I Choose to Be the Best “Me” I Can Be

(Article by LB)

I love the idea of choosing your own life, your own rules. To live life intentionally the way it is meant to be lived. I choose to take back my life, to regain the passion for living, and to live intentionally and not systematically like the way others feel I need to live.

Homelessness and Self-Worth

Back when the recession hit, I had to quit school. It was not my choice, but a choice to keep the roof over my head or end up homeless. It was only 4 years ago. I barely had a part-time job delivering newspapers for $300 a month (without taxes or gas), as both my husband and I lost our full-time jobs.

I had bills upon bills. I cut all non-essentials and some essentials. We were living in the dark, quite literally; I taped down the light switches to make sure we did not spend a cent on electricity. I turned the heat down to 55 degrees in the middle of winter. I wore layers upon layers of clothes just to stay warm. I had no savings, no retirement, nothing in checking except barely enough to cover our home, but I was not considered poor enough to receive anything, but an emergency food box from a local food bank. We needed money fast and school was the farthest thing from my mind. Each impending day led to feelings of failure and dread, with no money and no school I felt like I had no future. I felt worthless, poor, and strangely alone.

That was the first time I completely felt like a lost adult. With no parents to help out, no one to hold my hand and my husband feeling as worthless and I, it was the first time in my life I had lost all hope.

A Ray of Hope

That aptly named emergency box lasted through an entire month and became a huge uplifting ray of hope. It was the stability I needed to move on. It was the hope that someone cared about me, and the hope that I was going to make it out the other end stronger and more confident. Eventually, I was able to buy food again, have regular income and I was even able to pick up health insurance.

(If you, or someone you know, needs help with food, here’s a good site to locate a local food bank in your area: FeedingAmerica.org)

Eventually I was able to climb out of misery; I took a full-time job as an assistant, which quickly led into a management position. I was paid $10 an hour, but it felt like I had won the lottery. I cried every day on the way to work at that job, thankful I even had it — no matter the pay. I kept my newspaper job in order to push out of debt. I only slept 3-4 hours a night, with two jobs, but I would have given up more if I could.

These memories are forever with me, and make me who I am today. I try to use them to learn from my past, to help others. I try not to let those memories take over my reasons for doing things, but they are truly horrible and are stuck in my deep conscious.

Misery Starting to Take Control Again…

These memories once again have seeped up from the deep recently, and I started feeling less confident again. These memories then became the reasons behind every decision.

Even though today I am comfortable, have a retirement fund, savings and a fully paid off home, the memories drive me to let every new job offer, every excuse, and everything get in the way of focusing on school. I have doubts about which major I should finish, which classes I should take and where I should attend classes, and whether or not I should have a job while in school or just an internship. I have doubts about my resume, my grades, my blog, or just being too much of myself.

It is hard to drop such piercing memories and doubts. I was allowing these doubts, memories, misery and hardship to seep into my daily life and take over my decisions — until today.

I am the Best “Me” I can Be

I am done letting all doubts, all the worries, wonder, and memories run my life. I am done letting my life run without me driving. I am done letting others tell me how to go to school, how to be, how to be more like the herd and where to put my money. I am done letting others tell me I need more jobs, more internships, more friends, more followers, more everything.

Instead, I chose to allow myself to focus on school and be the best “me” I can be.

Want to join me?

LB is currently a 4.0 student working towards a dual bachelor’s and master’s degree in business management. She writes about her struggles utilizing a $50,000 income to pay for school, giving back to the community, and finding time to live life while staying out of debt.

[Photo by Yashna M]

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  1. Pauline January 3, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    Very inspiring LB, thank you for sharing. It is so easy to lose hope in desperate situations, and you showed us than it can be done if you keep fighting.

  2. Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies January 3, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    That’s an inspiring story – hopefully sharing it will inspire more people to be their best and work their way up, no matter how dire the situation they’re starting in.

  3. J. Delancy January 3, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    A powerful message written with the deepest emotions that a human can experience.
    TWO THINGS: Hanging on to hope in the face of adversity is harder than most people think.
    We should pity those who lose it and surrender to the slings and arrows of

    We never know how our small contributions to food banks, shelters and other
    charitable organizations can change someone’s life for the better.
    ‘Charity’ should be as much a part of our financial lives as spending.

    LB, I wish you continued success.

  4. Heather Stephens January 3, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    LB, There is a book I read a couple of years ago called the Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg. He used a word in the book, You-i-er, which I loved as he challenged us to embrace the things that make us more of who we are and play up the strengths we’ve been given. I’ll often refer to things as “Heather-ish” when I notice myself working my my strengths or doing something that’s typical of my style.

