Yo Dre, Why Are You Always Talking about Changing the World?

earth

I’ve been reconnecting with a lot of friends recently and it’s been cool to catch up with all of them. As I’ve shared with them the many changes I’ve gone through over the past year and a half or so, there has been a trend I’ve noticed: people asking me why I care so much about changing the world.

Wait… wanting the world to be a better place is a weird thing? LOL.

Okay, okay, I’ll explain it like this because after a call I had with my fiancé, I feel like I finally found the words to properly convey my mindset.

*deep breath*

Much like everyone else, most of my life was spent just trying to make my way through this world. I tried to play fair within the boundaries of the rules everyone told me to follow. There were exceptions, of course, but for the most part I was just the nice guy who had to earn his confidence over time rather than having it all my life.

Actually, I started off as a super confident kid, but adolescence isn’t for the weak of heart. A brother’s confidence caught a beat down, y’all.

There was also a nagging thought I had had ever since I was a kid: I’m alive right now and one day I won’t be. I kept that to myself for YEARS because I figured I’d be looked at like a weirdo if I started posing such esoteric concepts as a ten-year-old. Still, why was I alive? Am I supposed to just live and die and that’s it?

Was I a sinner for making a joke about Jesus? I mean, it’s Jesus, for… uh… Christ’s sake. He should know I’m kidding, right?

Am I supposed to spend my entire life working and hope that I stay alive long enough to enjoy retirement? That sounds like a bum deal.

I kid you not when I say I had these thoughts and questions for the majority of my life. I felt like an effing alien because no one else I knew seemed concerned about any of this.

Andre: King of the Weirdos.

During college and afterward, I met a handful of awesome, open-minded people. Folks who are fine with conversing about this stuff. Coupled with that, I soon found out that everything for which I had ambition (a high salary, lots of stuff, a misguided definition of love) brought me temporary happiness at best and straight up unhappiness at their worst. I mean, by and large I was a happy person, but every once in a while the disappointment of not being able to swallow society’s expectations of me and the goals I was taught to have manifested itself in not so pretty ways. In short, I was lost.

If only I knew I wasn’t alone, but people who are lost rarely see the big picture.

I took it upon myself to figure this thing out. I’d love to get into the details of how I did it, but not everyone in my personal life would be accepting of the choices I’ve made even if they’ve helped me for the better. I personally don’t care about the opinion of others, but I’m not about to stir the pot unnecessarily either. That being said, I figured myself out. I figured out that I was much more and much less than what I thought I was. To be specific, I’m not special. Not as an individual at least. But I’m also much more than just a man; I’m a part of everything. Just in the same way that a blood cell is both the individual cell and the blood. I am this reality in which I exist, the individual and the collective.

It may sound crazy to people who won’t get what I mean, but stick with me on this because it all ties back together.

I found my happiness and it was pretty awesome if I do say so myself. I spent some time patting myself on the back for having the wherewithal to discover my own answers while still being open to the beliefs of others. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered not everyone reciprocated this feeling. On top of that, I was all too aware that I didn’t actually care about the fancy job, having a bunch of stuff, or many of the other things I was taught to want. What was the point? My happiness and sense of peace was far more important and I learned I could have that independent of any external factors.

So why was I still here?

This next part may sound concerning if you don’t know me at all, but I’m not about to apologize for thoughts that crossed my mind. I seriously questioned why I should keep playing this unfair game of life. You know, the one where we’re expected to follow rules that not everyone is actually following. Where people hate, murder, cheat, steal, and whatever other vile acts humanity is capable of. Why do I want to continue working at a thankless job where I didn’t agree with many principles? I already found my happiness. What was the point of continuing? None of this would help me maintain my sense of inner peace. For all intents and purposes, I would have welcomed being done with life. Not in a negative way, but more like there was nothing I felt this world could offer me and I certainly didn’t want anything from this world either. I was happy being benign, but family, friends, and the rest of society had invested too much in me already. I wouldn’t be let off the hook that easily.

Sigh…

Then a funny thing happened: I met my soul mate aka my fiancé. The story of how we met is nothing short of fate. I say that because, seriously, how it happened is ridiculously improbable (I’ll save that for another day). The point is, I found my reason for enduring a life in which I had no stakes. Soon afterward I was laid off from my job, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise despite it being an initial burden. I had the opportunity to create a life that I wanted, not one shaped by what I was taught to want. I wasn’t about to sacrifice my own happiness again.

