How to Build Credit

Bad credit stands out like a Scarlet Letter super-glued to your forehead. If you have bad credit or none at all you can’t easily get a car, an apartment, a house loan, or even sign up for many basic utilities without a deposit. It’s okay though, because unlike changing the minds of Puritans, building and even fixing credit can be much easier than it seems.

One of the big myths about credit is that you need to be rich to have good credit. As someone in their 20’s with no great fortune, I can assure you that notion is poppycock. You can build credit even if you are only making even a few hundred dollars a month if you manage your finances well.

The first step to establishing credit is to open a bank account. I have met plenty of people who prefer to hold cash they earn or cash their checks for a fee rather than put their money in a bank account. It is not a good idea to hold onto all your money as cash. I’m not saying your pet will decide to rip your money into confetti or that you’ll be robbed, but it could happen if you leave it lying around and nobody will replace your torn up bills.

I have had bank accounts with a few major banks and a couple different credit unions. Locally owned credit unions should be your first choice. They care more about their customers which is reflected in their services by offering better interest rates and lower deposit requirements than larger institutions. Credit unions also reinvest into the communities they serve through providing jobs to your neighbors and sponsoring local community programs and events. If you’re nice when you call customer service, they might even reverse some overdraft fees. I’ve had quite a bit of luck with fee reversals at credit unions over the years, but never with large national banks.

If you open an account with a large national bank make sure you do your homework to find the bank with the lowest fees, deposit requirements, etc. Most accounts require you to hold a minimum dollar amount to avoid being charged a monthly service fee. The service fee can be a ridiculous amount if you hold a small amount of money in the account. For example, Bank of America had a $12 monthly service fee to hold less than $500 in an account, but would waive the fee if I had direct deposit. Since I didn’t have direct deposit available from my employer and didn’t hold over $500 in the account I promptly closed that account. Considering they are holding onto your money and investing it to make a profit on top of charging you to keep your money there, the major national banks are a bit unscrupulous.

Once you have set up your account, you should look into setting up a low-limit credit card through your credit union or bank. If you can’t get a credit card through your banking institution, there are plenty of other options to choose from and Samuel L. Jackson and Morgan Freeman can tell you so themselves if you watch TV long enough.

For those with low or no credit, I would suggest getting a credit card through a store you enjoy shopping at. Stores that have credit cards often have promotional offers and will sometimes offer you a one-time discount off your entire purchase to sign up. These stores tend to have more lax rules regarding credit approval. I won’t argue that easy credit a good thing, but if you’re aiming to build credit it can be a great option for you to start building credit.

They will run your credit initially to approve or deny you for the card. The most important factor however is usually income. Don’t apply for a $500 limit credit card if you only make $600 a month. Aim for somewhere around 15-20% of your monthly income. The higher the card limit you apply for, the higher the chance you have to be declined. It is not the end of the world if you are declined, but it can look bad to other creditors if you then apply for another card at another institution immediately after.

The key to using credit cards to build credit is to be responsible with them. Always pay on time; do not keep your card near the maximum limit; be mindful of how much interest you pay on your credit purchases. If you don’t pay your balances off or only make the minimum payments the interest will add up quickly. Credit companies will also pile on fees if you are late though, and can lower your credit limit or cancel cards if you fail to pay in a timely manner consistently.

The periods of time where my credit has been the best have been the periods where I had all of my credit cards paid off and held a zero balance on them. Within the course of a month, I have seen my credit increase over 100 points simply due to paying off my credit cards.

Beyond opening a bank account and maintaining credit lines, one last thing that helped me build my credit has been my car. I understand it is not feasible for everyone to buy or lease their own car, but car loans are an incredible way to build your credit.

My first car was a lease through Subaru. They were running a promotional offer on a 2014 Impreza and with tax my payment was only $184 each month. I was approved to lease the car without credit or a co-signer and only proof of income to show the dealership. When I wanted to upgrade to a Legacy a year and a half later I did not have good credit, but since I had faithfully made all my lease payments on time they approved me for a new Legacy based on payment history and proof of income.