    I’ve learned something over the years, that when you’re trying to decide big life defining things like school, kids, love, etc. there is not really a wrong choice. As long as you’re committed to the choice you make you’ll make the most of it. It could end up being the leading force to drive you forward in life or it will be a link to something else that will be. Either way, believe in yourself and remember that you’ve got the answers inside of you. The next steps will keep revealing themselves to you as long as you keep moving forward.

  5. Budget & the Beach January 3, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    What an amazing comeback story! I know past experiences can paralyze us from moving on, so hopefully you can feel enough confidence in yourself now to let go of some of those things. I think that’s all we can ever ask of ourselves…is the be the best you!

  6. Edward Antrobus January 3, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    I wish I had known about that food bank website. Shortly after we got married, we were making too much to qualify for food stamps (by $10!) but not enough to actually buy food. The only reason we had Thanksgiving that year was because there are some really awesome people out there that give Thanksgiving dinners away on Craigslist to needy families. We feasted on leftovers for two weeks!

  7. AverageJoe January 3, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    Great story. It’s amazing how such adversity can be a positive fuel for growth and development.

  8. Cat January 3, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    Great story :)

    I particularly like the ending “I am done letting my life run without me driving. I am done letting others tell me how to go to school, how to be, how to be more like the herd and where to put my money. I am done letting others tell me I need more jobs, more internships, more friends, more followers, more everything.”

    Because it is so easy to let other people drive our lives…

  9. Financial Black Sheep January 3, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    Pauline – I lost hope the instant I knew there were thousands of people applying for the same jobs as me and my husband. I cried, I felt lost, and then I just kept trying things. I tried for every job imaginable, I tried to find food help, and I tried to cut every cost I had. I found out that every little bit helps, which kept me moving forward, and forward was all that mattered at the time.

    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies – Thank you for saying it was inspiring. As I was living it, it just felt like survival kicked in. I hope now that it is in the past, I can at least help one person.

    J. Delancy – Hanging on to hope through all of that was the hardest to do, and it taught me to believe in myself. It also taught me there are people out there willing to help, so never ever give up. I was so lucky to be able to give back to the food bank that helped me. The day I wrote this article, was the day I finally gave back to my food bank. People take food for granted when “1-6 people in the United States, hunger is a reality.” (feedingamerica.org, 2013). I think giving back to our communities is a great way to humble us and remind us where we came from.

    Heather Stephens – HA! Heather-ish, I love it. I need to read that book, because that sounds like me! I tell my husband all the time I do I am being “LB” or doing something “LB”. It’s our little joke, but you are right it is playing up our strengths and being different. It shouldn’t be an inside joke, it should be motivation. Thank you for the information!

  10. Financial Black Sheep January 3, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    Budget & the Beach – I wrote this story the day I gave back to my local food bank. It was such a relief to end that part of my life. It felt like complete and utter closure. When I contacted J. Money about featuring this story it was hard for me to bring up memories other than what I had written down already. It felt like I let it all go, but I hope to remember just enough to keep me moving ahead in life.

    Edward Antrobus – The only reason I knew about the food bank idea and the emergency food box, was because my local news station had written a story on it. The story showed us even a college kid scraping by can get an one-time emergency food box. The food box I was given allowed me to feast for a month! Some farmers and grocery stores in my area donated sweet potatoes, bananas, and beans. They allowed us to take as much as we wanted, even though we were only there for an emergency. I am so glad you did find help, because Thanksgiving is a special time to celebrate food and family.

    AverageJoe – Thank you for your positive words. My story does help me overcome every day obstacles and allows me to strive hard in school. Nothing is as hard as that time in my life was, and I use that knowledge to my advantage every day.

    Cat – I really am sick of having people tell me I don’t have enough, or I am not doing the “right” things with my money. That day I read a post from Cordelia Calls it Quits, about quitting things in life. She made me realize that I wanted to quit letting those memories and everyone else run my life.

    Thank you J. for letting me get my story out there and…

    To everyone for the amazing words of encouragement! I am so thankful where I am in my life right now, that sometimes I think it isn’t going to be around tomorrow. I truly am happy and feel I can move on from that time in my life with a smile and my head held high.

