Category Archives: Journals by Jess

8 Ways to Really be an Adult on a Really Small Budget

Here are my personal strategies for saving money.  They might work for you, or they might not.  Being an adult means spending all the money you earn, so here’s how I make my budget go as far as I can.

  1. Pay money upfront whenever you can.  When I bought my car, I put down as big of a down payment as I could.  When I buy insurance, I pay the plan in full at the beginning of the year.  I know this does not work for everyone, but when I do this as often as I can, I end up saving several hundred dollars a year.
  2. Never buy (new) books.  For those of you who are like me, you love to read.  Sometimes we forget about the library!  Free unlimited movies, books, and more!  Now, with Overdrive and Libby, it’s easier than ever.  You can get free online books just by using your library card.  If I do treat myself to a book to own, I will only buy used from library sales or used book stores.  Another thing I like to do is trade books with friends whenever possible.
  3. Buy in bulk.  I bought a membership to BJ’s about a year ago for $25 through an incentive program for teachers at my school.  By using store coupons combined with manufacturer’s coupons (yes, you can use more than one coupon on an item there!) I am able to get even bigger savings.  It’s not just for suburban moms.
  4. Fix, don’t replace.  Whenever I can, I fix something instead of replacing it.  If you have a needle and thread, you have a life extender for your clothes.  Ripped leggings, missing buttons, or torn belt loops can be easily fixed with a little time.  When in doubt, look on Youtube for videos on how to fix things.  The sense of accomplishment comes free with the repair too!
  5. Do it yourself whenever you are able.  Time is often a constraint, but I do things myself whenever I can.  For example, in my house, I painted the rooms myself.  It took a lot of time and was labor intensive work (especially painting the ceilings and trim) but I saved money.  I am also making my own curtains for my bedroom and living room–much cheaper than buying curtains that I would most likely need to hem anyway.  It also comes with a bit of a bonus because I can pick more unique fabric than the usual curtains at Bed, Bath, & Beyond.
  6. Cook!  Yes, I love going out to eat, but cooking at home saves money.  It is so underrated.  Make something that you can eat all week and bring for lunches.  For example, I love quiche.  I will make quiche on a Sunday for dinner and then bring a slice for lunch all week.  It’s basically meal prepping, which isn’t an original tip, but I can’t do grilled chicken and veggies every day.  BONUS HINT: Whenever I go out to eat, I always order something I am not skilled at making or otherwise wouldn’t make for myself.  If I see something I want but I know I could make myself,  I take a mental note and make it for dinner later that week.  This isn’t really money saving but it helps me get my money’s worth out of going out to eat.
  7. Shop with credit cards–then pay them off.  I have a store card to my favorite place to buy clothes: Loft (don’t judge, I’m a teacher).  I pay with my credit card, get discounts and coupons often, and always pay off the balance as soon as I get home.  If you are loyal to a specific brand or store, this can help a lot.
  8. Figure out what you love, then splurge.  My fiance and I love going to karaoke bars.  There really isn’t any way of getting around the cost.  We go out with our friends, order appetizers and scorpion bowls…and it adds up.  We know this.  We set money aside to go out, so we are mindful when doing something else.  If we end up doing other things for entertainment, we remember that means no karaoke for a bit.  It helps us prioritize what we like doing and keeps us from going out too often and wasting money on stuff we don’t love.  It doesn’t keep us from hanging out with friends, but it definitely helps us make the decision between a bottle of wine together with them or a night on the town.

I’m Buying a House, and So Can You!

Recently, my fiance and I had our offer accepted on a house!  We are very excited–who said the dream of property ownership was dead?  We are doing it and so can you!

All you need to do is…

  • Never start renting.  You will lose all of your money to a landlord.  Instead, live at home until your mom tells you she is buying a condo and you need to leave!
  • Shop smart! You don’t need a house with more than two rooms.  So what if there is mold in the basement?  So what if the windows are painted shut and there is termite damage?  It’s a roof over your head, and it is yours!
  • Work until you think you can’t work anymore, then work more!  I regularly work anywhere from 50-60 hours a week and go to grad school.  Sure, I’ve had a mental breakdown here and there, but hey–I am getting a house.
  • Get into a job that pays you way more than anyone else your age.  My fiance is in sales for a tech company making about 20k more than I do PLUS commission.  So I guess what I am saying is either do that or marry someone who makes more money than you. Lock down that partner who is paying for the majority of the house fast–you would never be able to afford this on your own, so make sure you have that figured out and secured
  • Don’t pay 20% down. We don’t have that much money in the bank!  Are you crazy? We are 24 years old.  We are paying 5% down? I think?  Plus then there’s mortgage insurance which is a fancy term for “If you don’t have 60k in your bank account right now, don’t worry! You just have to pay an extra $200 a month to live in the house that the bank owns but lets you keep your stuff in!