I could write a whole blog post on how to choose which car to get or whether to lease or buy, but that’s going to have to wait for another day. With the information I have given you though, you have most of the information I struggled to learn first-hand in the last couple years. I am missing plenty of other good advice so don’t take my advice as the end-all be-all answer on how to build or fix credit, but use this information to build a foundation for your financial future if you haven’t already begun to do so.

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Dealing with Canine Cancer

For most people their recollections of the year 2016 were defined by the American Presidential election, the British exit from the European Union, gun violence, terrorism, and a smattering of other issues. My year was defined by canine cancer.

On an unremarkable night in May of 2016 I came home from my second job and went to take my dogs Azzurri and Lilly outside. When I reached down to put Azzurri’s leash on, I noticed a bump on his front right leg. At first I just assumed he’d been his crazy little self and run into something or that perhaps his leg was swollen from running next to me while longboarding, but the bump persisted and did not go away.

Not knowing the area I lived in very well, I got a recommendation for a local veterinarian. The vet saw him and when she first looked at it she poked and prodded at his leg and exclaimed something to the tune of “Hmm, that’s interesting, it seems gelatinous.” Not quite the words I was hoping or expecting to hear. She took a cell sample from the area and said they would call within 2-3 days with the results. He was given some antihistamines and we left to wait for the news.

When 3 days had passed without a peep from the vet I started to get antsy and gave them a call. The results weren’t in yet. Eventually the vet called me back and said that it was a histamine related issue and that if the problem persisted I would need to bring him back in for a follow-up.

The issue persisted over a couple of weeks.

When he saw the vet again they told me that it was a mast cell tumor. They asked if I had received the letter in the mail notifying me of the news or if the veterinarian who had handled his visit before had told me of the news. I had not received anything in the mail and the vet had only told me to monitor it to see if it got worse. The vet didn’t explain that the issue was cancer before and this news came weeks after his results had come in. Had I known it was cancer, I would have been much more vigilant and urgent about his treatment. Thank you Doctor.

Azzurri had a mast cell tumor and these tumors come in three grades, with grade three being the worst. Azzurri’s tumor was grade two. While the tumor did not necessarily have a high risk to spread throughout the body, his treatment recommendation was surgery to remove the mass.

The vet recommended the Animal Specialty Group in Los Angeles for the surgery due to the location of the tumor and their expertise. The vet also mentioned they could do it in-house for cheaper, but they said it is possible he may need another surgery and after dealing with their incompetence already I didn’t want to risk going with them again.

I set up an appointment with ASG immediately and took Azzurri to see the surgeon. They recommended surgery and we proceeded with his treatment. Everything went perfect surgery-wise and Azzurri didn’t lose a single bit of his spirit. Even with stitches, a cone, a cast, and not being able to jump, go running, or basically have fun, he remained the same awesome little dog. The only downside was that not all of the mass was removed as some of the tumor had grown between his tendons where the surgeon couldn’t remove it.

At his one week follow-up after surgery Azzurri had his cast removed and saw the oncologist at ASG. She recommended radiation treatment to destroy the remaining mass in his leg. Price tag: around $7,000 to $10,000. One bit of silver lining was at least that the radiation could be delayed for a little while to take time to get the funds for the procedure.

Months went by and Azzurri’s leg seemed fine, but in late October his leg looked like it was starting to grow and shrink in the same area his tumor was removed. I called a different veterinarian and got referred to a new oncologist to get a second opinion on the radiation treatment so we could compare the prices and proceed with the next step. The veterinarian referred me to the Veterinary Cancer Group of Los Angeles.

From the moment we saw the oncologist at the Veterinary Cancer Group there was no doubt in my mind I wanted them to handle his treatment. At every step of the way they showed that they truly cared about my dog. The staff even asked if they could have Azzurri for an extra 15 minutes just to play in the back with him. When it came to billing I’m pretty sure they even threw in a discount as well. At the end of the day though, they confirmed that the best path would be radiation treatment and that the cost was going to be around $7,000 to $10,000.