But then I looked at the the rest of world and couldn’t help being put off by all the ills around me. Remember, I saw myself as both the blood cell and the blood. I’m both the being and the reality. Therefore, how could I just sit idly by and be unconcerned with inequality, war, discrimination, greed, etc? That’s quite the impossible task given the way I think nowadays.

We’re all sharing the same house. If I was living with someone who treated me unfairly and was trashing our home, I would probably move out or ask them to leave. I don’t have that option. I have to figure out how to coexist in this house. But I don’t want to live in a sh*tty place either.

This time there are no questions. I have to do what I can to fix this house. Not just for me, but for all the people out there who are walking the path I once walked. We’re all just trying to figure our way through this life and we’re the victims or beneficiaries of people who came before us. That doesn’t excuse crappy behavior, but I understand why we aren’t living in utopia right now; there are a lot of lost people out there just trying to fit in where they can.

And this is why I want to bring positivity to this tiny, insignificant rock we call Earth. If I have to be here I’m going to do my damndest to only make an impact that helps rather than hurts. It’s why I’m going vegan. It’s why I want to exclusively use reusable energy. It’s why I’ll always be against our current form of capitalism. It’s why I’m writing this now. Believe me when I say I love you all and I only want to see you happy too. ALL OF YOU.

But I’ll always love my fiancé more. After all, I don’t know if I’d be here right now if it wasn’t for her, heh.

Peace out, party people.

The Dream Chaser Project: Week 2 – My Expat Criteria

Photo Credit: danorbit
Photo Credit: danorbit

How goes it, dream chasers? This week I had to do a bit of solo research when it comes to working remotely/independently and living outside of the US because my lovely fiancé has been sick.

Trust me, I tried bugging her, but her body wasn’t having it.

In the meantime, I decided to keep things simple and determine the criteria most important to me when it comes to choosing a country in which to reside. A few things to note:

  • I may end up adding to these criteria once the wife-to-be is feeling well enough to add her two cents.
  • I’ll be ranking the criteria based on what’s most important to me. This is also subject to change.
  • Living in the US is still an option, though I really would prefer to experience another culture.
  • Going nomadic may be an option as well.

Let’s get this party started.

  1. Monthly Cost of Living – This one is pretty obvious, right? I’d like to live somewhere cheaper than I do now. Granted, I live near New York so rent, food, etc. is pricier than other places. Seeing as how I want to maintain finances without working my tail off, this is a pretty major consideration.
  2. Ease of Residency – Some countries like Italy and France are difficult when it comes to expats attaining residency. When it coms time to make our move, I’m looking to do it as quickly as possible so… you know… ain’t nobody got time for that.
  3. Internet – This may seem like an odd one to place so high, but right now all of my income is generated from remote jobs and online freelancing. Also I have a blog to maintain, thank you very much.
  4. Crime – Who wants to deal with crime?
  5. Healthcare – Wherever we live, it’d be awesome to have a hospital in somewhat close proximity. That said, general quality of healthcare is a factor that we’ll be considering.
  6. Nature – This may sound silly, but I want to be around nature. I’ve been around urban areas my entire life; concrete and asphalt just isn’t cutting it for me anymore. I don’t have to be in the middle of the Amazon or anything, but being surrounded by some green wouldn’t be a bad thing.
  7. Public Transportation – Public transportation is good for the planet! Well, better than everyone having a car, right? Sadly, this is still last on my list, though it’s important nonetheless.

I’m currently putting together a spreadsheet ranking several countries we’re considering based on these criteria. I’ll share this in next week’s post. If you guys have any suggestions or comments, please feel free to let me know!

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Week 1

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Finally Creating a Financial Plan (Part 2)

Photo Credit: Chris Potter
Photo Credit: Chris Potter

Putting a budget together sucks. Quite a way to begin a blog post,eh?

If you read part one of this piece, you know my current goal is to save $15000 (US) by July. This is a tall order for a guy who currently works part-time. I’ll go back to fulltime work if a worthwhile gig comes along. But in the meantime, I need to focus on the minimum amount of income I need in order to achieve this goal. Last time, I came up with the following numbers:

Per Month Income Goal: $4150
Per Day Income Goal: $135.50 ($150 in Feb, $140 for 30-day months)

Remember, this takes saving and bills into account. Honestly, I feel like this could be much worse. It’s by no means simple (I’m essentially starting my life over from scratch), but I’m confident I can swing this if I keep my head in the game.

