The Great Unveiling

So here it is, the big project that I have been thinking about and working on for a while now.  I have been writing one to five essays a month since January while also pursuing other ventures and the next logical step is to put in all in one place.  Here is a quick highlight of the content and where I intend to take this project.

  • Archive: I have transferred all the notes that I have written on Facebook in the past year over to this site.  They are all listed with a posting date of November 29th, 2014 but are available if you missed any or just want to read through again.
  • About: This is obviously for people who do not know me personally to give them a little background and provide the information that they can use to follow me.
  • Monthly Challenge: This is a new feature that I want to start doing.  Every month I will issue a challenge and track my progress.  I encourage you to follow my lead and give it a shot, what can it hurt to try something new for a few weeks.
  • Recommended Links: People are always asking what I am reading and thinking about, and here it all is in a nice tight bundle.  I have only linked my go to standard links at this time, but if anything sparks my fancy I will put it up there.
  • Comedy: A clip from my first stand up comedy performance a the Skinny Pancake in Burlington, VT as well as information about my future plans within the comedy scene.
  • Email Notifications: If you hit the “Follow Me” button on the right side of the screen you can enter your email and get a notification whenever I make a post.  This will help keep you up to date whenever I produce content.
  • Mobile Friendly Site: I have designed this site to work on mobile devices so that you can get my thoughts anywhere that you can get wifi or cell service, straight from my brain to your pocket.
  • Future Features: I intend to improve the content on this site as I move forward and get feedback from others.  I am considering adding an events calendar so that everyone can track my travel plans and stand up schedule.  Another future improvement is more information about my passion projects and what I am considering trying next.
  • What Else Do You Want?: Come on folks, give me suggestions, I’m not bashful and I like putting content out there.
  • Update Frequency: My goal is to post something new every 7 to 10 days and hopefully this will help satisfy curious minds.  If I do fall behind please get on me and hopefully I will be able to keep up.

I appreciate the praise and critiques of my writing that I have gotten from many friends.  I would appreciate it if you would spread the word and hopefully I can grow my circle and share my writing with even more people.

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Founders Day

This Post was originally published on November 2nd, 2014

Happy Founders Day.  If that means something to you then you will probably enjoy this essay, if it doesn’t then it will probably give you a glimpse into one of the things that makes me tick.  Either way I suggest that you take a few minutes to read and learn a few things. 10 years ago I decided to rush Phi Delta Chi, the nation’s oldest pharmacy fraternity.  At the time it was a very logical decision, many of my friends were PDC, I lived in unofficial chapter house, I felt that school was sucking the life out of me and I knew that PDC would be an opportunity for me to push myself to try new things and build some lifelong friendships.  I think that turned out to be an understatement. The rushing and pledging process were tough, but nothing worthwhile in life is easy.  I made it through and became a brother in January of 2005.  From that time on PDC dominated my thoughts and life for the remainder of my college career and for a time after graduation.  I wanted to be super brother, I went to every event that I possibly could, from the lowest study session to several grand councils.  I filled my weekends with road trips, keg parties, and professional projects to the point that I could barely work or complete my schoolwork, which might be a reason why it took me 7 years go get my 6 year degree.  I was devoted to the point of obsession, which probably explains why both of my tattoos are PDC related, and why I had very few non PDC related friends. Our chapter was very unique.  We are one of the few all male chapters remaining and whenever you cram 20 alpha males into a small group it can make for great brotherhood, but also a lot of internal strife.  There were always factions and cliques and someone was always mad at someone else for sleeping with his ex (or current) girlfriend.  There were fights and factions, but the fact was that we were a bunch of kids and we were trying to find the best path and make our chapter the best that it could be.  This might sound a bit depressing, but I don’t have time to detail all the good times.  There were far more good times than bad, but even through the adversity we were able to form some of the strongest bonds of any PDC chapter.  In grand council 2007 there were 19 active brothers (out of 24) making us the largest chapter in attendance, the second largest chapter was our alumni association which sent 12 brothers.  These strong bonds kept me from getting burnt out and walking away, no matter how tough things got, and have kept me in touch with brothers almost every single day. As an alumnus I was extremely active.  I worked so much during the first few years that I didn’t make many friends and found myself alone in Plattsburgh and Burlington.  I would head back to Albany every other weekend to hang out with brothers and crash on people’s couches.  Eventually I got burned out by this and cut back on the travel time, now I only make it back for certain events.  I still remain active in the collegiate and alumni chapters and actually gave the keynote speech at the recent rush dinner.  It is nice to be recognized for putting in the time to maintain the bonds of brotherhood, but honestly I just enjoy hanging out with the guys.  Albany was my home for so long that I found it tough to move on.  While I am mostly settled in Middlebury, I still feel the pull to go back and relive my youth.  Fortunately I have been able to realize that nothing can change the past, but you need to grow up a bit and worry about the present a little more. I was fortunate to attend a lot of regional and national events and meet a large number of brothers from around the country.  Most of these people were wildly different from me, but shared some of the same values and experiences.  I actually met some of my best friends at these short events, people who make my life brighter and who I don’t think that I could live without.  That is a big reason why I still go to these events.  Want to do something embarrassing? Try explaining to your boss when you are 28 years old that you need a week off to fly out to *sigh* Omaha to attend your fraternity’s national meeting.  Or to non college friends that you are driving 16 hours from Vermont to Tennessee to attend a ski weekend, when you haven’t skied since 1994 then driving back 2 days later. Or that you are skipping Vermont’s Funniest Comedian contest in order to go to Andy’s Sports Bar to sing Come Sail Away at the top of your lungs, drink all the beer you can and eat all the wings you can with college students from 1-6pm simply because you have attended wingding twice a year since freshman year, and this is the time that you take the lead for consecutive attendance, but you need to keep going for 2 more years so that you are able to overtake Goose for the overall attendance record.  Yeah its kind of exhausting. Over the past 10 years Phi Delta Chi has been very good to me.  I am grateful that 131 years ago on a cold, rainy, shitty day 11 students took the initiative to start something that turned out to be bigger than themselves.  I am thankful that I was influenced to rush and pledge, and for everyone who has impacted my journey along the way.  I have been able to surround myself with some great people, and create a kind of second family.  I have had the opportunity to go to places that I would never have gone, and most likely will never return to (You Only Omaha Once: YOOO).  Phi Delta Chi has pushed me to better myself, my profession, and the world as a whole.  If you are a brother I hope that it has inspired you in that same way, if you are not then I hope that you can take some inspiration from the changes that I have made.  It hasn’t always been easy, but adversity builds character, and I am living proof that having character can make up for other shortcomings. After years of having PDC be my only outlet I have found that I really enjoy other things.  Recently I have started pursuing some of my passions, meeting new people, and seeking out a full life.  While it may not be my sole focus, it is a huge part of my life and I look forward to having to awkwardly explain to my boss that the day after my 30th birthday I need to fly out to Albuquerque in AUGUST to go to another grand council.  I guess that is part of the burden of being leaders in pharmacy, brothers for life.

I’m Funny How? Funny Like I’m a Clown, I Amuse You? I Make You Laugh?