Truth be told, there are a lot of reasons we are getting a house and not an apartment.  We don’t live together yet and are doing this to save money.  In the long run, yes, a house is a better investment than renting, but it takes a lot up front and a really big commitment.  My family and friends have asked me–how do you afford it?  The truth is, as satirical as my tips sound, that’s what we did.  I have worked way too hard for too long.  I have lived rent free in exchange for taking care of a woman with dementia.  I am marrying someone who makes more money than me and always will–get into sales, not teaching, people!  And no, I can’t afford to put sixty thousand dollars down.  Combined, our savings accounts don’t even make it halfway there.  So yes, I’m buying a house.  That’s where all my money is going.

So say hello to the unofficial adultiest adult of AwkwardnAdulting?

Paradise vs. Poverty

This weekend, I was Cinderella.

I grew up modestly.  My parents never had a lot of money but we didn’t suffer because of it.  We went on family road trips and would go out to eat on birthdays, but we were a typical family of the lower middle class.

But this weekend, I was Cinderella.

My boyfriend’s family took us on a vacation to the Dominican Republic.  All expenses paid, all inclusive, and every single need or want we could possibly think of was taken care of.

I had unlimited tropical drinks served by bartenders that always remembered my name and order.

I shot archery on the beach, danced in a nightclub, and gambled in a casino all in the same day.

I walked on the beach, went snuba diving, and swam in a freshwater-filled cave.

Every time I walked into my hotel room, there were new animals made of towels that were covered in fresh flowers.

When I broke my glasses, guest services took care of every single detail with only the small fee of paying for the super glue which was brought up to my room by a butler.

I didn’t deserve any of it.

I never expected any of this, but the saddest part was what I didn’t expect about the environment.

The second we drove off of the 5 star hotel’s land, garbage littered the streets.  Kids wearing clothes both far too big and far too small were begging and selling their drawings to tourists.  Stray cats ate scraps and cows that had their ribcages showing walked through intersections.

At an off-site beach, we were pestered by vendors.  Some would try to hand us bottles of beer.  Others sold paintings and jewelry.  One man, without my knowledge or consent, put an iguana on my head in an attempt to get me to take a picture–for a fee, of course.

When I went to the five star resort, I felt like the poor girl who was swept off her feet by a man and brought to the lap of luxury.

The Dominican Republic took me back to the sad reality.

Among the beauty of the palm trees and endless pina coladas, there was extreme poverty.

We were the exception to the rule.

We were the white tourists, eating gormet food to our heart’s content while a mile away, so many starved.

We spoke in broken Spanish to servers who knew that learning English and working in a resort was one of the best–and only–ways to make a living.

I was the Cinderella who saw the dark side of her fairy tale.

6 Interview Prep Tips for Awkward Adults

It’s interview season.

For teachers looking to change schools and college graduates, it is time for finding new jobs.

As someone who has done a lot of interviews over the last couple years, I have picked up a lot along the way.  I consider this one of my skills, and luckily, it has led me to some moderate success.

Here are my tips to prepping for an interview to help yourself feel less awkward:

