorite, uplifting rap song. Cut on TD and Sarah Jakes. Stay around positive people. Download an app with motivating quotes. Buy some sticky notes and put uplifting messages EVERYWHERE. You need to change your mindset. You’ve doubted yourself for entirely too long. A change is coming and you need to be ready!
9.Go! And don’t stop until you’re finished! GIVE IT EVERYTHING YOU HAVE AND DON’T YOU DARE GIVE UP ON YOURSELF! Believe in yourself, you can do this because you HAVE to.
So here’s the real tea, this will take time. It’s important not to rush. I lived with my father for 11 months and it felt like 1,000 years. I wanted to be out of his house in 4 months. I laugh at that now. I’m so glad I took my time. They say God will continue to put you in the same situation until you learn your lesson and I’m so glad I learned my lesson the second time around. It’s taken me some time to learn that my journey is not meant to look like anyone else’s and neither is your’s. This is YOUR life and it’s so beautiful in all of its chaos. You aren’t competing with anyone, but yourself. You‘re setting the foundation not only for your future, but your family’s future. This will take time, and that’s okay. I’m no expert, this is just what worked for me. Surely to goodness it’ll help someone else. Peace and blessings!
“Look at the present you are constructing, it should look like the future you are dreaming.” -Alice Walker
“Slowing down is a power move. Pace is a sign of maturity.” -Rob Hill, Sr.