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I've Come a Long Way

I had the chance to connect with Derek one last time this week. Over the past 5 or 6 months he’s helped guide me through some huge decisions and life changes. In this short time I’ve: had a part-time job and been laid off, decided to return to school to get my masters, gotten hired into a wonderful full-time position with great benefits, gotten myself completely off of state assistance, found an apartment of my own, and created a budget that works. Wow! When I look at it that way, even I recognize that I’ve come a long way in a relatively short time. So now what?

Personally, I’m ready to settle into some routines. The changes I’ve made have been needed and welcome, but I’m also ready to focus on simply practicing the new skills I’ve learned to maintain my budget each month (or improve it when possible) and enjoy being a fully self-sufficient adult again. I’m taking steps to use the classes I’m taking to enhance my career already, and hope to position myself in the long-term for advancement, even before graduation. I’m grateful to have the kind of manager who’s totally open to my suggestions and offerings – she even encourages it! Over the next few years, especially while I’m in school, I basically hope to be “boring” (relatively speaking).

I have a savings plan in place and am already using it to increase my savings account each month. The budget will change periodically in little ways, but I look forward to it working every month and being able to handle the surprises easily. Work. School. And my kids. Those are my top priorities. My friends and community play a huge role in supporting me in so many ways, and I intend to continue staying connected to them in whatever ways I can.

I’m in a great place no matter how one looks at it. Derek pointed out that in a time when most people are needing to cut back and learn how to live in on a tighter budget, I did that part years ago and am now actually expanding my life. For better or worse, one of the greatest skills I’ll take forward with me is having learned how to make a dollar stretch as absolutely far as possible.

There’s a part of me that feels as if the end of this project is a bit like leaving the nest, but I know I’m ready. I’m so grateful for all of the resources I’ve been provided, the skills I’ve learned and the support I’ve received. I’m grateful even for those who’ve challenged my decisions, allowing me the opportunity to get even more clear – and self-confident – as I navigated through it. I’d like to say that this project changed my life – and being a part of it certainly has. But really, deep down, I know that I did it. This project gave me resources and support that have made a tremendous difference, but I know I had to choose to use them and participate. And I did.

My biggest plans now are actually quite simple: to hold an “apartment warming” in about mid-June this year (between terms), and then to graduate in June of 2012. In the meantime, I plan to continuously practice the basics, building a future for me and my family one baby step at a time.

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