Right now I make about $47 a day in part-time work. While I’ve applied this over the course of seven days, I’m actually only working about 20 hours a week. Also, I tend to make more because I log out late some days, but I don’t want to rely on that. I need to know what I’m guaranteed. I don’t know what works for you, but if some amount of money isn’t a sure thing (or a close approximation), I see no good reason to track it. It’s simply a bonus.

Like when you randomly find a 20 dollar bill in your coat pocket.

So I’m a bit more of 1/3 of the way there (depending on the month).

Awesome.

Sort of.

This puts me in a bit of a quandary. Either I need to get that fulltime job I’ve been avoiding or I need to simply earn more money. Truth be told, I became a bit spoiled over the last few months as time is a much better motivation for me than money. Earning more is awesome, but if I go that route, I want to ensure it’s an ideal situation for me. I’m not trying to be stressed out of my mind all day then take my work home so I can continue that feeling all night.

Been there, done that.

So I need to make up the rest of it with freelance work unless anything changes. This is where things get tricky.

I make my side moola freelance writing or editing. Recently I landed a somewhat steady editing gig, but I’m not getting any more than $55 a week from them. In this case, steady definitely doesn’t mean a lot of hours.Either way, let’s just reduce this to $30 a week because that $55 isn’t guaranteed. Per day, that’s about $4.29. Not much but it gets me over $50 a day.

Side note: I realize this is going to be a ballgame with a ton of singles and doubles. So be it. I should have been better at this months ago, but life (or in my case, love) became a higher priority than making money.

Yes, it’s actually true.

But with my fiancé stuck in Sweden until we have that K1 visa, I don’t mind putting forth some extra effort to reach this goal.

Anyway, if we’re talking about February, I need to make about $98 more per day to hit my goal. Actually, let’s just go with $150 per day as a nice, round goal. I realize this is totally stream of conscious and I should probably just update what I wrote before, but I’m lazy as all sin right now. Deal with it.

Most content writing gigs offer crap for pay and, quite frankly, are not worth my time. Some of them are decent if I need money in a pinch, but most of them demand a lot of effort with marginal returns. Next week I’ll dive into freelance writing more and what I’m doing to increase my odds of landing better paying gigs. But for now, let’s finish up the rest of this budget.

While income is a significant part of tracking finances, I would argue spending is far more crucial. That’s because any money that is earned will ALWAYS help. Spending, on the other hand, hinders monetary growth unless its an investment in something else that will generate revenue.

Luckily, getting laid off curtailed my loosey-goosey spending habits big time. All I need is food, honestly. I’m basically in stasis until my fiancé and I are back together. It sounds horrible, but I’m fine with limiting my outings, only spending when I end up exceeding my daily goal consistently. One or two days aren’t a green light to loosen up those purse strings.

January will end up being a proof of concept month. I will be tracking ALL of my spending. This way I’ll have a concrete idea of where money is going and where I can cut corners sans any negative repercussions. Here’s what I can estimate at the very least:

  • $25 a week on groceries (very doable living alone and being a vegetarian)
  • $5 a week on public transportation (I’m still debating selling my car. Right now it’s not on the road so I don’t have to pay for insurance)
  • $50 every two weeks miscellaneous spending

This is a strict budget. As you can see, I’m keeping it pretty minimal as I’m not factoring in much. This is because I don’t need much. This savings goal is more important than stuff I want to buy so I may as well act like it.

Okay, folks; that’s it for now. Join me next week when I start talking about things you can do to help snag more writing gigs (this should be appropriate for other types of freelance work too). I hope your journey is as exciting as mine and, as always, hit me up in the comments if you have any tip or feedback of your own!

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Finally Creating a Financial Plan (Part 1)

The Dream Chaser Project: Week 1

IMG_4458

I have a dream. As much as I dislike racism, this isn’t the Martin Luther kind. No, this one is decidedly more selfish. My dream is to make a life with my girlfriend and see the world.There’s some criteria to this:

  1. This life must support me, my fiance, and our dog.
  2. I want the freedom to pick up and move when we want.
  3. In order to achieve the previous point, we need to minimize our possessions.
  4. I want to minimize our footprint on this world.
  5. I want to maintain a certain safety net of savings that I’m fine growing, but it should never go below $10000 US.
  6. I need internet access.
  7. I want to achieve this with as little stress as possible.