  1. Come to the Interview Prepared: This includes doing research on the company, the position you are applying for, and–if you can find out–the culture of the company.  It may seem trivial when you are desperate for income, but if you find out as much as you can about the job before interviewing or even accepting, you can save yourself from being miserable (or quitting) in a few months.
  2. Have Something in Your Hand: For me, I like to bring in a packet with a cover page, cover letter, resume, letters of recommendation, and a write-up of a sample lesson.  For others, this may be a portfolio, sample writings, or something that the interviewer has requested.  You will feel much more confident walking in if you know you have something you can give them.  It will help them remember you and you will feel more prepared, giving you more confidence.
  3. Eat Something: Make sure you’re not walking into this new office with your stomach growling.  It will be not only distracting to you, but make you uncomfortable.  Pro tip: don’t eat spinach or anything else too leafy because you will need to…
  4. Smile!: It really goes a long way.  If you are feeling awkward, sometimes smiling through it can help.  If you are afraid it will come off as unnatural, try practicing smiling in the mirror.  I’m totally serious.  (Make sure to check your teeth while you are at it).
  5. Wear Something Comfortable, but Not Too Comfortable: I have a pair of dress pants that I always go to that are stretchy and not too stiff.  Ladies, wear heels if you have pant legs that flare out, you don’t want to be stepping on them (I’ve learned this the hard way)  because there’s nothing less comfortable than tripping over your own clothes.  Gentlemen, I am going to say it, wearing a little makeup won’t kill you.  Steal some of your girlfriend’s/sister’s/mom’s concealer if you have a big zit (which was probably caused by the stress of an interview coming up).  An employer will look past blemishes, but if having a clear face would make you feel more confident, there’s no shame in covering it.
  6. Arrive Extra EarlyIt may seem obvious, but arriving early has its benefits other than being able to save you from any unexpected traffic/navigation issues.  Arriving early will give you a few minutes to focus and calm yourself before going inside.  You can take your time sitting in your car if you’re feeling anxious.  Text your mom.  Take a deep breath.  Watch an episode of “The Office” (okay, I haven’t done this but one of my friends has and he said it helped him relax).



After the interview, Treat Yo’ Self.  Do something for you.  Talking about yourself and trying to seem perfect for thirty minutes can take a toll on you.  Grab a coffee and put it out of your mind–until the next one. Good luck!

The Simple Truth About Interviewing with a Sexist

Hold up–that’s a pretty accusatory title.  Sexist? Really?

I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt.  I really did, I swear.

I can’t remember the exact moment I realized who I was dealing with.

Maybe it was when he talked down to me, explaining why leads are called leads. “Because they lead to a sale!  Get it?”-Actual quote from the man I am choosing to call Mr. Wasp.

Maybe it was when Mr. Wasp talked for over 90% of the interview or when he invited a male candidate in who had been waiting outside to join us as he talked down to me, giving the other looks that said “you get it, I have to explain it to her though”.

But I think the most telling moment was when I explained to him why I wanted a job and he left the interview while I spoke, to show me how I was wrong, about the truth that I was revealing and he was trying so desperately to conceal: that there were almost no women in the field.


Last week, I interviewed at a car dealership.  I was prepared.  I knew exactly why I was there.  I was inspired by Girls Auto Clinic in Toronto, a garage that is exclusively run by women in an effort to empower women car owners who feel intimidated at dealerships. Every woman I know who has been in a dealership has been talked down to, oversold, and made to feel clueless when talking about cars.  I wanted to help be this change.

I was asked the question, “Why do you want to work here?”.  Here is what happened:

Mr. Wasp: “Why do you want to work here?”

Me: “I was inspired by the women of Girls Auto Clinic.” (here I explained what that was) “In my experience, every time I have gone to a dealership, the only women I have seen have been receptionists, so–”

Mr. Wasp, cutting me off,: “We have women here that are more than receptionists.”

Me: “Well that is great, I am glad to hear it.  But in my experience that is usually not the case.  You see,–”

Mr. Wasp, interrupting me again: “We DO hire women.  There is even a woman on the sales floor.  She is here right now.”

Mr. Wasp then gets up, leaves the room, and looks down to the sales floor and says, “She is around here somewhere”.  He proceeds to look and wait.  I sit in the room, waiting, until finally…

Mr. Wasp, pointing: “There she is! See? We hire women for sales.”

I wish I could write here what I was able to say in response to this absurd action, but truth be told, I had no chance.  He talked at me.  I had no chance to ask questions, talk about my qualifications, nor respond.  I was thanked for my time and told that I would hear back soon if I was moved forward in the hiring process.


The simple truth is that interviewers are not always so openly awful.  They don’t always create tokens out of the employees and use other candidates as pawns to justify talking down to women.  They don’t interrupt the candidates or walk out of the room.

The simple truth is that this man did all of these in a manner that was almost comical, like something out of sketch comedy or an exaggerated comic strip parody.

