At the age of 42, I didn’t think I’d be unmarried and living at home. By this time, I was sure that I would be married, living in my own home, and with one or two teenaged kids. And a cat, of course. Well, I have a cat. I’m just missing the other stuff.
In fact, I haven’t had a boyfriend in over 10 years. How is that possible? I don’t really know. I guess no one fancies me. And if they did, I never got the hint.
I didn’t think I’d still be working jobs with “coordinator” in the title answering to people 10+ years my junior. Well, at least I’ve moved up to “specialist.”
Almost all of my former college and post-college friends are married with children. Some work high-salary jobs and others have husbands or partners who make a good living. I still have yet to break the $60,000 mark.
Oh, yeah, I’m childless. That’s an automatic failure if you’re a woman. And being a “cat lady” earns me extra failure bonus points.
I’m driving a car that’s nearly 20 years old.
I’m a failure.
How did I get here?
Funny you should ask. I’ve been asking myself this question for the past two years or so.
I can at least account for how I ended up in my current situation.
It started back in the spring of 2016. I was working at Duke University in the development/donor relations department. I had been there for 10 years with only one promotion. I started in 2005, right after I completed graduate school at NC State University, where I earned my Master of Arts in English.
My former classmate originally applied for and was offered the stewardship coordinator job but turned it down for another nonprofit opportunity. So, I asked her for the job description and information, applied for the job, interviewed, and got hired.
My boss was a crazy bitch with a wicked tongue and a crappy sense of humor. She once cackled at my recounting of hitting a deer with my car. The incident wasn’t entirely my fault, as an oncoming pickup hit the deer and threw the poor creature into my path. The accident was unavoidable and traumatizing. I was truly disgusted with her reaction and knew then the woman was touched in the worst way.
For the next six years, this crazy bitch boss nitpicked, micromanaged, and undermined my confidence to the point I felt like I couldn’t find another job because I didn’t feel good enough. I went from thinking I could do anything to feeling like I couldn’t do anything right. She reminded me a lot of my mother. She was mean-spirited, biting, vindictive, and intolerable to be around. Towards the end, I avoided her altogether. She and my mother could have been the same woman. But I’ll cover my mom in another post.
After crazy bitch boss was demoted for running off her fifth administrative assistant (her ass should have been fired!), things got a little better for me because I no longer had to report to her. When she finally retired, I looked around and realized my position in the department had not changed.
So I asked for a promotion to reflect my added responsibilities and significant contributions to the department. I got the promotion, a raise, and the word “senior” added to my title. But even a year after the promotion, I knew that was as far as I could go at Duke.
So I quit.
For the last couple of years I learned Adobe InDesign, and I started creating websites on WordPress.
I got duped into thinking I could become a thousand-aire by publishing books on Kindle and creating online courses. Big money.
So I cashed out my 403b, and began my journey as an “entrepreneur”!
I ditched the idea of Kindle publishing and course creation and settled on freelance graphic and web design. This was a stretch, but I was hopelessly optimistic and a little bit delusional after indulging in too much Les Brown and other motivational speakers. I actually did make some money as a freelance designer. Just not enough to support me.
After 10 years at Duke, I was tired of office life and all of the shit that went with it: the politics, the cliques, the racial discrimination, the glass cage, let alone the glass ceiling. Even moving around laterally at Duke was difficult for me. That one promotion can attest to my experience.
Being my own boss was a dream. I still miss it. No one looking over my shoulder. No office politics. No meaningless small talk. No neurotic coworkers.
But working solo was not sustainable. Even though I had loads of optimism, I lacked the connections, resources, and business sense to become successful.
The Money Ran Out
Towards the end of 2017, my funds got dangerously low. I had no design jobs lined up. My last one was a $300 coffee table book design. The project was a pain in the ass, and when I completed it, the lady took forever to pay me. She’s someone I met at one of those women’s networking groups—which are rife with MLM shills. She was not a part of an MLM. But she was a marketer and real estate agent, and her husband was some big-time developer. At one point, she told me they were posed to make $1M dollars that year. Well, then, why the hell did it take her so long to pay me my $300?