This Post was originally Published on October 27th, 2014

For my entire life people have said that I am funny, and nearly every time Joe Pesci’s “Funny How? monologue from Goodfellas plays in my head.  I have always been a bit of a class clown and learned early in life that making people laugh was a great defense mechanism.  I was picked on a lot when I was younger and I developed a self deprecating style that allowed me to get laughs first and take the wind out of the sails of any bully.  While I love making people laugh I thought that my quick quips and bouts of wit were just inside jokes that could never expand beyond people who knew me.  I had a professor in college who kept pushing me to do standup, he stated that all humor is situational and standup is about making a story that allows the audience to envision the scenario.  I thought he was full of shit and that I could never be funny in the real world until I started hearing people repeat my jokes and get laughs from strangers.  At that point in time I decided to hell with it, I might as well give it a try.  I took a 3 hour comedy class in May and followed it up with a 6 week course that culminates in my first performance tomorrow.

I think that standup is one of the hardest things that I have done in a while.  It is terrifying to put yourself out there and do a monologue while at the same time convincing the audience to see through your eyes.  I have watched a few comedians over the years and always thought to myself “I can totally do that” but the reality is standing up there and laying it all on the line is super challenging.  Writing hasn’t been a problem for me because I am a bit of a lightning rod and experience a lot of crazy things.  I also am a pretty good storyteller and know how to explain things to people who were not there in a context that they can understand.  I think that the biggest challenge is editing.  The things that run through your head may sound downright HILARIOUS, but the minute you open your mouth they bomb.  I also have problems with compliments, so it is hard for me to deal with people giving me praise.  This kind of makes me sound like I am either depressed or have an inflated ego, but it is not because I am beat down or because I am faking humble, it is because I am always striving to be better.

The performance aspect of standup is going to be a challenge.  I am relatively comfortable doing presentations to small groups in a professional capacity, but standing in front of a dark room full of strangers is completely different.  I have a decent stage presence, and while I may be uncomfortable I don’t feel that it will be super noticeable.  This is not a huge thing for me, I don’t feel like I will have a panic attack or anything, but it is something that I know I am facing and will be able to overcome.  Timing and delivery are learned art forms and I am sure that I can perfect them as long as I start doing shows regularly but I feel that my pace is pretty much where I want it to be.  I have also been having time management issues, something that I timed at 6 minutes may run at 4 or 8 and not planning the set appropriately can cause time overages or underages.  These are all things that I can overcome with time and experience.

I don’t normally watch or listen to comedy that often because I am afraid of absorbing other people’s jokes and turning them into my own, which is a bad habit and can make you look bad to other comedians.  I have been watching the people at these shows with a more critical eye than I would in the past.  It is great to get the laughs, but as an added benefit I am able to see what people do that is good or bad and try to learn from them.  I love watching Louis CK or Katt Williams and try to emulate some of the things done by the masters, but I also enjoy watching these comics who are closer to my level and learning from their mistakes.  By putting a critical eye on the 2 shows that I have seen in the past week I feel much more comfortable and willing to give standup a go.  As a side note I saw my first improv show and am kind of in awe.  I really enjoyed the quickness and spontaneity but am absolutely terrible at voices and characters so I don’t know how well I would do.  Maybe that will be something that I can try in a few months.

Standup has been a really fun experience for me and I look forward to making it my new passion project over the next few months.  I have found that I am much more comfortable speaking to groups and despite the added work stress of the past few weeks I feel that I have been able to see growth on the professional side.  It is also a great stress reducer to get into a room with some very funny people each week, turn off your phone, and just laugh.  The old cliche is that laughter is the best medicine, and sometimes cliches are true, that being said if you have Ebola then please get real medicine.  Breaking into the scene is hard since everybody already knows each other and I am not really good with new people, but I feel that once I get out there I can start making the necessary connections.  I have already had the privilege of getting to know a few people and make a few friends, hopefully the growth will be exponential.

So now the time has come.  In a few short hours I will be up on the stage at a creperie performing to a crowd of strangers.  It feels a bit like the moments before a fight, I have worked hard and know what I am capable of, the key is taking all that training and translating it into results.  This has been a pretty great journey for me and I am glad that I gave it a shot.  Worst case scenario I suck.  I think that heading up to Burlington for shows and open mics will give me a chance to get out of the house this winter and help bring some levity into my life.  No matter what I proved to myself that I really am funny, not contextually funny, not inside joke funny, or even internet LOLz funny, just plain funny.  And as Artie Lange says, “The only people who get laid less than funny fat guys are serious fat guys.”

Embrace the Fear

This Post was originally published on October 18th, 2014

For most of my life I have been afraid, not just afraid, but terrified.  I know that may seem incongruous, but it is true.  I am afraid of falling, and dying alone, and the things that lurk in the darkest corners of my imagination, and failure, and bears.  I have nightmares almost every night about one of those things, but the thing that I am most afraid of is missing out on the fun or interesting things going on around me.  Yes folks, I the Reverend Doctor Owen E. Foley, duly sworn Notary Public in the great state of Vermont suffer from the terminal disease known as Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

Man has always been fascinated by what he cannot have, and plagued by regrets of things that he could have had if only the circumstances had been handled differently.  It is no big shock that Moses and god discussed coveting on Mount Sinai millennia ago..  Our generation is no different, in fact we are probably worse than people before us.  We live in an interconnected world where we are constantly being bombarded with all the GREAT or AMAZING things that everybody around us is doing.  This creates a major inferiority complex where we look at our “mundane” or “boring” life and fail to see the adventure, just the drudgery that we have become used to.  There is always excitement or adventure in new things or experiences, but that shine quickly fades as you become used to it.  Through working out standup routines I have found that what is new and terrifying the first time you perform it becomes old hat by the 3rd time, and you need to strive to keep the excitement level up since you are probably dealing with a new audience each time.

Ah the old third paragraph, the time where I write about an interesting story where something related to the post topic occurred to me, fear not faithful fans I will not disappoint.  A few years ago my friends rented a house with brothers from all the eastern regional chapters in Atlantic City for founders day weekend and I was invited to join.  I knew it would be a good weekend, but it would cost me about $150 for fees, and gas, and probably a lot of extra cash for gambling.  On top of that I did not have an active passport so I am not sure if I would be able to leave the states and get into New Jersey.  I instead decided to take pass and work a my normal Saturday shift at Eckerd.  Almost a decade later I still regret missing out on that trip.  There were stories about toilet paper football, and hookups, and coffee made with Jack Daniels instead of water, and a giant pole that was stolen from the roadside, and even a pile of “human excrement” on the basement floor that cost them the deposit.  All I got was $88 pre tax and a boring weekend alone at my apartment.

I would like to clarify that FOMO is not always a bad thing.  There are few motivating factors as effective as missing out on something and trying to redeem yourself.  I can personally tie several road trips and fun adventures to trying to “redeem” myself over the skipped AC trip.  Sometimes missing out can be the kick in the ass that you need to get yourself moving on something even better.  The problem lies when your sole motivating factor is that you don’t want to miss out on anything, because lets face it there is only so much that you can do, trying to go beyond that will just lead to disaster.