The simple truth is that this happens.  Every single day.  This was not my first experience and it will most likely not be my last.

And the worst part, you ask?

This man was not a possible future boss.

He did not work for the company.

He was from an outside hiring agency.

We Can’t Afford a Wedding so Let’s Just Play House

I live on Pinterest.  I window-shop on Zillow.  I spend my free time dreaming of what my future life might be like.  I have a board that is specifically dedicated to what I want for my dream wedding, which for me doesn’t mean floor to ceiling flowers or a dress that costs more than my car, but instead fun reception games and fans that say “Toit Nups”.

The problem going forward is not that I don’t have a husband in mind, but rather that he and I cannot imagine paying for any of it.  I find myself in a situation that generations before us didn’t worry about: affording to move forward in my relationship.  I have been with Ian for over two years, but with the average cost of a wedding, and living in a state where the cost of living is high, we feel stuck.  We can afford to live our lives and pay our expenses, but we can’t afford much else.  We want to spend our lives together, but our future still has a big question mark when it comes to the next steps.

This is not a comment on our relationship, but rather about every outside factor.  We are perfectly happy the way we are, but we do want to move forward.  We love our Tuesday date night, lazy Saturdays, and church on Sunday morning before I go to work.  We have not only a routine, but the communication skills that we use in our partnership that keep us strong and fulfilled.

Ian is already the first person I talk to in the morning and the last person I talk to before I go to bed.  When I have news, good or bad, he is the first person I tell.  We are a team already.  In a lot of ways, I feel like the wedding is just putting an official title on what we already know.

Believe me, I do want to get married.  I do care about it and I want to have a wedding, but I simply have no extra money to spend.  So I’ll stick to Pinterest and Zillow.  I will save dresses to my cart and dream up bridesmaid gifts.  We will walk through Pier One and discuss our favorite furniture.  We can dream all we want, but that won’t change the numbers in our bank accounts.  I guess for now we will just have to play pretend.


An Open Letter to Covington Catholic School

I’ll make this brief.  I am a devout Catholic and a student of Catholic schools.  I believe in Catholic education.  I believe in the participation in March for Life.  The horrific events that transpired on January 18th concern me.
I won’t waste your time and tell you to expel these students.  I won’t waste your time and tell you to forgive them and teach them better.  These decisions are up to you.
I will ask you though, why you would let these students wear MAGA hats, essentially a modern symbol of hatred, to the March for Life event?  Traditionally, the Republican party has been associated with being anti-abortion.  I choose my words very carefully here because I will not say that the Republican party, especially Trump’s Republican party, is pro-life.  Being pro-life means having compassion for our fellow human being.  It means providing single mothers who choose life with assistance and support.  It means treating everyone with respect.  March for Life should be that–a protest in favor of the pro-life movement, not just a protest to end abortion.
I am disgusted that these students were allowed to bring and wear these hats on your trip.  The fact that this was associated not only with Catholicism, but with Catholic schools, disgusts me to my very core.  I believe you have failed in your mission as a Catholic school.
The Catholic church has found itself on the wrong side of history too many times.  I am from Vermont and now live in the greater Boston area–two regions that were deeply hurt by too many child abuse cases.  These and other stains upon our church need to be met with a greater consciousness.  You, as leaders for our young people, are tasked with this.  I am embarrassed on your behalf.
Your job as educators is to teach your students the true values of Catholicism.  You failed in that mission when you let those students bring and wear those hats.  Catholics are pro-life, not just anti-abortion.  I am saddened by what you let spiral on January 18th.
Feel free to contact me further if you feel necessary.  I will be praying for you and your school, as well as for the students who have so much to learn.
Jessica Bruso
I sent this email on January 23rd to the principal, assistant principal, dean, and guidance counselor of Covington Catholic School.
I am Catholic.
I am pro-life.
I am disgusted.

When a Health Issue is a (Financial) Death Sentence

When I was let go from my first full time teaching job due to budget cuts, many things went through my mind.  Would I find a new job?  What will happen to my students?  How will I tell my parents?  On top of this my biggest fear of all was that I was losing my health insurance.

