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2002-10-08 - 12:59 p.m.

Early this year I was treading the fine line of living beyond my means...

Well perhaps this story starts as far back as I when I finished Uni at the end of 1999. And perhaps it is as much a story of my lack of ambition and motivation as it is one of me questioning how responsible I am with my finances.

I came out of 4 years of Uni almost with less of an idea about my future than when I went in. It basically stemmed from me loathing the practical side of my Honours project, which- let's face it- is the side that probably matters most when you get into the real world. I have always excelled academically, and even when I hated Honours I managed to blitz it, but the fact was that in 3 years of going to lectures and getting distinctions I didn't realise that the career it was steering me towards- that of a research scientist- was about as much me as... something that isn't me at all. It took Honours for that to hit home.

As a result, when my friends were applying for numerous jobs or numerous PhD scholarships, I was content working at the two casual jobs which had (just) got me through University. One of them was retail, it was Christmas and I was free of the constraints of Uni, so in comparison to my life to date I was raking in the money. I lived at home, my social life was nothing spectacular, my main expense was the infamous shitbox.

It all comes down to ambition and perspective. Compared to me only 6 months earlier I was doing spectacularly. Compared to my friends- let's face it- I was in a bit of trouble. Not in the financial sense- those about to start PhD's were certainly no better off than me- but I was rudderless. After 16 years drifting down a canal known as the Education system, where there weren't too many chances of me going off course, I had ended up in the ocean with no direction.

By about May of 2000 I was starting to get worried. For starters one of my lecturers rand me just to let me know one of my peers had got a job and how was I going? Probably only because it would reflect badly on the course I did if I didn't get some sort of placement in the field I studied. Still, they can't be held responsible if I wasn't actually looking.

Then in early June my life completely turned around. On the same day that I was offered a job (more or less the one I am currently in), one that actually had something to do with my four years at Uni, although it was routine not research based (thank God) my social life also took an interesting turn. I was meandering along to a gig in Manly, starting to feel like I was a bit obsessive and maybe after this one I would retire for the year (of this particular band it was I think gig #12). It turned out to be the first of 4 consecutive gigs in as many days. By July of this year I had seen said band fifty five times. On that one day in June 2000 I had found my niche both career-wise and socially for the next 2 years.

By the end of the year my lack of ambition had come back to haunt me, however my social life and my personal life had never been better. That it what saved me from wallowing in depression when I found myself without work for 6 weeks in early 2001- once again it was down to perspective. The 6 months I had worked (while living at home) had afforded me the luxury of embracing my newfound love life and that is what mattered at the time. I have Ellie to thank for getting through the early part of 2001 and she knows it.

So this is where the story of my drives and ambitions turns into one of fluctuating bank balances that it started out as. The point I've been trying to make is that everything is relative to what is important to you. And I think I'm at a point where I'm trying to reevaluate that- at least the career/financial side of things. I know what is important to me on a personal level.

Okay, okay, enough tangents- let's get back on the circle...

By April 2001, while I had significantly less in my bank than I did at the beginning of the year before my work hiatus and my social spending spree, I was going pretty well. I made the decision to move out with my girlfriend and my best friend. How the rest of the year unfolded from a personal point of view is a story for another time, but financially, as sequentially my relationship ended and later my best friend moved home in the interests of financial preservation, I found myself living on my own in a two bedroom place and paying an astronomical amount of rent for 4 months early this year. Because I could afford it. Just.

Having money can be a dangerous thing. Anyone else would have been out of there and back with Mummy and Daddy by the end of last year (given that my friend moved home in early December)- either out of financial necessity or plain common sense. It took me until May.

And I guess that brings me up to what I'm thinking about now. I moved home in May. I got a substantial payrise in July. Yet I'm still not saving money. If it was still early 2002 and I was still living away from home and I was still contracting and not permanent at work I wouldn't have spent half of what I have in the last couple of months. Because I physically couldn't have. But I can. So I am.

It gives me the shits when people in their late thirties tell me if they had it all over again they wouldn't spend any of their money, they'd buy a house because look at the mortgage they have now, etc. 20/20 hindsight. I'm only going to be 25 once. I was only 24 once. You get the picture. I have the rest of my life ahead of me but I'll never have now again. I kind of regret spending my entire income of the last financial year. I am a little concerned that I have less money now than I did in December 2000. But who's to say what I should have done?

In the last month I spent a cool six grand. Am I crazy??????? On what???????

Basically on funding my brother's trip to New Zealand. AM I CRAZY???????????

Well, I'm kind of in the process of buying his car off him as a tradeoff but in reality I see it as collateral, it's still more his car character-wise, and I'll happily sell it back to him if he can afford it when he gets back. So why am I doing it? Because I have the money and he doesn't. And he's only going to be 20 once. Maybe the responsible thing to do would have been to work for another year so he could have properly afforded the trip, but who's to say what would have happened in a year? His view is that hs travelling buddy will be in full time employment by then and thus it wouldn't have been feasable.

I'm proud that I am the sort of person that would do that for him. Possibly incredibly stupid but proud nonetheless. There are people earning half what I earn that have bought apartments. But it's all about perspective. A workmate of mine just turned 28, and in the last month has got engaged (complete with $2000 ring), bought an apartment and a car. When he was my age he was working dirty bars in London, living off the smell of an oily rag, but gaining invaluable life experience. Then he found a science job over there for a couple of years. Then he came back home, fell into this job in much the same way as I did, and by this time last year had bought himself a Motorbike. Now he has a mortgage and an impending marriage to match.

My assets and experience are a lot less than that, for the amount I've gone through in the last 2 years. My year away from home is like a bizarre dream, and I have little physical evidence for it, despite throwing a year of rent into it. But I have friends that I love and I like myself as a person and I am reasonably happy. I think.

It's all about perspective.


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