I have found that the biggest key is identifying what really matters.  In the pharmacy world we are trained to be omnipotent and multitask to no end.  This is not field specific because we live in a world where everyone is on multiple screens and our lives are filled with digital clutter of all kinds.  Every productivity “expert” lobbies for doing one thing to increase your productivity or focus, but it is so easy to get caught up in the search for productivity that you never actually take action.  You become so focused on the overwhelming amount of ways to get yourself out on whatever situation that you are stuck in, that you are so afraid to choose one and make the commitment, thereby missing out on the options provided via other options.  The basics never change, you want to make enough money to live a good life, you want to surround yourself with good people, and you want to feel fulfilled.  No amount of productivity advice or life hacks will get you there, you need to know what you want and reach for it.

I have recently begun reevaluating my priorities.  I found that my work too much, sleep too little, try to miss nothing schedule had lead me to the point of burnout.  Although I have basically been walking the burnout line for the past 10 years I still recognize when I was getting too close to the edge.  This summer I took some time for myself, and I am so glad that I did.  I started working out more, and traveling for things that really mattered instead of just trying to fill the time.  I found myself splitting time between multiple things but not being obligated to try everything and be everywhere at once.  This was most likely the best summer of my life, and I was able to do it while working 50 hours a week and being on the go every weekend.

A few weeks ago I had a major victory.  I left a bottle share where I would have had some new and interesting beers that I probably will never have again in exchange for watching American Dad reruns and falling asleep early, and it was totally worth it.  I woke up clear eyed and sober and ran a 5k, and what is more important I didn’t regret my decision for a second.  While this represents a big win, it isn’t the end.  We are hardwired to want what we do not have, and that hunger is a great motivational tool, but we have to pick and choose what is really worth it.

You can’t pick your fears, or else every white girl would be afraid of gluten.  The best that you can do is embrace the ones that you have and try to overcome them.  I will probably always be afraid of missing experiences, but the key is being content with the experiences that you choose.  Life is full of decisions, and sometimes you have to choose the responsible decision over the fun one or the boring decision over the flashy one, and I am okay with that.  The night is dark and full of terrors, but at least I feel comfortable facing my fear of missing out because there will always be plenty of other things to keep me up at night.

Born to Run

This Post was originally published on September 12th, 2014

Last year I decided that I wanted to push myself and run a 5k. More important than just setting a goal for myself I vocalized it. I distinctly remember telling the first person that I was going to give it a shot and having her roll her eyes. I understand why, I have a pretty bad record for following through on fitness goals, and I was also pretty hammered when I said it. After procrastinating for 7 or 8 months I finally got on track (running pun) and starting to make strides (another running pun).

I have always hated running, there is no way around it, running sucks. I hated it during the 5 years that I was on the track team. I hated it during the rush bowl practices. I still hate it now. The thing with being fat is that the fatter you get the harder it is to get started with any new workout regimen. But finally if you have enough determination then you can overcome. I committed to using couch to 5k, this fascinating little app that does not include as much couch time as suggested by the title. This app really broke everything down to easy to try segments instead of just plopping the daunting task of running a long distance on you.

I have always been terrified about being judged for running (or doing most anything physical) and overcoming this mental barrier was huge for me. I found myself running at night and hoping that people didn’t see me, but in time I found that when you get going there is no time to worry about what other people think. In fact since this is Vermont the only things that have ever been yelled out of car windows were words of encouragement. I did have one issue where I was hassled by 5 Middlebury College douche bags while running through town. Once I turned around and calmly told them that I would beat all 5 of them so badly that their brains would leak out of their ears and their rich mommies and daddies couldn’t do anything about it I didn’t hear anything else out of them.

After suffering through the first week of barely being able to jog for 60 seconds I was eventually able to pull things together and get up to speed (running pun). I dealt with a lot of soreness and I think that I discovered a bunch of new muscles that I had never felt before. Over the first few weeks I was able to see huge gains and was able to push myself further and further as I got into it. Soon I was not doing the intervals, just running for 20 or 30 minutes at a time for the first time in more than a dozen years. By mid June it looked like this was going to be a cakewalk and I would be able to keep this up forever.

Unfortunately during the end of June I hurt my hip pretty badly. This totally derailed me, especially since I tried to push through it and wound up hurting myself worse. After taking a few weeks off I started feeling better but didn’t have to motivation to get started again. Even when I did get jump started it was hard to keep to the three times weekly routine that I had been on because of travel, work, and just plain feeling like I didn’t want to run. One good thing was that I met a girl who is really into yoga and she inspired me to start doing some yoga stretches after my runs which have really cut down on the soreness. This is one of the serendipitous things where someone comes into your life at just the right time and makes a suggestion that makes a difference in something completely different. I suppose that I have been the beneficiary of some pretty good luck.

I have also been lucky enough to have a huge amount of support from my friends and family members. From offers to run with me, to words of encouragement, to validation of my accomplishments I have been able to draw on a wealth of support. Even though I am a very internally motivated person having this external motivation just fueled the fire and made me want to do better every day. For all of those who have supported me I thank you from the bottom of my heart and ask that you keep it coming.

It is funny to look at how far I have come from the first gasping 60 second jog 4 months ago. I bought special running shoes, and one of those phone holder things that are supposed to fit around your bicep but barely fit my forearm, I even have a post workout ritual. It is strange. I have learned a lot about myself from this journey and hope to keep learning. I have found several things that work for me, and several that don’t so that I can exploit my strengths and focus on my weaknesses. It is pretty cool, not to mention I am down 25 pounds since February and feel stronger and healthier than I have in years.

I don’t think that I am going to be able to run the entire way tomorrow. I have been lagging behind for the past few weeks and haven’t been as motivated to train. But that happens. I am just going to go out and do my best and will finish even if I have to crawl across the finish line. I already registered for another race on October 5th in Albany, so that will keep the cycle of motivation coming. I will probably struggle to transition to going to the gym this winter, but I am confident that I can keep this up. I am not good at following through on fitness goals, but this time I think that it is different. I have seen what I have been able to accomplish and the results that I have been able to achieve in just a short time. While this may not be turning over a whole new leaf maybe it a step in the right direction (one final running pun).

Thanks again for all the motivation, and keep it coming.

A Moment of Silence

This Post was originally published on July 30th, 2014

I suppose that it is a good thing that most of my current friends were the ones that I made during the first 2 years of college.  I have certainly met new people and formed new friendships, but through it all the core of people who I surround myself with hasn’t changed much in the past 10 or 11 years.  One of the biggest pitfalls is trying to explain our shared experiences to people who weren’t there.  These inside jokes take on a whole life of their own and sometimes you need to pull back the curtain and give some insights on probably the most drawn out inside story that I have ever been a part of, The Great Bologna Disaster of 2006.

I often refer to the summer of 2006 as the strangest point in my life.  I had been thrown out of ACP, turned 21, started working in retail pharmacy, initiated my burrito quest, and spent most of the summer rudderless and lost.  This was also the summer that cemented a lot of my friendships.  As anybody who has been rudderless and lost knows, its the people who stand by you and try to give you guidance that mean the most to you after.  It is easy to say “I stand by my friends through anything” but a completely different beast to actually be there when they need you.  Ultimately this is a story about how I wasn’t there for somebody when he needed me.