I don’t remember much of the meeting.  I was called into the Principal’s office (something equally if not more scary for a teacher than a student) and there was a Human Resources representative sitting in the room.  I sensed what was going to happen.  My face felt hot and there was a rock in my stomach.  When I was told that I would be finishing the year but not having my contract renewed, I sat, shaking, and asked why.  The principal listed reasons but I barely listened.  I began crying and blurted out “but what about my health insurance?”

This job loss came only a week after I found a tick in my leg.  At first, I thought it was a scab–possibly from a razor nick I didn’t notice.  ~WARNING: GROSS TICK-IN-LEG DESCRIPTION AHEAD~ The next day, I took a closer look and realized something was embedded under my skin.  It was black and no bigger than a poppy seed–it was a tick nymph.  Nymphs are the smallest and most likely to transmit Lyme disease.  I did my best to dig it out, but it wouldn’t budge.  I was not able to fully remove it until about a week later–when my skin had grown and pushed the (now dead) tick up.

My fate was sealed.  After only a couple days, the signature bullseye showed up around the bite and I felt fatigued.  My worst Lyme symptoms were the fatigue and brain fog.  Being tired is one thing.  Being sleep deprived is another.  Having fatigue is an entirely different beast.  I would have trouble waking up, be falling asleep at my teaching job, come home and nap, work my second job, and then go to bed and sleep for ten hours.  My work schedule was tough but I had never had an issue with being so tired until this symptom showed up.

In addition to the fatigue, I had brain fog.  I had a lot of issues with communicating.  I remember getting so frustrated in conversations when I couldn’t find the word I was looking for.  I was having trouble articulating exactly what I wanted to say, causing misunderstandings that I struggled with clarifying.  The fatigue was awful, but the brain fog was frustrating.  Luckily, I found help.

I was connected through a friend of a friend to my wonderful doctor who tested me for Lyme, which came up as positive–with two cases.  I was shocked to hear this.  She told me that often, the disease goes undetected because the symptoms can be mild and hard to pinpoint.  We figured out Lyme had been in my body already for at least ten years and that I had developed this new case on top of it.  I started on antibiotics right away and have been on strong antibiotics for six months now.  My older case is gone and my treatment is progressing as planned, but my monthly tests are still showing Lyme and a weakened immune system as a result.

When I lost my health insurance, I went back onto my mom’s.  Unfortunately, many insurance providers don’t cross state lines, and if they do, they have confusing hoops to jump through (like sending a fax–not an email or letter–a fax).  My monthly appointment with my doctor is just over $300 a month.  My medication is $100 a month.  My lab tests are $150 a month.  For someone who just lost a job, an unexpected $550 a month expense is financially devastating.

My mother’s insurance is able to cover some costs and I am able to apply for some reimbursement for my treatments, but it is still costing me about $200-300 out of pocket per month.  This is much more manageable now that I have a job as a substitute teacher and my second job in the evenings, but I much preferred my $20 copay and partially covered prescriptions.

At the end of the day, I am thankful.  A lot of things could have gone wrong over the course of this journey.  I could have never found my doctor.  I could not have responded well to the antibiotics.  My mother’s insurance could have refused coverage for all of my medical expenses.  I am thankful for my caring doctor, my mother, and the support I have received from family and friends throughout this journey.  That being said, I must now get up on my soapbox.

I have said it so many times over the past six months and I will sound like a broken record to anyone that knows me: we need Universal Healthcare.  I am so privileged to have access to the healthcare, finances, and (albeit lacking) insurance needed to treat my Lyme.  I can’t imagine how much worse my situation would be if I did not have my two jobs or my mother to help me.  I am lucky that my condition isn’t much worse.  I don’t need surgery, chemotherapy, or insulin, just antibiotics and a monthly check-in.  I hate to think about the financial ruin I would be in if it was worse.  If we had Universal Healthcare, we would only worry about getting better, not the cost of treatment.

The fact that millions in the United States do not have health insurance and are susceptible to suffering from treatable diseases due to a lack of funds is a national embarrassment.  We are the generation with the lowest voter turnout rate.  So vote.  Advocate.  Make this issue known.  Because a bug the size of a poppy seed should not become a financial death sentence.