Raising money was the hard part. I set up a GoFundMe account and it was successful to a degree, but the constant stress and worry about where I would be able to come up with the funding for his treatment felt like I was carrying the globe on Atlas’ back. I hate asking people for money, and knew I wouldn’t be able to raise the money on my own through the GoFundMe account, but I had to do everything I could. Thankfully Azzurri’s grandparents love him and decided they would pay for his treatment. I still tried raising money because I wanted to help out my parents as much as I could, but I knew I would never be able to raise the money for his treatment alone.

On December 1st we went to the Veterinary Cancer Group at their Woodland Hills location. He had a check-up and blood tests to see whether the cancer had spread before starting radiation. Everything came back clear with no abnormalities and we scheduled his treatments to start the next week. His treatments would be every weekday for 18 days from the 5th of December until the 28th of December. The treatments would include putting him to sleep with anesthesia every day and directing a very strong X-ray at the location of the tumor.

Everything up to this point had been pretty stressful, but the stress elevated to a whole new level when radiation treatment started. Luckily for the pups they enjoy car rides and don’t have any idea what a stupid driver or dealing with traffic is, but dealing with Los Angeles drivers and the I-405 freeway every single day is almost hell. Compound that with trying to buy Christmas gifts, preparing my apartment for my family to visit for Christmas, and trying to handle my work responsibilities, my energy was sapped for nearly all of December.

Our schedule was completely out of whack. Azzurri was supposed to fast every day for at least 8 hours before treatment. He threw up while under anesthesia during his first couple weeks and apparently that’s a really bad thing so after a week and a half he got put on a 12 hour fast. With the time added to get to and from treatment it was more like 15 hours. We also normally take a nap or two after work but that wasn’t possible because after his treatment I had to catch up on work.

What really stood out was how Azzurri remained his same happy self throughout the whole ordeal. He showed no side-effects during the treatment and would actually whine when we would arrive for his radiation therapy because he couldn’t wait to see the people inside. His spirit made it a lot easier to deal with the stress brought on by the situation.

Christmas came and Azzurri’s grandparents and auntie got to see him before he finished his treatment and spend the holidays with us. Sadly, he had to wear the cone for their trip, but he still got to enjoy their company.

On Thursday, December 28th Azzurri graduated from radiation treatment.

As much as this experience has weighed on me, I can’t even imagine how Azzurri has felt. While his tumor was present a vet described the sensation as irritating and said it would feel like little crystals inside his skin. After his surgery he wasn’t able to jump and had to wear a cone and a cast, so I moved all of the furniture so he had nothing to jump on and would sleep on the floor with him and Lilly at night. They did have a pretty sweet couch fort though

It took him a while to get used to the cone, but eventually the cast came off and then a few weeks later the cone. When his radiation treatment began however, he started wearing a cone again and it didn’t come off for an extended period of time other than his radiation treatment for five weeks.

I’m not a superstitious person, but when your baby develops a disease like cancer you start to question if it’s because of something you did. Did I use the wrong carpet cleaner? Was there a chemical I left in the house he was exposed to? Was it something I was feeding him that caused it? Was it because Azzurri was sad I adopted a new dog? The endless questions (often ridiculous) with unknowable answers brought on by the onset of cancer in a loved one are daunting.

Every bump and anomaly becomes an anxiety attack, and when you do notice something that looks a bit abnormal you wonder if you hadn’t been paying enough attention to your baby enough and could have noticed it sooner.

I imagine some of the stresses and issues that have come along with Azzurri’s cancer are the same for those who have family members or children who develop cancer. I also imagine that it is much harder to handle this when it’s a child because it would be impossible to keep a child in the dark about how serious the disease is. Even if you didn’t explain it to them, they would know something is not right. With a dog I feel as if it is a lot easier to hide the seriousness of cancer. He may have sensed my body language was different as I was stressed out or that we were going to weird places with people in lab coats more, but taking a kid to the doctor and have them hear the doctor say they have cancer seems like a much more arduous task.

Azzurri can’t understand English besides his commands, but kids are not so simple. Kids ask questions, they wonder, they tell you how they feel. I have no idea how my little boy Azzurri has felt through this ordeal and I think in many ways him not knowing what was happening helped ease his mind throughout the diagnosis and treatment.

