Downshift

This month is shaping up to be the biggest month of our marriage so far.  For 17 of the 24 months we’ve been married, I’ve been working two jobs.  Not out of some greedy desire to buy a mansion or attempt at becoming a workaholic, but out of necessity.  When we got married, we quickly found out that based on our current incomes, we couldn’t pay all of our bills.  We made too much to qualify for government assistance, but not enough to cover even the minimum payments on our debt and bills.  Since our expenses were already cut to the bare minimum, our only option was to raise our income.

Now, we’re at a series of crossroads.  I’m struggling to find a good order to tell you everything in, so let’s just go chronologically.

Next week, I’m leaving my part-time job.  It’ll be the 76th week of working 60+ hours, give or take one or two for some much appreciated vacation time.  I won’t have to wake up at 5:30am, go to work from 6:30am-9:30pm, and try to cram an entire day’s worth of conversation in with Rachel before we both fall asleep around 10:00.  Or pack breakfast, lunch, and dinner into a lunchbox.  Or shove a change of clothes into a backpack that sits in my trunk getting hot/cold/whatever the weather is like all day.  Or plan errands and time with friends and family based on whatever one or two evenings I have free that week.  But what I’m more excited for in leaving this job is what it means I will be able to do.  I’ll be able to see my wife in the evenings.  I’ll be able to eat dinner with her, at a table, before the food becomes leftovers.  I’ll be able to say yes to plans made without a 3-week notice ahead of time.  I feel like I’m getting my life back!

The week after that, Rachel starts a new job.  When I met her, her dream was to open a bakery.  I loved seeing her light up when she talked about her culinary school classes and her trips to bakeries around town.  She has a talent with ingredients that I can only wish would rub off on me.  But last month, that all got turned upside down.  Over the past four years that I’ve known her, she’s had random bouts of stomach issues that have many times left her unable to get out of bed.  We tried everything we could think of to figure out what was wrong, and we even made a trip to the emergency room after one especially bad day.  Last month, we finally got an answer that shook our world.  My wife, a baker by trade and lover of all things bread, is highly sensitive to gluten.  She took the news far better than I know I would have, especially since egg yolks and dairy were also on the list of things to avoid.  You know, like some of the things you usually need when baking.  She was struggling to find the words to explain how she felt about all of it one night when I told her it was like she had dedicated her life to rescuing dogs before developing a severe dog allergy.  It’s tough no longer being physically able to participate in your life’s passion, but if there’s one thing my wife doesn’t do very well, it’s give up.  She still has a drive to learn and grow, and she’s redirecting that focus into her business interests now.

And finally, the last week in October, I’m also making a career change.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post or two, I’ve been a physical security officer for just short of the last five years.  I’ve certainly grown in the role and become a more capable officer in that time, but working in physical security doesn’t offer the chance to develop a whole lot of transferable skills.  The nature of the job is very short-sighted.  Most days, you’re only concerned with making it through that day without any incidents.  There aren’t really any long-term projects or ongoing education opportunities, at least at the officer level.  As a result, I’m in the same spot I was five years ago.  That’s not a good long-term career trajectory.  After some loving nudges from my wife, I took a leap and applied for a tech support position at my company.  They agreed to take a chance on me, even though I don’t have any formal experience in the IT field.  I’m good at security, sure, but I have a passion for technology.  If I have a chance to be good at something I’m passionate about vs. trying to force passion for something I’m good at, why not try the former?  I have a feeling this new job will open up more doors for me than even exist in my current position.  Even during the interview, we talked about how many people in the company started in this position to get a feel for what they liked to do within the field before going on to more specialized roles.  My prayer now is that I’d be able to learn and grow in this position, and turn it into something that will eventually provide enough income that if Rachel wants to quit working, maybe like when we have kids, she’ll be free to do so.

Lessons Learned

In any after-school special worth watching, there’s always lessons to take away from the kids’ shenanigans.  What have we learned from this month (and the past year or so of doing this entire thing)?

  1. God is faithful – Even when the conditions were bleak, and we had no idea how we were going to make ends meet, He continued providing for us in the form of a second job.  He knew exactly how long we’d need it for, and lined up two jobs for us at the exact right time we’d be able to start them.  He even used frustration and stagnation in my life and health issues in Rachel’s to show us the right path to take at the right time.
  2. Debts are chains – We’d have been able to spend so much more time together during our first two years of marriage if we weren’t throwing a quarter of our income away on debt every month.  That’s time we’ll never be able to get back.  Every night I had to work at my second job is a night that my wife ate dinner alone.  That’s not what a marriage should look like, and I’m ashamed that our decisions made that a necessary and continuous pattern from the very beginning of our life together as husband and wife.  We have a legal and moral obligation to pay back what we owe, and that dictated how our life was run.  Only by getting free from debt can we reclaim that control and live our lives the way we want.

Next Steps

This next season of life looks like it will be much slower, both in busyness and income.  The opportunity of spending more time at home isn’t completely without cost, since our incomes combined won’t be enough to replace the checks my second job was bringing in.  We’ll be moving from a debt snowball amount (above the minimums) of about $800-1000 every month to about $200.  As you can imagine, that slows down our progress quite a bit.  It’ll be a challenge for me, specifically, as we continue to trust the same God that has provided all of these blessings to us every step of the way so far.  But at the same time, we’re extremely grateful that we’re finally in a place where a 40-hour workweek is possible for me.  We have two completely paid-for cars, no credit card debt (after this month), and all of our needs are being met.  Anything beyond that is extra, and maybe this is when we’re supposed to learn that.

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