My Life is Already Dramatic Enough, Thank You: A Homage to Comedy

My first experience with watching Saturday Night Live clips was at the family computer in 2008.  I was in eighth grade and my dad shows me Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and John McCain as himself selling merchandise on QVC.  I still remember some of the items from the sketch: a Joe Six Pack Doll and Palin 2012 t-shirts and of course, Fey delivering one of the infamous “I can see Russia from my house” lines.  This was the age where I am finally able to understand and appreciate the humor of the show and when my eyes are finally opened to the adult world of comedy.

When I look back to my first experiences with watching “adult” shows, I remember Seinfeld.  When I was seven years old, I watched those reruns almost every single night.  My parents knew exactly when to hit mute and when to say I would have to watch the next episode when I was older.  As soon as I was able to understand and appreciate the humor of any show my parents loved, they let me start watching it.  Friends, Arrested Development, Cheers… all of these were introduced to me by my parents.  I experience joy and laughter when I watch television and nothing else.  Little did I realize, I was one of a rare breed.

Way too often I fall victim to the inquiries about my television habits.

“You don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy?”

“But you’ve seen Scandal right?”

“You HAVE to watch This Is Us!”

“Not even Game of Thrones?!”

Look.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch these shows.  I am just saying that my personal preference is not to spend my very little free time crying in front of a screen.  I don’t enjoy watching a medical crisis (unless of course it’s on Scrubs) or political drama (except for Seasons 4 and 5 of Parks and Recreation).  I don’t want to see family drama–I have my own family for that.  I personally do not want to use up my time when I am supposed to be escaping from my troubles in the world glued to a screen watching stories that are supposed to make me cry, fear for the characters, or tug at my heart strings.  I have enough of that in my own life.

I just don’t get it.  I really don’t.  I want to be happy and smiling as much as humanly possible.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to be able to enjoy this kind of programming because frankly, I am running out of shows to watch.  I have Netflix AND Hulu.  I have seen so many comedy specials.  I have an opinion on almost every sitcom produced in the last ten years.  I have a favorite SNL cast member from any given time period.

I should take the time to emphasize that I’m not against human stories.  Some of the best story lines I have watched have been the death of Marshall’s dad on HIMYM, Gretchen’s struggle with depression on You’re the Worst (seriously go watch that), and any and all of Rebecca’s mental health issues on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.  Comedy does not have to be absurdist or unrealistic.  Finding the humor even in sadness is one of the most human things we can do.

My beliefs may be extreme, but comedy is an integral part of who I am.  I don’t want to spend any of my time feeling sad for a fictional character.  Life is dramatic and terrible enough as it is, so I’m going to laugh as much as I can.





My Boyfriend is a Smoker and It’s My Fault

I knew Ian was a smoker long before we even started seeing each other.  Going to a small college with only so many students, the smokers stand out.  You smell it in the air when you walk by.  Sometimes you hold your breath or cough.  To any non-smoker, the odor is offensive and disgusting.  We associate smoking with something that old people do.  My grandparents smoked and so do many of our generation’s parents.  With the knowledge we now have about the harm it causes to our health, why would anyone start?

I cannot count the number of times I have asked Ian why in the world he would take up smoking.  His answer is always the same: he is the product of his environment.  He was raised by a single mother (a smoker) and all four of his older brothers started smoking around the age of eighteen.  Ian would get so upset when his mother and brothers would smoke.  He used to steal lighters and hide them away–you can’t take cigarettes without getting blamed, but you can definitely “misplace” lighters.  Despite all of this, the culture of smoking was contagious. One day, when he was feeling particularly stressed during his senior year of high school, he picked one up and that was it.  He has now been smoking for nearly five years.

According to my parents and several other well-meaning “friends”, I should put a stop to this.  I have been told countless times that I am responsible for getting him to quit.  At first, I thought they were right and that this was possible.

I’ve tried badgering him.  I’ve stolen his lighters.  I’ve taken to hiding his cigarettes when I am drunk.  I have asked him to cut down.  I have monitored how many cigarettes he has smoked in a day.  I have done everything I can possibly think of.

Except for one thing.

I am always told to do it.  I am always told it would work.  I refuse.

I will not give him an ultimatum.  I will not say to him “Give up smoking, or I will leave you.”  Just the thought of this is horrible to me.  The idea that I should leave him unless he makes this change is unfair.  I could stay with him and help him follow through his plan to quit which is mainly based on his plans to move out of his mother’s house and get away from that environment.  Or, I could throw away the relationship we have built for the last two years and threaten to leave on this condition which will not only hurt him, but hurt me as well.  Even if it were to work, is giving an ultimatum any way to have a healthy relationship?