Thursday, January 12th marked two weeks since his treatment finished and he’s shown no real side effects other than dry skin at the radiation site. We are back to going for longboard rides and he can run worry-free for the first time in almost eight months.

It feels good to be able to breathe deep and know that this ordeal is over, but I’m always going to have one thought on my mind:

Will his cancer come back?

Who knows, but Azzurri is happy, healthy, tumor-free and can run again, and that’s all that matters right now.

My College Entrance Essay

I was going through my computer and reading some things I had written in the past when I came across the essay I wrote to accompany my application to the University of Oregon. Being as this is the only school I ever applied to and I was actually accepted with only a 3.25 high school GPA that was right at the acceptance level, I guess this may have been what influenced them to accept me. Whatever their decision was, looking back on this brings me a nice little chuckle.

The prompt for the essay was something to the effect of “The University of Oregon’s motto is Mens Agitat Molem which means Minds Move Mountains. How will you use this to guide your education?” or something like that….

Enjoy:

My goal is not to relocate Mount Everest. It is simply to move the mountain that I like to call ‘Myself’. The main obstruction of this goal however, is a lack of a focused area of study. However, despite the fact that I know I want to study accounting, marketing, or entrepreneurship, after receiving my education through the University of Oregon, I anticipate that I will have moved my mountain forward.

In my senior year, more than ever before, I have found that it is particularly hard to make important life decisions. The next four years of life seem to be a complete mystery, yet I understand that a four year degree can open options as decisions come along.

Eugene is the place I feel I want to be to decipher my future. At present, the options I have had to study, and grow personally, have been limited. In order to succeed, I need to be around individuals who can challenge my ideas, yet help me to fine tune them.

This is where “Minds Move Mountains” comes into my plan. Without being able to surround myself with other ideals and mannerisms that differ from the ones I have been around my entire life, I cannot possibly establish my own directions.

I believe that exploring many different subjects at the University of Oregon will enable me to develop a love for one area of study. At the same time, experiencing life outside of my hometown will give me another perspective not only in what ever field I will go into, but how and where I want to live in the years that follow.

Essentially, I want to make a difference in the lives of the people who I want to live for: my future children. Looking back at all of the steps my parents have gone through in order for me to be where I am today, it shows me that the most important thing in life is not how much status you have, so much as the sacrifice we make for our children. I plan on making the most of my education through the University of Oregon and using it in the world to support my family. No matter how much sweat, tears, or blood may come out of it, in the end it will all be worth it if I can keep my family happy, and growing to ‘move mountains’ on their own.

Looking back and reflecting on this short essay now, I have to say I am proud of my 17 year-old-self for wanting to expose myself to new and challenging ideas from outside of my circle of family and friends, as well as my local community. Today’s liberal culture seems to be creating “safe spaces” in colleges and wants to keep out dissenting opinions, but that goes directly in the face of one of the main tenets of liberal ideology which is freedom of speech.

On the part where I thought I might be able to focus on one area of study….that was quite a bit naive. After being accepted to the University of Oregon I did end up focusing on one subject in Accounting, but I learned so much more about the world and life through other courses than I ever could have imagined.

I studied political science, philosophy, religion, geology, geography, oceanography, drug treatment and criminology, wilderness survival and outdoor photography, Japanese, Farsi, Chinese film, among other subjects. In fact, in addition to my Accounting degree with a minor in Economics, I am only a few courses away from an additional minor in Geology as well as another in Political Science. Thankfully, the University of Oregon will allow me to go back and complete those minors later when I have the time (and funds) to.

Millennial Dating Angst

I am tired of dating. Not for a lack of dates, but because I am simply tired of looking for dates. However, since I just turned 28 and am not getting younger I can’t just stop dating if I want to find my future wife.

Hopefully I don’t sound too depressing, I’m just trying to be real. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a person and how to be respectful to women from every dating experience I’ve had but boy howdy am I jaded by the dating scene.

I have lived in LA for two years and seriously dated two women, and have been on dates with many, many more since I moved here. I’ve been on dating apps off and on. Swiping; looking at group photos trying to figure out which person is the one with the profile; perusing profiles of people who may not even be real (in existence or mindset); sending the first message hundreds of times; being asked to add random women on Skype so I can give them money (get out of here with that bullshit); uninstalling dating apps after a good date; reinstalling them when good dates don’t pan out or when relationships end; et cetera. It’s gotten old.

