99 Days At The 99¢ Store, WEEK NINE: A Remedy For Self-Pity

So how does one regain perspective after melting down over a shoe?

Feb 20, 2013 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

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Does this look like an existential crisis?

So glad you’re back for more after last week’s psychotic break edition of the 99¢ Store series. Seriously, thanks for cutting a bitch some slack. I’m sure it won’t come as a shock to anyone that the anxiety carried over to the beginning of this week as well, though luckily it seems my ‘give a fuck’ is finally breaking.

But let me tell you my friends, the low point was not pretty. I wound up crying over a shoe. Basically – after a week and a half of hating my life – it was raining, there were still no job prospects, the sole of my go-to kicks was falling off, and I lost my shit for minute.

It was a private moment, just my boyfriend and me, and after I got the angst out of my system, he was the ultimate gentleman and cobbled my shoe back together with superglue.  

Regardless of the fact that since beginning this experiment the vast majority of my shoes have fallen into disrepair and I’m still well over a month from being able to replace any of them, the crux of my meltdown didn’t have anything to do with shoes. It was about the unknowns in my life right now and the things that are out of my control. What I’m learning is that financial uncertainty exponentiates problems, blows them up on the wall into a larger-than-life shadow show, making them darker and scarier than they would be on their own.

So how does one regain perspective after melting down over a shoe? In my case, I decided the day had bested me and I wasn’t capable of getting any more work done, so I settled in to watch my last two SAG screeners: Rust and Bone and The Impossible.  

Um, yeah… so the people in those movies had, like, real problems. The characters were overcoming overwhelming obstacles, I was bawling: that specific double-header has got to be one of the top self-pity remedies of all time. It served as a clear reminder that even though I felt like I was on the brink, I don’t even know what true despair looks like. And you know what? That’s when my glass started looking a little more full.

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Perspective.

The owner of my favorite place to workshop writing cut me a deep discount on a couple of winter classes so that I could participate without violating my 99¢ Store rules and I had my first session yesterday evening. Though I’m tickled pink by the deal I got, as my biggest non-99¢ Store purchase of the experiment, I feel the need to thoroughly justify it to you readers – and rightly so.

For starters, as the product of two teachers, I’m hopelessly devoted to the classroom environment. I know that brings up teacher’s pet connotations – and that’s not entirely off base – but the stimulation, the mentorship, the community: I love it all. Since finishing college, I’ve done two graduate-level certificate programs (just do the damn thing already!) and taken a smattering of acting and writing classes. 

It hasn’t been all practice and no game. In that same period of time, I’ve done a number of plays, been part of several film and video projects, and had my writing published. But sometimes, especially when there’s not much bought and paid for creative work on the docket, it’s nurturing to have a place to play, explore, and learn from others. 

 All those things translate back to the professional world, because when I’m sitting in a workshop with eight to ten other people, not only am I flexing my artistic muscle, but I’m also picking up explicit and implicit tricks of the trade. Regardless whether my classmates hit a grand slam, swing and miss, or anything in between, they provide me with an illustrative example that helps refine my own craft. Thusly, I can often avoid making all the newbie mistakes myself, especially the unknowingly egregious and irreparable, which in itself is invaluable.

My fellow classmates are good for more than demonstrating dos and don’ts. Even though I’ve known most of them for a mere matter of months, we’ve managed to foster a supportive writing community. An offshoot writers group has been started, we have a Facebook group that stays surprisingly active, and everyone’s only an email away if I have any questions, need contact information for a specific editor, or need to know whether or not a piece comes off as offensive.

Spending three hours in a focused workshop helps me find Jesus (figuratively, of course) when I’m on a brink of self-defeating meltdown. It excites and energizes me, and when class is over I leave with a spark, ready to home and tackle a rewrite or get started on something new. Plus, the deadlines keep me accountable, working on fresh material, and imposing a much-needed semi-structure since I don’t have a full-time job right now. 

This fall I spent $935 on a one-day workshop, a two-day workshop, and two multi-week classes. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but it’s not the part of my pre-99¢ spending that I regret. Buying classes with that money has had a much higher rate of return than say extravagant restauranting or a fancy purse. In fact, I’ve already landed assignments based on classwork from this fall, and when it’s all said and done, the amount I’ll earn will exceed what I paid for the classes. Essentially, I’m making my money back and then some. 

In finding a creative solution to get my writing class fix, the ever valuable “ask and you shall receive” maxim was reinforced. I remembered a fellow member of a goal-setting group at my former talent agency becoming a class assist for a popular voice-over instructor. He needed admin help, she couldn’t afford the classes – it was a happy resolution to both problems. Since the owner of the Writing Pad was already aware my 99¢ experiment, and I knew she usually had help setting up and cleaning up before and after classes, I didn’t hesitate to email her about helping out.

She responded that she did offer a half off in exchange and that she only had two such spots available per class. I quickly replied with my preferred upcoming classes, and I wound up nabbing those selections. I’d also gotten a discount for referring a friend this fall, so this week I paid $307.50 for two winter classes (eight sessions total) at a whopping 68% off face value! My only other spending for the week was $49.97 at the 99¢ Store. 

The cherry on top of this delicious literary sundae is that this morning I got an email – assistance is needed on the company’s blog and could I do some writing in trade for classes? Um, of course, I can! 

Ultimately, the outcome was way better than I could have ever imagined – and it was all achieved by simply opening a dialogue. Maybe this tactic would be effective on other areas in my life, too.

Follow me every penny-pinching step of the way on Twitter @courtneykocak and Tumblr.

Posted in Issues, DIY, dollar stores, money