Breathe, Michael. Just breathe. Take a deep breath. Sit in this moment. This is your respite.
The bleeding has stopped. There’s no hemorrhaging tonight. You’re out of crisis mode.
November 15, 2016 was a scary day for me.
After I called my mom for her birthday, I checked my bank account balance and realized I was in somewhat dire straits. I’d underestimated a few of my bills when I was setting this month’s budget. Turns out I was a few bucks short of where I needed to be to make my credit card payments.
To make a long story short, I had about 72 hours to make $100 or I would be missing a payment for the first time in my life.
If there’s one way to ruin your day, it’s to find out that you’re broke. Not just a little bit broke, either, but like legitimately fucking broke.
The day got worse as time went on. I got a text message from a guy I’d kind of forgotten about – one that has caused me a lot of trouble emotionally. He’s the kind that says he wants a relationship, but illustrates how he really feels with deafening actions.
We’d actually had a slight falling out a couple months ago when I called him on his shit. He ended up reading something I wrote about him and reconnected with me. And apologized. This happened on a day when I wasn’t feeling particularly good about myself. He took me to Wienerschnitzel. Then we slept together.
This was in September. He didn’t text me again until this particularly desperate day. I wasn’t particularly hurt by this. In fact, truth is I didn’t think about guys, dating, or a relationship since then, barring to record episodes of the Single AF podcast. The last two months has been a respite from all things love.
But shit hit the fan, so he texted me. I swear it’s like he has a Google Alert set to let him know every time I’m having an emotional breakdown.
“So I brought you back a Jurassic Park keychain”
That was the text I got from him, two months later. He’d been to Universal Studios for vacation and brought me back a key chain.
I sarcastically responded with, “Ooh my god thank you sooooo much for thinking of meee.”
He didn’t get it. In fact, he invited me over later that night. No. Hard pass.
It turns out Monday nights aren’t super busy for Uber in El Paso. Imagine that, right?
I ended up texting him to bitch about the slow night. Two hours online and no rides so far. I was in panic mode, officially. The only shred of hope I could find was that I would find a parking lot dark enough to cry in. He told me to turn the car around. “You need Jack in the Box.”
What’s wrong with me?
(How much time do you have?)
I know better than to see him when I’m vulnerable. Hell, I know better than to see anybody when I’m vulnerable. Nobody makes a good choice when his mind is screaming in pain and fear. It’s how I’ve talked myself into thousands of poor life choices.
But I did. A strawberry milkshake seemed like a nice respite. It was an hour of thinking about something other than the Evanescence song I had blaring on repeat. We went to Jack in the Box, and then back to his place.
And I know what you’re thinking, but I’ve learned from our history. He seemed to want to make out (and etc.). I wasn’t going to give him what he wanted.
The rest of the night was wasted, though. I made $3.75 off of a cancellation fee for a no-show rider outside a bar.
That’s it. I’m fucked. This is the end.
I went home and went to bed.
The pieces fall into place
Tuesday was the day the stars aligned.
I spent a lot of the day moping around and feeling sorry for myself. What the hell else was I supposed to do?
I did the math again on all my payments and account balances. $80. That was what I had to make. In the next 24 hours.
I felt like I was waiting for my life to hit its tipping point. Four months ago, I’d taken the plunge into full-time entrepreneurship, and this was it. I knew I’d been plunging toward the ground, but there’s a special kind of punch in the gut you get when you see that you’re only feet away.
Last night wasn’t respite. It was my final meal.
So I got on the road.
A couple rides later, I’d made about $10. This wasn’t going to work out.
But then I checked my email. One of my credit card companies had refunded a $25 late fee for a returned payment from a fucked up auto-pay situation. My minimum payment had dropped by $25 accordingly.
Then another ride came in. And another. I got a $2 tip from one ride, then a $5 one from the next. These were my third and fourth tips in my history as an Uber driver.
Something good was happening.
Over about eight hours, I did 10 rides, most of them short, but a few being longer. I worked my way up to a $51 payout.
And what’s more than that? Around 9 PM, I got another $20 tip.
I hadn’t only made enough to cover my credit card payments. More than that, I’d made enough to do my laundry. I’d still have another $17 in my checking account, too. Not a lot, but it’s a hell of a feeling to go to that from being steps away from bankruptcy.
Respite: Taking a breath
I went home and sat on the steps outside my apartment. This was it. I’d survived another round of bills. Two weeks. I had two weeks to get my next payment cycle needs met. $50 a day. That’s doable if I focus.
The next morning, I got a call from a job I’d applied to a while back. I went in to interview the same day. And I’ll start working there next week.
It doesn’t pay a lot – not even enough to cover my monthly bills, really – but it does pay enough to take the edge off. Over the last couple of months, I’ve realized that making $1,500 a month is easy if you know where to look. But the challenge of putting in the work to earn money while also putting in the work to find that work is insanely difficult.
It’s more than I can handle over the next couple months. I think November 15 took a full year off my life. More than that, I’m not sure how reliable Uber driving will be over the holiday season. I’ll still be driving on my days off, but I can’t use it as my full-time source of income at the moment. It’s simply too challenging (and pays impressively bad at this point – unless you luck out).
But right now I have a respite. I can breathe. The stress isn’t completely crushing me.
I still have a hell of a long way to go on this journey, but for the moment – for this moment – I’m back to flying. Or at least treading water.