You’re probably wondering why I don’t just go out in public and meet someone. Well, I’ve been shy my whole life and am an introvert until I am comfortable to open up to someone. I also have a tendency to trip on my verbiage when I’m nervous, and talking to girls that I haven’t met can turn my sentences into word salad.

When I moved to LA I didn’t know a single person my age within an hour’s distance, so going out with friends wasn’t an option initially, and drinking alone at a bar and trying to find a date is not my idea of having a good time. Hence my reliance on online dating. Compared to dating in Portland I will say at least there are a lot more women in Los Angeles, because when I lived in Oregon using dating apps only led to a handful of dates in the same period of time as I have lived in LA.

In terms of starting a conversation, the risk for online dating is fairly low. If a woman does not respond, it doesn’t phase me and it is easy to move on. I do not understand why so many guys have to be assholes when rejected online, I really don’t.

Nobody owes you a response, and women get hundreds and hundreds of messages a day on these apps, so give them a break. If she didn’t respond before, you are not going to get her to reply by being a dick instead, and you’re only showing her she should steer clear of your potential bullshit down the road. If a woman does not respond to your first message chill out and give her time, and if she never responds to more: get the message. If she does respond, don’t be a dick.

There is a pretty funny double-standard in online dating regarding the first message. Often times if you read a profile a woman will say “If you only say Hey, Hi, or something unoriginal I won’t message back” yet in the vast majority of times I have been messaged first, it was with a simple “Hi” and I didn’t care at all that it wasn’t a deep introductory message. I find this kind of hilarious, but this is anecdotal.

After you talk for a while you might have a date, but a promising first date and a good time with someone means nothing if there isn’t chemistry. Even if there is chemistry, dates that seem to go great may not lead to a second date or a serious relationship. Such is life. Don’t be a dick if she says no to a second date and move on.

Good things come to those who wait, and I get that because rushing into relationships usually doesn’t work out. The reality is that when you rush into a relationship you are both looking for the same thing at the time you found each other: most likely companionship and an escape from single life. You may get what you need at the time. You won’t find out that you are not compatible for weeks or months later though. If you don’t try at all you’ll never know what could happen. You won’t learn anything about yourself or what you are looking for if you don’t date.

Overall, I don’t believe in the concept of one true love or being meant for someone. Nobody is meant for anyone. Maybe at the place you are at in your life at the time you met your soulmate they were the perfect person for you, but if you had moved across the world before you met your true love you are with now (if you are with someone), you would find a different soulmate in that place eventually. If I still lived in Oregon maybe I would be with someone, maybe I wouldn’t. Love is real, but the concept of one true love for a person is an illusion.

That’s enough millennial dating angst for one day. As with anything posted online, a future date of mine could see this angst as a dealbreaker, but frankly I don’t really give a damn. I would rather be real with my thoughts and share them. End rant.

The Story of Azzurri (the dog, not the Italian soccer team)

You are supposed to do things you love on your birthday, right? Well… I love my dog and writing, and it is my birthday, so today I will tell you the story of my dog Azzurri.

It was the winter of 2005 and I had not applied to college yet for the fall of 2006. I was uninspired and only wanted to go to one school: the University of Oregon in Eugene. So, I sent in my application with a somewhere around 500-letter essay on the phrase “Mens Agitat Molem,” which is Latin for “Minds move mountains,” and also the University of Oregon motto.

A few months later as I went along with life as usual, a letter came in the mail. I had gotten into my dream school, the only one to which I had applied. It may not have been Harvard, Yale, or any other prestigious Ivy League university, but it was my dream school nonetheless.

The day I was accepted I was already fortuitously going to the Nike Employee store. A store built in my hometown of Beaverton next to the Nike World Headquarters. A store that is there solely because of the legacy of Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman who created Nike at my future school. How fitting!

Naturally I did the only thing a future Duck should do: tell all my friends I got in and go buy Ducks gear of course.