Let’s call these The Dream Chaser Commandments. This list may have amendments, but my fiance and I are pretty simple people who don’t need a ton out of this life. But there are things that would be pretty awesome to include as well. Here’s my Dream Chaser Bucket List (which is definitely subject to change):

  1. I want to earn a living purely from freelance writing
  2. I want to start or invest in a business
  3. I want to figure out a way to literally spread positivity everywhere I go
  4. I want to go with solar energy
  5. I want a greenhouse
  6. I want to document all of this through pictures, videos, and blogs. Maybe even rebranding my podcast

Oh, I’ll definitely be adding to this. Some may be ridiculously impossible to do, but I figure if I’m gonna live, I’m gonna live.

I’m gonna keep my bucket list in a Google Document. I think a cool idea would be letting people join my bucket list goals. I’ll figure that out later.My fiance and I are also applying for a K1 visa so we can get married. I’m submitting my portion of this in January. This is a huge part of our dream so a lot of this may not happen until we get approved.

In the meantime, I’m focused on trying to save as much money as possible. To be more specific, I’m trying to have $15K saved by July. We have to wait on that marriage anyway, so I may as well try to be productive.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to share different things we have to do in preparation, how we’re deciding where to go, budgeting, working remotely, etc. I feel like dreams can be achieved if you’re lucky enough to have the right circumstances and a little bit of drive. Maybe I have that now. Maybe I don’t. I’m damn well going to try.

Time to chase a dream.

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Finally Creating a Financial Plan (Part 1)

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver
Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver

I spent a lot of days hiding out and carb-loading ever since my girlfriend’s visa expired. It’s been a week now so I figured it’s time to emerge from my one-man pity party and start working toward my and my fiance’s dream. I’ll talk a little bit about that dream next, but the weekly tracking of making this happen will be in a series I’m starting called The Dream Chaser Project (every Wednesday at 11am).

So without further ado…

The Mission: Save $15K by July
Problems: School loans, various bills
Temporary Problems: Current rent,

There have been times in my life when I started something without a goal in mind. For example, I could just say I want to start saving money, but I’m not actually working toward anything. Here, I’ve set a goal, albeit a challenging one given I’m currently only working part-time

Whatever. I’m up for the challenge.

First things first, I’m moving in with family starting in February. That means I won’t have to worry about regular rent after January. Outside of that, my biggest expense is my school loans. So let’s break this down a bit. If I were to start on my goal in February, this is where I stand:

Goal: $15000
Loans and Other Bills (Per Month): $1500
Other Monthly Expenses: $150

Alright, so let’s figure out how much I need to earn per day and month:

Per Month Income Goal: $4150 (Let’s just round that up to $4200)
Per Day Income Goal: $135.50 ($150 in Feb, $140 for 30-day months)

I can totally do this with a regular full-time job, but I’m only going that route if I have to. Otherwise, I’m shooting for this with part-time, freelance, or remote work. Additionally, my fiance and I want to either travel while working or simply live outside of the US for a while. Because of this, I can also sell a bunch of belongings because, you know, stuff just weighs people down. I’m trying to keep it lightweight.

Lastly, there are two general rules I’m going to follow (more will be added as I follow this):

  1. I will not adjust my daily/monthly goals regardless if I exceed them or if I come up short. I need this data so I can adjust how I move forward in the future.
  2. ALL spending will be tracked. My other monthly expenses are just an estimate. I have no clue what they will be once I move home. I know that I’ll be going out much less only because my focus is to save.

So this is just the beginning. I’ll be giving more details as to my plan and different suggestions from various sources. I know this is “Lessons from a New Self-Earner,” so here’s the lesson I learned:

I’ve made it through life never planning anything when it comes to money. Some may see that as bad to admit, but it is what it is. I’m not here for anyone’s approval. Now, however, I know the life I want. Saving this money is a priority, but to be honest, this is a study on how I can earn money remotely with as little stress as possible. I have no idea if I’ll be able to do this without some sacrifices, but I’m more than down to try.

Let the games begin.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Admitting When You Need a Helping Hand

How to Change the World for the Better: Demolishing Pseudo-Kingdoms

iron throne

I love Game of Thrones. If you don’t, I forgive you for your awful taste in television.

Actually, it’s not television. It’s HBO.

Ugh, I can’t believe I just did that.