The Acquisition of Bologna

July 4th, 2006

The fourth of July is always a special day filled with BBQs, fireworks and fun… unless you work retail pharmacy and it is a day filled with holiday emergencies and calls wondering if you are open (no I just hang out here on my days off when the store is closed).  This was my first holiday working retail, and after slugging my way through 8 hours at Eckerd I felt like I never wanted to see another human being ever again.  I returned home to 100 Holland and found myself completely alone since everybody had headed out to spend the holiday with family.  Being alone suited me and I was able to lose myself in several hours of tv and relaxation in a pre Facebook newsfeed world where enjoying life was more important than talking about how much you enjoyed life.  Then I got the call that set everything in motion.

Brad was one of my best friends, my first friend at ACP, and the person that I hung out with the most.  We shared many common interests like beer, and whiskey, and watching TV, all important stuff when you are 20 or 21.  Around 11pm Brad called me hammered out of his mind looking for a ride because his girlfriend had thrown him out of their apartment.  Knowing Brad I figured that not picking him up would result in him doing something stupid and me feeling terrible about letting him down.  I had not felt like drinking that day and said that I would pick him up outside his apartment, he said ok and that he would take a nap on the sidewalk until I got there (we lived about a mile apart).

Minutes later I pulled up and found Brad passed out underneath the bench in front of the laundromat that he lived above.  Whenever you have to wake someone up when they are passed out underneath a bench it is destined to be a good story.  Once he was up he was very lucid and with it for someone who had sounded so drunk on the phone, maybe it shows the benefits of taking a hardcore power nap.  He was in fact so lucid that he demanded that I drive him to the Ghetto Chopper so that he could get a pack of cigarettes and something to eat.  When I said it wasn’t the best idea he threatened to open the door of the moving car and walk there.  Fearing another hardcore napping session we went to the store where he pulled out a three wadded up singles and about $7 in change.  Shopping when you are poor college student is always a balancing exercise, when you are hammered it gets even more complicated.  Since we didn’t have smart phones at that time we had to do the math so that he could maximize his cigarette to food ratio for under $10.  It was a battle wandering the aisles until he found it, the holy grail, buy one get one free bologna.

In all the years that we were friends I don’t think that I had ever seen Brad so happy.  He was nearly crying tears of joy while talking about how he was going to get 2 or 3 full “eats” out of these beautiful Oscar Mayer delights.  He hugged his deli meat close and weaved his way up to the cashier like a proud new father.  On the short drive back to my place he proceeded to inhale almost a full pound of bologna while telling the other package not to worry, he would get to it later.  By this point I was just about fed up with babysitting and dragged him inside.  He bounced back to his “woe is me” state where he got pleasure out of telling people how bad his life is and I lost my cool.  For one of the only times in our friendship I tore into him, letting him know how his actions were affecting everybody around him and ruining the relationships that he had worked so hard for.  He obviously didn’t take this well, got up, threw the remaining bologna into the freezer, and stormed off into the night.  We didn’t talk for several weeks after this, and I suppose that this was the event that started to end our friendship.  To this day I still don’t know where he went and what he did, and I don’t know why on earth he put the bologna into the freezer when it so clearly belongs in the fridge.

Feeling Powerless

July 30th, 2006

I woke up and felt that something was wrong, it was just too quiet.  No fans, no alarm, no music, no electronic hum, just the rush of traffic and the sounds of Albany, somebody had forgotten to pay the electric bill… for 11 consecutive months. The house was around 140 degrees because of the stifling air of the ghetto combined with the lack of insulation and overall mustiness of the run down building (once we were evicted in 2008 the building has set empty and is probably condemned).  Even worse the fridge had now power, and the next day was my 21st birthday, how was I going to cool down all the beer that I was finally going to buy legally?  I made a few calls and eventually got word that the bill would be paid and electricity would be restored, but not for a few days, which coincidentally were the hottest days of the summer.

Like any resourceful young gentleman I was able to make epic plans to rid the fridge of everything, it was time to grill.  As you may know I am a prolific griller, even many years ago before I had honed my culinary skills I found no greater pleasure than producing chemical changes through the application of heat to meats and vegetables over and open flame.  Since my friends were all college students it was easy to put the word out and have them show up for free food.  I grilled pork chops, and burgers, and kielbasa, and chicken, and whatever else I could salvage from the freezer… everything except for the bologna.  Even though Brad and I had made up we weren’t back to the point of hanging out, and there is something wrong about eating someone else’s lunch meat, plus grilled bologna doesn’t sound too appealing.  Sadly I threw his beloved lunch meat away, and after he had only gotten one “eat” out of it.

I know that this might seem like a waste of your time, but an inside joke is only good if there is someone else to share it with.

We made up, and were able to pull our friendship together for a bit, but a year later Brad developed pancreatitis and wasn’t the same after he got out of the hospital.  I didn’t want to drink with him because I had seen him so near death, he thought that I was shunning him.  We ran into each other a few times during the last year of his life, but we acted like acquaintances instead of the friends we once were.  A few weeks before graduation Brad fell victim to his demons and took his own life.  As kids who spent our lives awash in booze and self destruction we always said that we would never live to see 30, little did we know he wouldn’t see 25.

For years I dwelled on the fact that he didn’t reach out to me, or if he would have how receptive I would have been.  One of my greatest regrets is that I allowed someone who once meant so much to me to push me away.  In reality I don’t keep in touch with many of the friends that I graduated with, simply because life gets in the way.  Gregg and Graig moved to North Carolina and got married to their college girlfriends, we catch up occasionally.  Tom moved back to Cali, deleted his facebook, changed his phone number, and married his cousin.  Jake went to Alaska and came back with a wife and 2 kids, we haven’t talked since graduation.  I went to Rob’s wedding, and we touch base all too infrequently.  Ciara went to Alaska and is now living a life of adventure in Wyoming.  And Grant lives 45 minutes from me and we haven’t been able to catch up.  Tim has been the only person that I have stayed close with, and that is simply because he is too damn stubborn to let me push him away, plus we go on every single vacation together.

If Brad would have lived I doubt that we would be in touch, or that I would still consider him to be my friend, and sometimes I even forget that he is gone.  I only think about him once and a while, sometimes reminded by the matching tattoos that we got in West Palm Beach, or by the sight of a handle of tequila.  No matter how much time passes, or how many memories fade away each year on the day before my birthday I can think back to a simpler time when a few pounds of bologna can make someone’s day, and think about my old friend, and smile.

The People of Retail Pharmacy Part III

This Post was originally published on July 27th, 2014

In the third part of my series on stereotypical pharmacy customers I am going to explore some of the craziest and most frequent visitors.  While I will try to poke fun at a few things, addiction is a serious problem for us as a nation and as a health care system.  Everybody that I know has had addiction impact the life of a loved one in some way or another, and I know the struggles that those in the grips of addiction face.  Some may call it a disease, others may feel that it is a deserved predicament, but sometimes when dealing with serious issues the best way to cope is to make light of it.  If you are offended I am sorry, not that I have offended you, but that your closed off world view doesn’t allow you to see that these are real people who everybody in retail pharmacy deals with on an almost daily basis.