  11. John S @ Frugal Rules January 3, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    Thanks so much for sharing LB! We had good friends that were blessed by the same charity a couple of years ago and I know it meant the world to them. We got very close ourselves to having to use it soon after we were married but have been able to climb out of the situation…slowly but surely. Keep up the great work!

  12. The Happy Homeowner January 3, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    Thank you for sharing this–as someone who also has had a pretty rocky financial past, I know it’s not always easy to “put it all out there.” You’re a resilient, strong, independent person–you’ll knock whatever goals you set out of the park! Best of luck to you

  13. K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! January 3, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    I appreciate you sharing your story and especially that you now are giving back to those who are now in the same position that you were once in. I’ve been through a financial wringer in the past and can appreciate the emotions that you expressed. Continue to remain true to thine self!

  14. Financial Black Sheep January 3, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    John S @ Frugal Rules – Congrats on being able to climb out of such a dire situation. I am thankful for all such organizations out there that help people in need. I am very thankful for the one that helped me and I hope I can continue to give back to them in the future.

    The Happy Homeowner – I agree that putting it all out there sucks at times. There are days on my blog when I think “why do I want everyone to know how much money I make”?!?!?! Then I remember why I do it, because I want to help other people learn from my mistakes and choices. If I can help one person, then all is well. Thank you for the complements!

    K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! – (BTW, love the title of your blog!) Thank you for the words of encouragement, as I truly hope to help many more people down the road.

  15. Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle January 3, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    Excellent story. I often feel my financial situation is a hole I will never be able to did myself out of you but I was never as rough off as you were and I always had family to fall back on. I have never asked for help from family but I feel more secure knowing the help is always there if I need it.

    I am taking steps to feel more positive about my financial future and prepare for lean times and it helps me to feel more powerful as a single mom.

  16. J. Money January 4, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    YAYY!!! Look at all this love and support going on, this is what the internet should be like! POSITIVE stuff floating around and everyone helping each other out – Thanks for leaving all these comments for LB, you guys are awesome :)

    And, LB, thank YOU for pouring yourself out there and helping to inspire others! A great way to start the new years off (which I must admit was my sneaky plan once you send this to me, haha…), and an even better reminder to continue pushing forward and having hope. Good things will come in time!

    I’m going to share your note about Cordelia too to her, as I’m sure she’ll just LOVE hearing her posts are helping people :) Her “quits” series are one of my favorites too!

    A couple other quick comments:

    @Heather Stephens – I agree with that (“there’s never a really wrong choice”). There may have been some that was better than others, or more helpful/etc, but since you can never turn back time anyways it does no real good except to learn from things and continue doing your best to push forward. And most times you picked the right decision at the given point in time anyways :) It’s not like you can’t change your mind later too! That’s my favorite part about life – you have the power ANY DAY to make a change and send yourself down a new path for the future. It’s awesome.

    @Edward Antrobus – $10??? That’s crazy! So cool about Craigslist though, it’s nice to see there is still so much good in the world! :)

  17. gustav January 5, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    Reading about your situation brought back a lot of memories for me, although yours was so much more worse. Mine happened many years ago, and to this day, I still get a tear in my eyes when I think how thankful I am for what we have. It’s called the “school of hard knocks” I guess and some of us have a doctorate degree. You will never forget those lessons that you learned and I commend you and your husband for sticking with it and not tossing in the towel. Really enjoyed your article.

  18. Michelle January 5, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    Your story really resonated with me. I went through a prolonged period of stress fairly similar to yours. It was mentally exhausting to get through each day. And hope and faith were the only things that helped me get through that financial crisis. What a wonderful post! You are an inspiration.

  19. Kevin H April 8, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    I like stories like these. They help one take stock and appreciate what we we currently have. For one reason or another, I have never been allowed to reach the financial point LB had. The way I see it is there are too many “financial aid” crutches around me. This is something I don’t like, haven’t liked for a long time. The road to independence has seemingly been slow thus far, frustrating at many times. As you say, one can only focus on being the best “me” they can be at any given moment. There is no such thing as 110%, 101%, or even 100.00000001%. The most a person can do is give life 100%, doing so I believe will bring happiness. It’s the times you don’t give it your all or spin your wheels (110% ;) despair sets in.

    I’m happy to have found these blogs as I’m not content with sliding through life like the majority around me. It has only been a week and I’m already changing the way I view the world around me. There is even the itch to start up my own blog. Me, a person who at one point in life felt he couldn’t share his thoughts with those around him. Like everyone else, I’ve gone through my own personal struggles. If sharing my experiences helps someone through their hard time then that will be awesome.