Some may disagree, but it all boils down to this: Why am I the one being held responsible for making him quit?  At first, the question was “How?”, but I have realized that the real question is “Why?”. Why am I expected to fix the problem?  I was not the one that caused it and while I certainly do not encourage or condone the habit, is it mine to break?  This is not the first time something like this has come up for me or for anyone else.  In fact, it is a problem in our society.  Too often women are expected to fix the problems of the men in their life.

I was reminded of this recently when Mac Miller passed away and Ariana Grande ended up disabling her Instagram comments due to trolls blaming her for his death.  This is any woman’s personal nightmare.  While she is thinking “what could I have done differently?” and “is it my fault?” awful people sit behind their screens blaming her for every factor leading to his death.  She is not responsible for him taking drugs.  She is not responsible for his addiction.  And even if she broke his heart, she is not responsible for his unhealthy ways of dealing with that.

Am I responsible for Ian’s smoking?  Is there anything I can do?  If he develops cancer or emphysema or heart disease and dies, is that my fault?  A stupid 18 year-old boy made this horrible life decision, so why is the 23 year-old woman in charge of fixing it?

Five Year Reunion

November 6: I texted Lylly before the crack of dawn.  Overnight, the Facebook invitation finally arrived.  Our five year reunion was scheduled for the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend.  Lylly (pronounced Lily) is the only person from my graduating class of twenty-two people that I still talk to on a regular basis. Unfortunately, she says she will be in Maine, so I decide I won’t attend.

November 7: I tell my mom that I have been invited to my five year reunion.  She says it will be fun and that I should at least make an appearance.  Who knew my mom would ever be the one talking me into going to a trashy bar?

November 24: The invitation says 9:00, but I show up around 9:45.  I decide to be fashionably late because I am attending a concert with my parents down the street.  I am able to sneak out at intermission and they will give me an out when they have to pick me up.  My dad walks me down the street to the bar because he doesn’t trust the area, which I don’t complain about because frankly, neither do when I’m walking alone at night.

When I arrive, people are surprised to see me, probably because I checked off “Maybe” on the Facebook invite.  I recognize that being a flake is my tragic flaw, so I never say “Yes” unless I am enthusiastic about attending.  I see my old teammates from cheerleading, a friend I have known since kindergarten, the girl who I went to the same college as, and my ex-boyfriend. I speak to them in that order.

I order a hard cider and put my coat down.  I chat with a few people and we go over the details of our lives.  Only seven other people are there, making for a small gathering, but it is intimate and I don’t mind that at all.  It is quiet and fun to catch up, but within a few minutes I’m uncomfortable.

The gossip is beginning, and while I normally love to indulge, I simply cannot keep up.  Everyone at the reunion except for myself and one other person (who mentioned her plans to move back) still live in the area.  I am hearing names I haven’t heard in years and cannot put faces to them.  I am updated on the lives of strangers.  Who are these mystery people?  Occasionally, old classmates are brought up–some in a negative light and others positively, but I hear so much about people I don’t know.  I stand awkwardly in the circle, realizing I have sipped my drink nearly every time I have felt out of place.

It has only been about half an hour and I can’t leave yet.  I decide to go over to the bar.  My ex is sitting separate from this circle.  I order a water and grab his attention.

Our relationship was one of the highlights of my high school experience.  I say this because he was one of my best friends.  We were friends before we dated and when we started going out, nothing changed.  Our relationship, although labeled as romantic, was platonic.  There was almost nothing physical and that is including the innocent kiss or holding hands.  I never really figured out why it was like this, but I have no complaints. We drifted apart when we went to college and broke up a few weeks in.  I don’t regret anything but the fact that we hadn’t spoken in five years.

When we talked, it was as if no time had passed.  We picked up right where we left off.  I felt comfortable with him.  I laughed with him and we talked about our lives.  He was the only one I was truthful with about my current employment situation–he was the only one I would want to know.  I told him about my quarter-life crisis and I told him about this blog.  I spent the rest of the night talking to him and it was so natural.  I missed those years of friendship and we made up for it.