The Shakespearean Actor

Nobody will ever claim that pain is fun, in fact being in pain sucks.  That being said our brains have an amazing capacity to deal with pain.  We always have patients who show up and act like they are in so much pain that delaying their script by 15 minutes is tantamount to torture, even though they are trying to fill it 3 days early.  It is amazing to see these people sitting in the waiting area visibly writhing in “pain” and making audible moans, yet see them pop right up and trot out of the store once their name gets called.  I have legitimate sympathy for people who are coming directly from the ED or those who are gritting their teeth and dealing with the pain, but I can tell what a person in pain looks like, and especially with frequent flyers I can tell when they are trying to put one over on me.  As the Bard said, the “lady doth protest too much methinks”

Just Need to Pass the Bar Exam

I love being told how to do my job, especially by someone who probably didn’t finish high school.  There is nothing like having someone try and argue pharmacy law based on some half cocked idea that they were given by another junkie.  “You have no legal right to write anything on MY prescription”, ok lets discuss the fact that the prescription blank is property of the doctor issued to you so that you can bring it to me and I can keep for the time period required by state law, but if you have any issues I will gladly call the police and they can clear it up for you.

The Story Teller

Dude I don’t need the story.  It is my job to fill prescriptions, just bring me a prescription and I will fill it as long as it isn’t early and there are no red flags.  Telling me an elaborate story just gives me more opportunity to hang yourself.  Keep it short and succinct and have a back story if I ask you.  Probably shouldn’t have put this one out there, now people will know how to pull one over on my.  Oh and if you are looking for needles you don’t need a diabetic grandma, just tell me that you want to shoot up but would rather not get Hepatitis, I will sell you all the needles that you could ever want.
…But Matt Would Fill It

The pharmacy manager at my store in Winooski was an awesome guy, he had been there for almost 10 years and knew all the customers and they loved him.  When I started the drug seekers smelled blood in the water.  They thought that they could get me to dispense things by uttering the simple phrase “but Matt would”.  Guess what, Matt wouldn’t.  He had a wife and kids, he valued his license and his income, I may not know him that well, but I know that he wouldn’t fill a CII 3 weeks early for cash.  Once Matt got fed up and quit I think that the Winooskites were going to build a statue to Saint Matt outside of one of the crack houses where he was depicted passing out Oxycodone to the masses.  You can pull some things over on a new pharmacist by playing one against another, but as long as you have a good team then you can spot the bullshit and shut this all down.  After hearing “but Matt would” several thousand times I became immune to it, and once he quit the same people started pulling the “but Owen would” excuse on my new partner, and they cycle continues.

Mr Nice Guy

You want to be friendly, awesome, I can be a friendly guy.  You think that by being friendly you are going to get me to jeopardize my license and livelihood, think again.  I will do my best to help you out, but within the parameters of the law.  Once I have refused you then shit goes sour.  Why do you no longer want to be my BFF?  No, well then I am going to throw away the friendship bracelet that you made me.

“Can You Hear Me Now”

Guess what I can hear you.  Yes you on your cell phone telling people that you are at the pharmacy getting your Oxy and quoting them prices.  Its called discretion, when doing illegal things you should probably use some.  I am the pharmacist, I am master of my domain.  I have the ability to simultaneously be on the phone with a doctor, type things into the computer, check prescriptions, and overhear your conversation, all while doing a computer based training.  Even if I take a break from my omnipresence my techs are pretty damn good at picking up on what is going on and alerting me to what I may have missed.  If you don’t want to respect our abilities then I suggest that you take your business deals out to the parking lot… oh and stop pretending you are in pain.

Persistence is Next to Godliness

I will give you credit, you don’t give up easily.  Maybe when I was younger I would have folded under the pressure of you grilling me, but not today bitch.  I make my decisions based on the legality of the situation and the feasibility of fulfilling the prescription.  If I don’t have it there is nothing that I can do.  If my company or the state board says that I can’t fill it then there is nothing that I can do.  I want your business, and I will do anything I can to help you out, but this is not a negotiation. Yelling and screaming will get you nowhere.  Oh and if you are trying to pull anything over on my and your friend is the one screaming at me then its even more of a red flag.  I have no problem cordially inviting you to fill your prescriptions elsewhere, not don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

The Fall From Grace

Drugs can do some pretty serious damage to a person, and it ages them beyond recognition.  Just a few weeks ago there was what appeared to be a good looking girl with her back to me and I noticed that she had a nice figure and a short skirt and long blonde hair.  I was obviously intrigued and wanted to see what she looked like, but when she turned around I was face to face with a snaggle toothed meth monster.  This is pretty common, and I always get a kick out of the 40 or 50 year old women who look like they are in their 70s because drugs have just ravaged them.  For some reason it always seems to affect women more than men, possibly because I don’t find men to be pretty.

Cough Syrup Kid

Kids hate cough syrup, until they hit the 16-20 age range.  You really aren’t a junkie, but I am going to scorn you anyway.  No we don’t have any bigger bottles of Delsym.  No I don’t know anything that will make it taste better.  No more questions.  Go back to the suburbs and bother the pharmacist there, but watch out you might run into your mom’s friends picking up their Valium.

Everything I Own Smells Like Weed Guy

I know that this is probably breaking news to everybody, but there are some folks in Vermont who smoke Marijuana.  I don’t partake, but I have a pretty laissez faire attitude to those who do.  It is true that pot can be a gateway drug and for a lot of the drug seekers that I have dealt with over the years this is very true.  I was never shocked when people coming in trying to get their narcotics early reeked of weed, but it is actually impressive how they were able to get the smell to permeate everything.  Paper is porous, but how did you make it reek like a Phish concert during the mile drive from the doctor’s office, seriously, the time is printed on here, it was issued 17 minutes ago.

“Are You Going To Need All of That?”

It takes balls to ask an old lady if she needs all of her Percs.  Please stop offering her money to supplement her social security check or else I am going to have to ask you to leave.  I only ever whisper to the patients about 3 things, psych drugs, boner pills, and narcotics, but then again maybe someone can interpret my whispering to mean that grandma has something good.

Itchy and Scratchy

Meth is a hell of a drug.  Tin foil, coffee filters, and drain cleaner in your card and you want to buy sudafed? I may not have seen Breaking Bad (yeah yeah I know its a great show and I you loved it and I should carve out enough time to watch it on Netflix) but I know enough to refuse the sale.

Places to Go, Things to Do

God I wish that I was as busy as you are.  I just have 3 jobs, 2 camps to do work on, a very labor intensive beer habit, plus I am trying to run, take pictures, and do all that work/life balance shit and maybe occasionally sleep, but if I get a prescription I am ok waiting 15 minutes for it.  God forbid it takes me 16 minutes, you have places to go, things to do, and drugs to consume, plus you have customers waiting in the parking lot.

The Posse

These people all seem pretty trying, don’t they?  Well imagine all of them coming together in a group.  Drug seekers aren’t solitary creatures, they tend to work together to try and beat the system.  They talk among themselves and when one person figures out a way to get what they want you often see several people pulling the same trick.