Before that day, I had never spent $300 on a pair of shoes. However, when a green and yellow pair of University of Oregon-themed shoes with orange embroidered duck feet shone their beautiful green and yellow aura to me at the Nike Employee store, I knew I had to have them.

Fast forward a little bit to freshman year, I enrolled in an entry-level Accounting class and needed to find a seat. The whole class was almost full and I spotted a few empty seats scattered across the lecture room. One seat was next to a guy who looked Persian, so I walked up to him, asked him if the seat was open (it was), and then if he was Persian (he was). We have been friends ever since.

Sophomore year, my friend from accounting was looking for a roommate to get an apartment with near campus the next year. We ended up getting a place right by Dough Co. on 14th street at the Hilyard House. Things went great junior year and we lived together for his senior year in the same building but in a different unit.

During that year, he dated a girl who had a dog named Bella, and I would dogsit for her while they went out. I am a homebody and not much of a partier, so Bella was my little pal. I had never had a dog before and she was so adorable it just made you happy to have her around. Well, her owner and my roommate broke up, so I wasn’t dogsitting her anymore, but I had a random idea: ask for the breeder’s email and see if I can adopt a dog from the same parents.

As luck would have it, after I emailed the guy he let me know that Bella’s parents were having another litter of puppies. I jumped on the opportunity to reserve one. It was not a traditional breeder, it was just a guy who had a Papillon female and a Maltese male and they were having their second and final litter.

A few weeks or so went by without any updates, and I was starting to get worried the breeder forgot about me, but on Memorial Day of 2010, Azzurri was born and I got an email to let me know I would be getting a puppy from the litter. They sent pictures of the puppies and asked which one I would like to have. Azzurri stood out because of his big blue puppy eyes. All the puppies were adorable, but he was the one I fell in love with before even meeting him.

The school year ended; my roommate moved out; the World Cup happened. And then it was time to get the dog.

Azzurri was in Paso Robles, California, and I was in Eugene, Oregon. I didn’t have a car, and I couldn’t rent a car at a good price because of my age. So, I gave a friend $100 to borrow their car for the trip and headed to California to get Azzurri.

On the drive down after I hit the California border all I ate was In-N-Out. One in Redding, one in San Jose, and then I think the one in Redding again on the way back. Mmmm, double-doubles animal style…but I digress. I left drove almost continuously for 12 hours. By the time I got to Paso Robles it was past midnight and I was tired, so I spent the night in the Jeep at the Walmart I was picking Azzurri up at in the morning. It was uncomfortable and cold, but I didn’t care.

In the morning I woke up quite a bit earlier than the time the guy was supposed to meet me. Having nothing to do, I decided to drive around and see what Paso Robles was like. It was absolutely beautiful. A quiet town with lots of rural areas and farms, a welcome change from the scenery of Eugene.

After wasting enough time and gas, I headed back to the Walmart to wait. Shortly after I got there, my phone rang. It was the breeder and he was at Walmart! I found him in the parking lot, paid him $300 for the dog plus $50 extra just because, and then I laid eyes on Azzurri for the first time.

He was so incredibly tiny and adorable. His fur was so fluffy and soft and his eyes were even bluer in person. Since the day I saw him the first time, he has been my baby boy. I had never loved something so much before I picked him up with my hands for the first time.

After saying thank you and goodbye to the breeder I got back on my way. The drive back took about three hours longer because I had to make a lot of stops to make sure Azzurri could take care of his bathroom breaks. Though we also stopped so I could stuff my face with In-N-Out at least once.

When I got back to Oregon, I finally let my parents know I got a dog despite them saying I shouldn’t.

He started out living with me in my apartment but when we had to go home after summer term for a few weeks he had to live at my parents’ house. He started out living in the garage in his kennel, and then my dad suggested we put him in the laundry room. He stayed in the laundry room for a while, and we got a baby-gate so he could see us while in the laundry room. Azzurri has some serious hops though, and ever since he figured out he could jump the gate, he’s been a free-roaming house dog.

Fast forward six years… Azzurri has given me more love and happiness than I ever could have hoped for. He unfortunately developed a tumor and has cancer as of this year, but he is still happy and my little baby boy. His attitude is always uplifting and he is the best dog I ever could have asked for.