The song “Africa” came on and he said he was surprised because that was what he would usually play on the jukebox.  I told him how my boyfriend and his brothers always do a shot of tequila when they hear the song.  He said we should do tequila shots, but we settled for Dr. McGillicuddy’s.  I was being picked up by my parents after all– I didn’t need to smell like a 21st birthday party.

At the end of the night (which for me was somewhere around 10:30) my dad came into the bar to pick me up.  For anyone else this would be mortifying, but my dad was the basketball coach so my classmates were happy to see him.  I said goodbye, hugged all the girls and my ex, and walked to the car with my dad.

There’s a certain pressure to look like our best selves seeing people from our  past.  I did not tell anyone that I had quit my terrible job or that I was going through a rough time.  I wore a cute outfit that made me look skinny, despite gaining about ten pounds since high school.  I wanted to be my best–be the one that moved away and came back more confident and successful than ever.  This was not my case but I was able to have one moment of honesty.  Part of being honest with ourselves and with others is getting past the awkward and embracing our failures… even if we only admit them to one person.

I’m Financially Responsible. Why Don’t You Believe Me?

I went for a walk the other day.  I told myself it was to save money on gas or to get some exercise, but it was most likely to clear my mind.  I walked in the pouring rain with my polka dot umbrella to the library.  I had one mission in mind: get the money that was owed to me, but more on that later.

I put on my junkiest sneakers and walked through puddles to get to my destination.  As much as I felt that my environment could be perfectly complimented with the background music of Animal Crossing, I decided to opt out of music for two reasons: my road has twists and turns and I have to listen for cars and I wanted to be alone with my thoughts about money and the like.

My first stop was the library.  Earlier that day I had written a letter to my former employer.  I paid for my health insurance for the past three months but my paperwork was never submitted.  After some phone tag with my doctor and insurance company, I learned I had paid over four hundred dollars and received no coverage.  I wrote a stern letter and walked into the library, somehow sopping wet despite the umbrella, and printed it at the computers available.  I do not own a printer because it is almost never necessary to print my documents, but this was different because I decided to get this letter notarized.

Of course, I had to look up what a notary public actually does and what their purpose was before I went through with this.  Part of this wonderful adulting adventure is figuring out these things as they become necessary. After my trip to the library, I walked to the town hall and signed my strongly worded letter in front of a notary public who then stamped and signed it, verifying that I was the signer and that there had been a witness present.  Some may ask why I went through such trouble, but to that my answer is simple.

As twenty-somethings, the world knows it can screw us over when it comes to finances.  Really, how often do you check your bank account and go through every charge on your debit card?  I certainly do but not as often as I should.  From the moment we sign up for student loans at eighteen years old, we are expected to dive into the financial world while understanding very little about it.  My highest loan rate is currently at a whopping 7.2%.  When I bought my first car six months ago (alone, without a “real” adult or a man as my parents had always advised) the dealer came to me offering a 3.9% interest rate on my new car.  I told them 0.9% or I would walk.  When I said this, they frankly told me that I couldn’t possibly have a credit score worthy of that percentage.  As they explained this, I pulled up my account showing my high credit score.  Luckily I got what I wanted after they ran the numbers.  I was twenty two years old.  The car dealers never expected my finances to be in order.  We have a responsibility to be more aware about our money because so often we can be cheated out of it.

After having my letter notarized and brought it to the post office.  I sent off my letter formally requesting the $441 dollars that my employer owes me.  I felt good about what I had done and reflected on this as I walked the mile home.

I wish I could say that was the end of the story.  I wish I could say I was reimbursed the amount that I requested.  Instead, I found in my next direct deposit (what should have been my last paycheck) was missing $441.  I am now owed $882.  So here I am, waiting for my money, all set to write another letter on Monday, print it at the library, have it notarized, and mail it out again.

I went on a walk to clear my head from financial stress and perhaps to save a little gas money.  I went on a walk because I was angry and I knew the fresh air would be good for me.  My little adventure unfortunately reminded me how easy it is to be taken advantage of financially.  My advice is to stay aware and alert, to fight back when you are owed money and to fight harder when it is owed to you by someone in a position of power.  My advice is to stay vigilant, but to take that walk in the rain when you need to get money off your mind.