I Make Half the Money I Used to. How the Hell Am I Doing?

Christine Trapani
Jan 24, 2018 · 5 min read

Well, actually a little less than half. Yes, this was a conscious decision. No, I haven’t lost my mind (at least not from this). And maybe it’s had its challenges.

But as broke as I may feel sometimes and then start playing the “poor me” card because of (nothing more than) a bruised ego, I remind myself of this: I’ve honestly never felt as rich.

Cross my heart.

Is it?

Two years ago, I was laid off after a long (20 years long) and successful tenure in advertising. I liked my job very much, maybe even loved it at times. Lucky me. But I would say around year 15ish, my love was starting to wane. Hey, that happens in the strongest relationships, right? You go in all doe eyed and gaga at first, and then the excitement starts to settle. It becomes comfortable — which is really nice — and you’re still happy, so you just settle in along with it. It’s comfortable and feels good. Well, it feels ok. And then it feels so-so and is just really convenient. No one really LOVES their job anyway, right? Why fix something that isn’t broken? Well, if you’re fighting to get up in the morning, feel the bedtime “dread” thinking of your “to do” list (and all the assholes) you have to deal with the next day, roll your eyes and frown more than you glow and smile — and just have an all-around shitty attitude, guess what? That actually is pretty broken, very uncomfortable and extremely inconvenient. And it also means it’s time for a change.

Making any change in life, especially one as big as a career or job change — is as scary as hell. No lie. To stop doing something that you know inside and out, that comes completely as second nature, that gives you some sense of financial security — and more frightening, an identity — can scare you shitless. And I was no exception. I was scared to death about making such a bold change in my life. About leaving the only industry I worked in and all the friends I had come to know and love. About taking such a cut in my salary. About how my super-sized ego would do trading in the VP title and three window office for an at home office (i.e. a laptop at my kitchen table) and modest new digs at my day job in a NYC high school. About whether my social life would take a huge blow, not being in Manhattan every day any more. How would I do making such a drastic change to my overall routine — and life?

Fast forward to just over one-year in. While it has its challenges, I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. And I’m more gratified than I’d ever imagined.

On the down side — I have a tight budget I need to stick to and I have to plan my spending better now. I can’t just buy things on a whim and need to exhibit some self-control (which I never enjoyed when it came to money). I do miss being in Manhattan and I can’t take cabs everywhere when I am there. I brown bag it now as opposed to going out for lunch or ordering in every day with my friends. Which means I have to cook and plan meals. I had to lease a cheaper car when my old lease was up. I have not been away for a full week vacation AWAY somewhere in 2 years. I’ve had to spend a lot of time (I’d rather spend differently) on the phone getting better rates on insurance and utilities. I don’t see my friends I worked with as much anymore and I’m still having withdrawals.

I just read the “down side” back. It really doesn’t sound too terrible, does it? And I actually sound like a fucking brat.

Now, let’s focus on the up-side.

I found a fantastic job at a local high school (two miles from my house). So aside from NO COMMUTE — I’ve been lucky enough to find a new gig — with an amazing group of people — where I’m utilizing some of the business skills acquired in my corporate life. And the work I’m doing is ultimately for our students’ benefit. A shorter work day (and did I say NO COMMUTE) allows me the time I need to build my business and work with clients in the evenings. Less income isn’t all gloom and doom. I do a lot less shopping (for shit I don’t need anyway) and instead I read more and enjoy writing in my spare time. I go into Manhattan a few times a month for business meetings or to see my old friends I’m missing. And less cabs while I’m there means more walking — so hopefully my fat ass will start to benefit. As it turns out, I like my cheaper car a lot better than the old one. While I certainly still go away for long weekends — full weeks off so far have been staycations where I’ve caught up with friends and enjoyed local sites. I don’t go to bed anymore stressing about the next day. I’m not checking emails (and responding) at 11pm. I usually sleep throughout the night now. I’ve found more time for myself and to do things that I enjoy and are meaningful to me. And I’m making a career out of helping people. It’s not life in the fast lane and I traded in my old life for one that is definitely much simpler. But I think some simplicity is exactly what I needed. And the gratification and happiness I’ve found from that simplicity has been worth more than a six figure salary.

Yes, it absolutely is.

So, while I find myself still nursing my bruised ego occasionally — I’d say overall I’m doing just fine. Actually, I’m doing great. Change is never easy. But it’s often necessary. If I had to rank this change among others I’ve made, I’d rate this one second best (ranked just after my divorce and right before my laser treatments). This investment in myself has given me a different perspective and a new life I was ready for — and frankly, needed. And who knows? Maybe as my business grows, it won’t be long before my income does too. And it can only get better from here.

Cross my heart.

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