I was desperate for money at that point. I had already confessed to her that I was looking for a job, at least part-time to get me back to some regular income.
In fact, all of 2018 was spent looking for a job while my savings dwindled away. I wrote a series about it called Finding a Job Sucks that chronicles this extremely frustrating, painful, exhausting season of my life.
I was in Debt
Not only was I still nursing a student loan from undergrad to the tune of $9,000, but I had nearly run up my only credit card. The limit was $3,500, and I was at $3,300. Though I stayed current on my student loan, debt collectors called me daily about my credit card. It went into collections a few times.
I know this sounds unbelievable, but I really don’t know how I racked up so much debt on my credit card. I was always cautious about how much I charged to the card and was mindful to pay it off quickly. I know I had to cover maintenance when my A/C konked out, and I might have had an expensive vet bill. But over $3,000 worth of debt? Where did all of the money go?
I suspect my bank might have been using my credit card to cover overdrafts from my checking account. Is that even legal? But that’s the only explanation I have for why my credit card bill was so high. I really don’t believe I charged that much in the course of one to two years. But I was not budgeting, so anything is possible.
I Didn’t File My Taxes
I didn’t file my taxes in 2017 for the previous year. I already took a 20% hit from federal after I cashed out my 403b. I felt like, hey it’s my money. I already gave the IRS 20%. Now they want more?
At the end of 2017, there was some form or something I had to fill out, and it required tax information from the year before. Well, I hadn’t filed my taxes and was delinquent by six months. Then one day, I got this phone call from someone posing as an IRS agent. By the way, the IRS will never call you. If you have tax issues, they will send you a notice in the mail. Anyway, this IRS scammer, with an extremely thick Indian accent, told me that I was delinquent in my taxes—which I was—and I owed them something to the tune of $4,000. I couldn’t figure out where they got that number, as I was sure I owed more. At that point, I only had enough money to last me until June of 2018 before I was broke. Then the asshole told me the police were on their way to arrest me, and the only thing that could stave them off was my wiring him the money pronto!
While he was talking and scaring the shit out of me, I googled “IRS” and “scam.” This very scam plot was described to the tee on the official IRS website. As the man blabbered, a light bulb went on in my head, and I ended the call. The police never came. But I was shaken because I knew I was deep shit regardless.
Desperate, I did the only thing I could think of.
I called my mom.
The Devil Has No Pride
After assuring my mom that I was not pregnant or gay, I confessed to my financial indiscretions. She agreed to help me with my tax bill: meaning she would loan me the money. It was over $7,000. There was no way I could pay her back any time soon. And it was just what she needed to hold over my head for years to come.
We did my taxes, and she wrote the check for the bill.
I still had money enough to last me through June of 2018. That fall of 2017 into the new year I got serious about finding a job. It didn’t go so well.
Even after my mom loaned me the money, my financial troubles were far from over. I still had credit card debt, and the IRS issued me a late payment penalty along with a fine for not having mandatory healthcare coverage for the last half of 2016. I was still swimming upstream.
My money finally ran out in June or July. Again, I had to ask my mom for help. I still couldn’t find a job, even though I went on several interviews. I had high hopes for some of those jobs and a lot of disappointments. I had never been in that position before. After holding a job for 10 years, and then walking away, to have such a difficult time returning to steady income was demoralizing. I was applying for jobs I was overqualified for and that paid poverty-level wages.
Around October of 2018, my mom had a brilliant idea. Rent my townhome and move back in.
Again, desperation will make you consider actions that before seemed repugnant. My dad was the one who relayed this message to me. I could tell he was not 100% on board. I wasn’t either and told them to give me another month. Surely an acceptable job offer would surface.
Into the Spider’s Web
Things didn’t turn out so well. I won’t go into all of the details in this post. But my dad had a major health crisis right after his 69th birthday, and he was in the hospital for two weeks.
I made plans to move into my parent’s house by the end of November. I put my townhouse up for rent, which was an absolute fiasco.
After I moved in, waves of shame and defeat drowned me. I was back at home at the age of 40. I had no job and mountains of debt. I was a certified failure. My life was over.