I love you Azzurri!

Changing Places

Everyone’s specific experiences in life are influenced immensely on the particular surroundings they are living in. To an extent, we are able to change our surroundings based on the decisions we make as we age, and in doing so, the experiences we make available to ourselves. Decisions such as: where we choose to live; what we do for work; how we interact with others; how we let our relationships with family, friends, love interests, and random people take their course. Without opening your world to new experiences and perspectives you will only limit the growth you are able to achieve in your lifetime. Your world is what you make of it, and I believe life is about opening yourself to new experiences by changing the environment you are in.

When I was a freshman at the University of Oregon I struggled with being fairly introverted other than with those I knew prior to college. One of the best friends I made was actually someone I had hung out with occasionally in high school. Had it not been for reconnecting with him while taking Geology 102 in Willamette Hall, greater than half of my best memories would not have existed. Another of my good college friends I met in Accounting 101. I was looking for a seat in class on the first day and spotted an open seat next to a guy who looked a little Persian to me. I simply walked up to him and asked if he was Persian, and we’ve been friends ever since. He introduced himself, shook my hand and ended up being my roommate a couple years later until he graduated. I am sure I would have met other great people and had an amazing college experience without these two friends, but by opening myself just to the experience of studying these two subjects I was interested in I built lifelong friendships and memories.

College is a great opportunity to meet people from different walks of life, and you begin to realize how much people have to teach outside of the classes you’re taking just to get your degree. I put my introverted nature behind me to learn lessons from my fellow students in life. In some respects, I learned more about life outside the classroom during college than I ever really did in it. Big loud parties weren’t my cup of tea. I tried going to them but as a fairly shy person around new people, they just weren’t my thing. I preferred hanging out and talking about life over a few beers, playing some video games, or going for longboard rides down by the paths next to Autzen stadium and hanging out next to the Willamette river. Some of the best nights I had in college were nights spent with friends just playing Wii Sports for hours followed by a late night quest for delicious food at Burrito Boy or Dough Co.

Sophomore year, I lived in the Walton dorms on campus, which was a nice change from living slightly off campus in the Barnhart dorm building. When you go to school in Oregon, you tend to want the least distance to travel in the rain, and being on campus definitely offered that (my attendance rates were much better than freshman year at least…). Our specific dorm wing was a mix of international students and transfer students and was really close to everything. I made friends from Japan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, China, Malaysia, South Korea, as well as students from all over the US. The only thing that kind of sucks about meeting so many great friends who are from around the globe though is that when they graduate, most of them move back home. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to meet these friends and share time together however, and look forward to the days I can see them again.

The next few years, I reconnected with a friend I played Little League baseball with and met a great group of people through him, had classes with three different Super Bowl winners and other NFL players (LeGarrette Blount, Spencer Paysinger, Jeremiah Johnson, Walter Thurmond, Jairus Byrd), and just enjoyed life until graduation.

After graduation I had to figure out what how to be an adult. The obvious first step as a “millenial” was moving back home with my parents and being unemployed. I applied at a bunch of jobs in the field I studied only to be told that I lacked the experience for an entry-level job. It wasn’t a great time for jobs as our country still lingered in recovery from the recession, so I gave up looking for work with my degree and did odd-jobs. Worked on the family orchard for while, sold cherries in a stand with fruit from our trees, took care of my grandma for a while as her chef and company, and just lived life day to day. Things got boring though. I didn’t feel like I was growing as a person and felt stuck in the midst of prolonged stagnation without any motivation. Out of nowhere, an opportunity arose to pack up all my things and move to Los Angeles for a job. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

Today I am living on the edge of Los Angeles county. I packed up my bags and left all of my friends in Oregon two years ago. I live in a small town at the edge of the Angeles National Forest, where mountains tower in the horizon and the amount of green foliage defies the ominous drought we are experiencing. It hardly feels like I live near LA (besides the smog), but I am still fairly close to the big city and within fifteen minutes of Glendale, Pasadena, and Burbank. It’s all a very big change from the lush green forests of Oregon I came to know growing up. I barely know anyone and am starting out even more on my own than when I went to college, but I didn’t leave everything I knew back home because I would be comfortable; I left to change my surroundings, experience new views on life, and grow as a person.