Addiction is a terrible problem, and it isn’t isolated to one race, class, group, or economic class.  There will always be addiction so maybe this was in bad taste, but if you walk into any pharmacy in the country you will find some of these folks.  There are many faces of addiction, and these are just a few of them.  I hope that this wasn’t in bad taste, but I was always told to write what I know and to speak the truth.

Antisocial

This Post was originally published on July 11th, 2014

Some might say that I have a bit of an addictive personality.  Whatever I do I tend to do it often and in large doses and find it hard to quit. Work, beer, and even social media turn from things in my life to things that run my life.  After joining Facebook in 2004 I have become a social media addict where a majority of my interactions were not with people, but with online personas of people.  I branched out into Twitter last fall (waste of time, except for tracking down beer) and snapchat last winter (waste of time, but with pretty pictures) but have mostly quit or cut down.   Having other methods of connecting to social media was nice at first, but I found it to be even more of a productivity sink than Facebook is.  As I have tried in the past I decided to take a break from Facebook for a few days in order to spend a few days living without that tether to the world.  I try to take this break during summer since there are always ample diversions rather than being a shut in all winter.  For a few short days I was able to live free, and it was pretty glorious, but after a week I started to miss my friends, even the ones that are only “friends”.

I have always found that the first 3 days of abstaining from anything are the hardest.  Whenever I went someplace or did something I would think about how I could frame it to fit into the Facebook context.  After the first few days of withdrawal I started to view things differently and was doing things just because with no rhyme or reason.  I found that I enjoyed things more because I was living in the moment instead of worrying about how I would project things to other people.  I like to think of myself as someone who tries to act the same on Facebook as I do in real life, but lets face it who you are in person is never the same.  We all curate our online personas to match our ideals rather than the reality that we face, mostly because reality is boring.  I find that Facebook exemplifies the extremes of everything being either stupendous or absolutely terrible.  If you try to be real and go into the mundane aspects of your everyday life everybody finds it boring.  Nobody wants to see the pictures of every meal that you ate this week, and the oversharing of your daily routine gets old fast.

When you live by yourself and don’t have many friends in the area it is easy to fall into the Facebook void.  Hearing all of the fun adventures and lifetime milestones that your friends are hitting seems like a better alternative than meeting new people.  It is much more comfortable to sit in your own living room and live vicariously through others than it is to get off the couch and and live your own life.  On the flip side Facebook has allowed me to build some amazing friendships with people that I only see once or twice a year and build on the relationships that I had from college or high school.  It has also given me a chance to be heard, which is an addiction in of itself.  As with anything there are always benefits and drawbacks and  far reaching effects on our lives.

Facebook is a very powerful way to build a “brand” and show the best aspects of yourself.  I have developed a few rules over the years to try and keep myself relevant and present the best face.  I learned most of these from my own misadventures or from mistakes that I have seen others make. These are not ironclad rules, but guidelines that I find helpful.  That being said if I start breaking these rules please feel free to call me out on it.

1. Try and keep it light.  I have at times been too self absorbed and depressed and nobody likes a Debbie Downer.  By trying to brighten people’s day you are much better received than someone who tries to bring other people down.  Plus if you say funny things then people will talk about it and then even more people will think you are funny, its a self perpetuating cycle.

2.  Don’t attack people.  I have learned the hard way that bitching about specific individuals is a great way to get people to hate you.  Being a bully doesn’t get you anywhere, and singling out someone for whatever reason makes you look terrible.  That being said making fun of groups of people or celebrities is ok (sorry people of New Jersey, I’m not going to stop now)

3.  Don’t post too much, or too little.   Your kid/dog is pretty cute, but a new picture every 15 minutes gets on my nerves, BLOCK.  Oh you had kale for lunch, and then went on a walk, and then had steak for dinner, then watched Bad Boys II, sounds like you had a pretty epic day but 47 specific posts is a bit of overkill, and didn’t you detail everything that you did each day for the past week, thanks for oversharing, BLOCK.  Thank you for liking every status ever, I’m glad that my life provides you soo much entertainment but you might want to consider joining the conversation, no need to BLOCK because you never post anything anyway.  Another post about how Democrats/Republicans/Guns/Food Stamps/Global Warming is/are the Best/Worst thing in the world, It matches well with the 15 other posts that you did this week, preach on brother, BLOCK.  I am glad that you are in SOOOOO IN WUV with your significant other, know what I need? Another couples selfie, BLOCK.  Oh another Buzzfeed quiz, you somehow managed to score 47% on the how bitchy are you quiz, but wait you also scored 63% on how much of a princess you are quiz, bitch that is 110%, BLOCK.  No I don’t want to join your farm or your guild or whatever else it is that you are hawking, leave me alone, BLOCK.  These are not directed to specific offenders so if you fall into these categories I am not picking on you, hell I may not even have you blocked (but I probably do).

After playing with the ratio I have found it is best to average 1 post per day, with occasional binges or several day breaks.  It keeps you relevant, but keeps you from being annoying.

4.  Don’t say anything you won’t stand behind.  Sometimes people get caught up in what they have to say and don’t realize how it may be heard.  I had an experience this spring where something I posted was taken wrong and used against me.  I stand behind what I had said and was able to explain my reasoning.  It is hard to convey full thoughts through Facebook (or twitter or anything else) so things may get taken out of context, if you put thought behind what you say then sometimes a follow up conversation can resolve any difficulties

5.  As a follow up to #4 don’t overreact.  It is so easy to see what someone had posted and react poorly.  If you have an issue with what someone has to say then open a conversation and try to get to the bottom of things.

6.  Don’t expect that everybody is going to get what you are trying to say.  As you might know by now I am a pretty eclectic guy and have a lot of inside jokes or strange things that I think are funny but sound stupid to everybody else.  I don’t expect everyone to understand what I have to say, but if I target something toward a specific group then I am pretty sure that some people will enjoy it.  If someone is on the outside looking in then it is their loss and they probably shouldn’t take it personally.

7.  Don’t fall victim to your own hype.  Not even I am as awesome as I seem (yes I know you are shocked).  Just because you have a lot of friends or everybody likes what you have to say does not make you better than you are.  Keeping things in perspective stops you from flying too close to the sun, plus people love self deprecating humor.

I like Facebook.  It is a good medium for me to express myself and to keep in touch with people that I don’t see often.  I try to add things to the conversation and hope that I can bring some benefit to everybody else.  Some people might not agree with me but I feel that social media is a very useful tool, but you have to use it wisely and not let it take over your life.  Now I am going to go out and enjoy being outside on this beautiful night, don’t worry there is Facebook on my phone so I won’t be too far away.