Anyway, I couldn’t imagine living in the world of Game of Thrones. I mean, forget about the dragons and white walkers; people seem to be the biggest threat on that show. They wantonly kill in the pursuit of money and power.

Segue!

If you look at history with a set of objective eyes, humanity has been dealing with “kings/queens” at various levels. Sure, it’s not everyone, but the idea of a ruler is one that even happens within families. My dad has his own Iron Throne.

Or leather sofa.

Whatever.

Here’s the thing: while much of the world has moved away from monarchies, do most people really have their fair share of power or are most of us still grasping for scraps. And don’t get me wrong, some people have access to better scraps than others. Hell, some of us may be able to sneak some goodies from the cupboard. Unfortunately, much of that is just a result of a dice roll. You were lucky enough to be born to one family versus another.

Still, can’t you see this structure at numerous levels? Many countries, states, corporations, and so on have this similar structure of power and wealth of a few and the remains trickle down. Some structures are steeper than others, but the fact is very few are level (or at least very close to being level). This means there will ALWAYS be some level of discourse in our world if these structures remain. This fact cannot be debated. Sure, we can argue all day about what’s fair and what isn’t, but an imbalance of power and wealth (let’s throw freedom in there as well) will always bring conflict. I cannot overstate this enough.

Fixing this is a tougher issue, but I feel we simply need one country or institution to be the example. Preferably one with a large voice or reach. Why? Because we will only assume one path works if another isn’t shown as equally or more successful (we also need to define the parameters of success). Humans are extremely fixated on evidence, even when said evidence is based on opinion or limited facts. As such, we need to show the world how this can be accomplished.

In the next few posts, I’m going to do just that by covering examples of COOPERATION in our world that work toward a common goal without an extreme imbalance of power at play. Until next week, let me know what you think! Do you think humanity needs conflict? Is equality impossible? Am I just a stupid idealist? Whatever the opinion, let it be known! We won’t get anywhere without having the conversation.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: The Uniting of Strong Voices for Common Goals

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Admitting When You Need a Helping Hand

marsellus wallace

Man oh man, my life is in a big transitional phase, folks. My girlfriend and I did a lot of talking last week and we decided a couple things:

  1. We’re applying for a fiance visa so we can get married next year.
  2. We’re moving the eff out of the US as soon as possible.

Not that I dislike America, but if we can have a life more suitable for us in another country, why not?

The thing with a fiance visa is it can take five to eight months for approval.

Ugh.

Then my girlfriend (and parents) made an excellent point. If our ultimate plan is to move elsewhere and start a life together, why are we going to spend money on separate apartments while we wait up to eight months (if all goes well) for a piece of paper that says we can get married. Wouldn’t it be smarter to save money in the meantime? I’m taking the opportunity to do just that.

In February, I’m going to do something I thought I’d never do in a million years (or however long I’ll be alive): I’m moving back in with my parents.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

As I’ve said before, being a self-earner can be rough. It also didn’t help that I slacked off SIGNIFICANTLY over the last three months while my girlfriend has been here (not that I minded at all). But now it’s time to refocus.

My goal in making money is NOT to be rich. I don’t give a damn about wealth. I care more about living a worry-free life. That’s wealth to me. Is it possible? Yo no se (or ‘I don’t know’ for los Americanos out there). Here’s the thing: for the last three months, I discovered what I want the rest of my life to be. I’m not trying to kill myself and waste life by giving my time to other people/things. I know what my priorities are and they don’t involve fancy cars and designer shoes.

So I’m moving back home and I’ll be moving out as soon as my girl gets her visa. In the meantime, you better believe I’ll be saving money like a madman and using our time apart to earn as much money as possible.

I know this isn’t really a tip or suggestion, but still, it’s a lesson I had to learn. I had to learn to be alright with accepting help from my family to attain a more significant goal. I have a lot of pride and I am more than willing to struggle in order to achieve something on my own merits. That’s stupid and inefficient. My school loans are expensive as hell and paying rent and utilities doesn’t help matters. Sure, I can do it, but it doesn’t get me to my goal any more quickly. It just makes the journey unnecessarily harder.

So let’s be zen about this and take the path of least resistance. My pride is nowhere near as important as my future with my girlfriend/fiance. I don’t know if you can take anything from this post, but if you do, just know that you aren’t the only one who has that pride. Let it go. And once you get that help from someone, do your damnedest to make the most out of the opportunity.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: The Highs and Lows of Online Freelancing (Part 2)