Don’t be afraid to change your your environment. Don’t be afraid to experience new things, meet new people, or go new places. Even within the seemingly monotonous routine of daily life, every new person you meet in that routine can offer a multitude of lessons you had never even considered and change your world view. Study things that interest you, try new foods that you are afraid to mispronounce, genuinely ask someone you don’t know how their day is going, hold the door for someone instead of rushing through and on with your day, ask someone who looks like they are struggling if they need help. Every experience you come across is a learning opportunity, and every single person you meet is a teacher. If you don’t change how you interact with your environment and who surrounds you in it, it will be harder to grow as a person and you won’t learn as much during your shared time on this planet with the rest of us.

What is Normal?

In the beginning of time, Blank begat Person, who begat So-and-So, who begat Such-and-Such, et cetera, et cetera… The beginning of a long line of same shit, different day consisting of trying to be “normal” in society: make a living, fall in love, make money for retirement, grow old, and well, you know, die eventually. It’s been like this for centuries, and even more so since we stopped having to worry about being chased by lions, tigers, and bears (oh my). At least I am prone to believing that it was a lot harder to think about a career or retirement in primitive and early human history…

What is normal in relation to living a life?

I work two jobs, as an apartment manager and at a sandwich shop for a total of 60+ hours a week. I also own a very small business, and just signed up to drive for Uber to help grow my savings on my free time. Is that normal? No, probably not, but it’s my normal. I have my own place to live, a wonderful dog named Azzurri, and FIFA 16; at this point in my life that’s all I really need.

The reality though, is that most of the people in America are working multiple jobs 40 or more hours a week to try and save money to enjoy their life the way they desire. I include myself among this group, and the odds are that you are also one of the tens of millions of people in this country doing the same in trying to break through the lower class and into the middle class. Trying to break through your worries of being able to pay your rent or mortgage, your utilities, your cable, your internet, your phone bill, your car and insurance, your medical needs, gas, and lest we forget about food, and those of these that apply for the ones you take care of as well. Not to mention paying for emergencies… The list goes on.

How are we supposed to find the ability, drive, and motivation to break through when we work so much just to survive? So many of us are already working so hard to provide for the level we are already at that we hardly even have time to plan for the future.

Some politicians say that if you can afford cable TV, a gaming system, and other “luxury” items then you aren’t really doing that bad for yourself. Well, all I have to say is they likely haven’t ever lived a day in shoes even closely resembling the average American citizen.

My degree sits menacingly on my desk, reminding me that I could pursue a career in accounting, but the field doesn’t inspire me right now. People tell me it’s a good field and pays well, but I’m 27 going on 28 and sitting in a desk all day is not how I’d like to spend my next few years. With my job as an apartment manager I get my rent and utilities covered and get to spend all day at home with my dog and make his life better than if I was at an office all day. That makes me feel a lot better than if I had the money to do things I want but didn’t get to experience his life with him. It hurts enough having to leave him at home when I am at my other job as it is, because I know how much he loves me and misses me every time I leave him.

There is a lot of pressure to pursue a career though right now. Not necessarily coming from anyone, but from the knowledge that I know I am not wanting to work two jobs for my whole life and the reality that I can’t manage an apartment building forever.

When people find out I have an accounting degree at the sandwich shop most of them ask why I am even there. I feel a little let down every time I answer, because I know how it sounds when I say I have an accounting degree and I am working in a sandwich shop, but I just tell them the same thing with a smile: I work two jobs and my apartment and sandwiches are free, so I am just trying to enjoy my twenties with my dog for now, and I give them the best damn sandwich I can make in the process because I take pride in my work, a job well done, and happy customers.

Is my life normal? No, probably not, but it’s my normal, and I’m happy to be where I am. At least for now, of course.

Tell me what your normal is and what you think it should be in the comments!

I want to hear what others’ experiences are and your thoughts on the subject of what is normal in society. One of the best ways we can try to understand the world is through others’ experiences and any chance I have to hear about someone’s views I am open to their perspective.