As an aside I wrote my first Facebook note two years ago today, it is still available and might make a good read.  My pharmacy was robbed and for the first time in my life I was the victim of something more than my own stupidity.  This was an extremely tough time for me and I was feeling extremely vulnerable.   I found that by expressing myself in more than 140 characters was one of the best thing that I could do, and by using facebook as a tool for more than one liners I was able to do good things.  I was amazed by the outpouring of support and the amount of goodwill that my vulnerability gained me.  I also felt that after wallowing in my sorrows just putting metaphoric pen to paper was able to provide me with a measure of closure that allowed me to move on with my life.  In retrospect getting robbed made me realize some of what was important and helped get me out of a bad job and a terrible place in my life while showing that writing was something that I enjoyed and was pretty good at.  I am sure that I would not be where I am today if getting robbed had not given me the motivation to move on from a job that I hated.  I guess it goes to show you that every cloud can have a silver lining if you look close enough.

Addicted to Workahol

This Post was originally published on June 2nd, 2014

“Why do you work so much?” That is invariably the question that I get whenever I explain my schedule to family or friends for the first time. As with any broad question the answer depends on what whomever is asking wants to hear. I can name any number of factors as to why I work three jobs, mainly money, professional growth, or simply compulsion. I tend to work long stretches of days, today was my 8th day in a row and I was scheduled for 61 hours, but in reality wound up putting in around 70 plus an extra 5 hours of travel. Some people would quit even thinking about that, but I got out of work, jogged 2.5 miles, wrote a 1600 word blog post, and am going to get up tomorrow and work 5 more days in a row. This is my life, this is my compulsion, and I am not sure why I do what I do, or how I am able to get it done.

My parents often joke that they have now clue how old hippies could have raised such a perfect little capitalist. When I was 8 I organized several kids in the neighborhood into a lawn care/snow removal business where even though they were mostly older I was able to convince them to work hard to make cash. By the time I was 12 I started carrying boxes and organizing the stock room at the independent pharmacy down the street, and the week after my 15th birthday I got my working papers and would ride my bike or bum rides to wash dishes at a restaurant. When I was 17 and could drive to work I started at a gas station that sold propane and propane accessories where I would work 13 hour shifts every other weekend in clear violation of child labor laws. I didn’t care, these jobs were a way for me to earn money that I would put toward the things that I enjoyed, and I relished the independence that those purchases symbolized. I was always the one who could afford concert tickets or whatever new CD came out that week, and I even funded my two trips to Europe through hard work. Even then I was laying the groundwork for the work hard to fund lifestyle that you want to live mentality that I still have today.

In college work was a little bit harder to come by because I was supposed to spend more time focusing on my studies. At the same time I discovered that beer was an important reason to work and have cash on hand. I spent 2 years doing the work study building guard job and grabbing shifts from whoever didn’t want to work their own. Instead of the 5 hours a week that I was supposed to get I routinely averaged over 20. I worked that first summer at the SPAC box office doing the best job that at I have ever had. My second summer was harder since I was taking Organic Chem over because I loved it so much the first time. I somehow managed to work full time at SPAC, full time as a pharmacy tech at a hospital while still doing well in my class. I would routinely leave the house at 5am and return at 11pm, but I made it work and apparently a monster was born. The rest of college was spent bouncing between retail pharmacy chains working 10-30 hours a week, picking up shifts whenever other interns had tests or plans. When I was on rotations I kept up the pace and at one point worked 63 consecutive days between rotation and my real job. When people ask me if I am afraid of burning out now I say no, because once you have been through what seems like the worst situation its all downhill from there.

Once I graduated I was thrown right into the fire and worked overtime during my first week as a pharmacist. From there I picked up a overtime shifts like a maniac. For the first time in my life I was making good money and was caught up in a whirlwind of greed. During the first few months I paid off my credit cards and my car while putting money away and starting in on my student loans. At that point it was pure greed that kept me motivated, over time it became a habit instead. During the first three years I worked more than 1000 hours of overtime, plus worked a per diem job on the side. That may not sound like much on paper, but that is roughly an extra 6 months of work during a 36 month period.

Now that I have reviewed my history it is time to review the potential reasons why. As I said I am often motivated by greed, either in the short term or in the long term. I work extra to support a lifestyle that allows me to enjoy myself whenever I have time off. I find that whenever I have days off I spend a lot of money. By working extra I not only make money, but am able to save whatever I would have spent. I took a pretty big pay cut when I left retail, plus I gave up all the overtime that I wanted, and my per diem job. When I switched jobs I wasn’t able to adjust my finances and kept trying to save and pay off debt at the same rate. Obviously this wasn’t possible, but I started picking up per diem shifts at Rite Aid to make up some of the difference. I was also offered a position working one or two days a month at the independent in town. I felt that this would be a good option to branch out and decided to give it a shot. These extra jobs allow me to bring in almost as much as when I was working retail full time. While I admit to greed I don’t feel that this is the whole story, there have to be other reasons.

Every work week I have more professional variety than most pharmacist have in their entire career career. Some days I work split shifts covering both the long term care and the inpatient pharmacy. I also work retail on two different pharmacy systems, often in two different states, and deal with approaches to the practice from both large chain and independent pharmacy perspectives. I like working for Rite Aid because I am comfortable with the system and since they were very good to me after I left Walgreens. If I hadn’t have taken the job working LTC then I would probably still be managing the same store I was last summer. Whenever I have to work a shift it feels comfortable, like putting on your favorite pair of boots that you haven’t worn in a while. Working at Marble Works is completely different, it is a whole new setup and a new computer system, and frankly a whole different ball game. Independents have to play differently, and with 3 stores, a DME store, and a mail order facility I am able to see a lot of different aspects of the profession. When I first became interested in pharmacy my goal was to become a pillar of the community, and working just half a mile from my apartment finally puts me in the position to help people within my own small town. Since everything is new and different I feel that I am able to step outside of my comfort zone and grow more on top of satisfying my need to diversify. I don’t know if I will be able to keep up this variety for much longer, routinely making the changes on computer systems and styles takes a lot of energy, but for now I am going to take that ride and see where it goes.

Maybe all it boils down to is compulsion. I grew up watching my dad get up every morning and drive an hour each way to do a job that he didn’t like. He kept up an attitude that at least it was better than what he did before and he tried to make the best of it. What I am doing isn’t perfect, but it sure beats working in the salt mines. Maybe that plays a role in it too, what I do is mentally taxing and high stress, but it pales in comparison to the manual labor that millions of Americans do every day. Working so much is a cure for idle hands and keeps me motivated and pushing forward instead of sitting around and letting my worries get to me. I like my life better when I am busy and accomplished, when I have downtime I tend to fall apart. I am an example of inertia, I am the energizer bunny personified, as long as I am moving forward nothing can stop me.

From mowing lawns to managing pharmacies my path to absolution has always been through work. People may call me a workaholic, but I wear that badge with pride. I still find time for the things that matter in life and feel that I have more to me than just my job. By diversifying and trying new things I am able to grow as a person and as a professional, plus the money doesn’t hurt either. I may be exhausted, but I am not burnt out. Even if I was then I know from experience that the cure for burnout is a three day weekend and a few drinks with friends and I will be ready to do it all over again. This is my life, and as crazy as it can be I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Systemic Approach

This Post was originally published on May 12th, 2014

Last week I posted a breakdown of where my money goes, this week I decided to look at how it gets there.  I have come a long way and learned a lot about personal finance.  While I will never teach a class or write a book I think it is important for people to see how easy it can be to get your finances into shape.  Having a budget is great, but having or sticking to a budget isn’t the goal. Building savings, paying off debt, or buying something that you want is the goal, the budget is just the tool to get you there.  When you have a system in place it is easy to forget about it an work its magic. Every once in a while you need to step back and evaluate your goals and the methods that you use to reach them. In this post I am going to detail some of the systems that I have and the tools that I use to make them work.

Systems

  • The Magic of Automation- Automation is one of the biggest things in the personal finance world. The internet has given us a chance to do everything quick and easy. Every one of us has access to direct deposit, in fact I have worked at jobs where you got paid by direct deposit up to a full day before you got a paper check.  Using these kinds of tools to handle our income and expenditures we can ensure that everything can get taken care of.  We all forget something sometime, using automated systems you can help reduce your stress and assure that things are getting done. I automate most of my bills, simply because I have more important things to worry about than questioning if I paid my internet bill last week or by what day do I have to pay my heat or rent. Most companies have a way to automatically remove the payment from your account on a set day of the month, if they don’t then your bank does. In some cases, specifically student loans, having an automatic payment can even help reduce your interest rate. Twice a month money is taken out of my bank accounts and sent to my post tax retirement accounts and my house fund so that I make sure that I save for the important things rather than just spending the money on day to day stuff. While there may not be butler robots yet we certainly can harness the power of technology to lift the burden of worry and free ourselves up to accomplish other things.
  • If You Don’t See It You Can’t Spend It- On payday four things happen before my alarm goes off, I get paid, I pay myself back, I pay what I owe, and I save for what I want.  I get my check through direct deposit, a chunk of my pre tax income gets put into my 403b to save for retirement, I automatically make payments on my car and my rent is sent to my landlord, and a few dollars are put aside for my travel fund.  By not ever seeing this money then there is no way that I can convince myself that I have better uses for it.  Budgeting is like buying a large pizza by yourself, you start off with a plan to eat some now and save the rest for later, but sometimes the slices that you have planned to save for tomorrow never make it to the fridge.  You have an immediate need, whether it is eating that slice of pizza because you are hungry, or buying something that you saw and wanted.  We all slip up sometimes, and it is easy to see a full bank account and trick yourself into over spending, the best way is to have a system in place to take care of it for you without even knowing that it happened.
  • Emergency Fund: I spoke briefly about an emergency fund in my previous post. I am a firm believer that shit happens and it is better to be prepared and buy yourself some time than to need to react immediately. Having an emergency fund gives you a little leeway, but you also need to dictate what an actual emergency is. Christmas is not an emergency, neither is having your car insurance come due, that really cool pair of boots that you need need NEED and it is ok because you need new boots because your other ones wore out and you might as well get these really cool ones is not an emergency. These are expenses that you should have seen coming, and as my good friend always says “poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” You should budget for these things, tapping your emergency fund for stuff that you about knew 6 months or a year beforehand is going to leave you high and dry if you do have an actual emergency.  If you have an actual emergency, your car dies, you lose your job, you need to fly out for a family emergency then don’t feel guilty about your emergency fund, just build it back up ASAP, Murphy’s Law is a bitch.  In order to help prevent tapping into my emergency cash I have even set it up in a separate online savings account, where I actually earn a much higher interest rate than I could have gotten from my local bank.  I cannot stress this enough, you need an emergency fund, start saving for one now.

If you are interested in systems I recommend simply doing a google search for personal finance systems. There are plenty of personal finance gurus out there who will gladly preach to you what you should and shouldnt do. I have found that the best way to set up my own system is to take in a whole lot of information and see what sticks. A lot of things are just fads or they push you to try and live a lifestyle that you don’t choose. I don’t recommend taking everything word for word, or taking exact investing advice (except buy silver) but if you find out what works for you then you can make an amalgamation of different systems and make something unique. If you would like information about the sites or books that helped me the most please reach out.

Tools

  • Retirement Calculator- Google retirement calculator, put in your age and how much you are thinking about saving then do your age plus 10 years. The numbers will probably shock you. You can never save enough for retirement, and the earlier you start saving, even $20 per month, the better off you are. People who wait until they are 30 to start contributing to retirement plans have to work so much harder to catch up to someone who started with just minimal contributions during college or shortly after. Our generation doesn’t generally have a chance to work 30 years at the same company to collect a pension, and social security is on pace to run out long before we retire, so we need to invest in our own future, and sooner is better.
  • Mint.com Account- Mint is an online account manager. You allow it access to your bank accounts, loans, investments, credit cards and it puts them all in once place. You are able to track your spending, and watch your net worth steadily advance. They also have an easy budget planner that automatically shifts your spending into the budget categories. I also like the goals feature where I can associate certain savings/investment accounts with my saving goals or debts with my payoff goals. Mint also has a pretty good smartphone app, I like being able to check my net worth on the go.
  • Personal Finance Books and Blogs- There are plenty of them out there, find what works for you.  If you want recommendations let me know.
  • Credit Cards- Credit cards can be a double edged sword.  I love mine and earn all sorts of points and rewards, but I also pay off my balance each month.  If I carried a balance on just one card I would basically negate all the reward points that I earn from my 4 other cards.  Also missing just one payment can drop your credit score like a rock so pay it often and pay it entirely.
  • The Interweb- There are a lot of big time finance buzz words that get tossed around. Like any specialization this jargon sounds strange and foreign to any outsiders. Don’t be fooled or discouraged because you don’t understand it, just look it up and pretty soon you will be talking like an expert.
  • Pen and Paper- All personal finance is basic math. The most complicated thing that you might have to work with is interest percentage. I enjoy sitting down and running the numbers just to make sure that I know how much I spend and where it goes.Having this hands on experience every few months helps to keep me attached to my money instead of just having it be a bunch of 1s and 0s on a computer screen.
  • Youth- Being young has a lot of great advantages.  The most important one when it comes to personal finance is that you have time to fix any mistakes you make, and time to build wealth with slowly over a long period.  I have screwed up a lot, and I still plan on screwing up a lot, but losing a percentage of my savings when I am 28 is better than losing that same percentage when I am 58.  Learn from your mistakes and get better, there is plenty of time.  *this doesn’t mean that you should procrastinate saving until later, start early and you will save more

Personal finance is a journey, one that we have taken since we got our first allowance and that we will take until we are 6 feet under. Less than 5 years ago I didn’t know anything about personal finance. I remember telling someone that I was going to put my money under a mattress and when I got too much I would buy a bigger mattress. I was able to change that by reading a few books and browsing some blog posts. Honestly I don’t even bother checking them anymore because I have heard enough to set up my own system that works and don’t feel the need to waste time reading more things that I am not going to try. By being an active participant in the journey I am able to understand my money and send it to places that fit my needs and my plan. I am also able to understand economics better and though that see how the world works and what makes people tick. I am not perfect, and I make a lot of money mistakes but I try to learn from those mistakes and grow as a person. One of these days my net worth will be positive, and some day I will be able to retire, but until then I am going to grow my cashflow, optimize my savings, minimize my debt and all those other buzzwords. But most of all I am going to enjoy my money and try to better my life because after all you can’t take it with you.