Scratch.

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

It’s 4:30am, December 31, 2017.  She’s hungry.

Scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch.

She’s also persistent.

That’s why I’m awake at this dark hour.  Our beloved Bailey-cat has set her little eyes upon mine, watching for any minute twitch or semblance of soon-to-be-awakeness.  When she does spot the difference between a deep sleep and the verging of being awake, she springs into action.  First, onto my chest, each paw pressing down as hard as feline-ly possible.  Then it’s the grinding of her face and head into my face and head.  Jump up and down off the bed.  A gentle mewl.  It’s breakfast time, damnit, and SHE MUST BE FED NOW.  So, she presses the door to the bedroom closed, and then uses it as an excuse to panic, to cry out, and start to scratch.  Incessantly.

It turns out, between the hours of 4:30 and 5:30 in the morning, the day before the start of another calendar year, is probably not the best time to dive head-long into a deep article about the state of things for Millennials and the overall American economy, especially before coffee.  While I can’t proclaim to be a Millennial, as I’m too old, nor can I call myself a GenX as I’m too young (someone coined the term Xennial and I just rolled my eyes and said “Sure, Jan” to it, but that’s kinda stuck), I can absolutely identify with the issues and struggles the article outlined (Article you say?  Oh, tell me more!). Succinctly put, and after shoveling some kitty kibble into the bowl for my Morning Menace, I feel like I’ve been gut punched.

How the hell did we end up with an economy and politics in such a state as it is today? How on earth was I ever okay with letting a full generation (and some, if you want to count early GenX) lay out this golden path toward a successful life for me, only to rip it away when it became suddenly inconvenient for them? I’m talking about the buy-in to mortgaging my brain on college, or on watching way too much HGTV that left me with a rabid-dog desire for a home, or even suddenly becoming a statistic directly reference in some article I read way before coffee – a well-trained, highly-educated soul who ‘settles’ for a bus driving gig because it’s steady pay with benefits.  I mean, when did I truly give up my life to the whims and needs of others and their scheming plans?

Honestly, I’m feeling like I’ve been played like a tattered old fiddle, and as I sit here, sipping the warmed-up remains of yesterday’s coffee (with a fresh pot brewing), I’m grinding my teeth.  I’m setting my jaw and resisting all of it.  I truly loathe fitting into someone’s demographic chart.  I hate being a subset, a factoid, a typical anything.  While it is comforting, in a twisted way, to know that I’m not the only one out there who’s caught at this massive generational crossroad, where, suddenly, the voice of my parents and grandparents is outnumbered by a younger, more vibrant, more diverse voice of a new crop of people who have the capability to be influential and policy-breaking/making, I still hate being lumped in with anything.  I want to choose and follow my own damn path, my own Road Not Taken, except, the longer I’m seeking that direction, the more I’m realizing most directions have already been trodden, most ways forward have already been discovered.  In short, I’m sitting here, frustrated, and highly decaffeinated.  At least I can fix one of these two situations immediately.

The other, however, will take some time.  Some resolution.

I guess this will be a New Year’s Resolution Post.  Ugh.  Another one.  One of a million-billion.

2017 hasn’t been all terrible, so it’s fairly easy for me to come up with some pretty decent things to reflect on.  I mean, Ray and I have our own space – our own overpriced piece of the Portland, Oregon pie – replete with shitty IKEA furniture and a total lack of decent space to house guests – but it is ours.  We are on the dotted line for it, and the rent is paid in full on time.

I’ve made a few thousand dollar dent in my car loan, and, as of now, haven’t missed a payment, so that’s a victory, in and of itself.  I’ve also definitely cashed in on the extended warranty I bought with the Jeep, having replaced a massively expensive electronic module and the entire transmission housing and clutch, which means, in theory, I should be good for a minute on that front.

I have, however, dug myself in deeper into stupid debt.  I was up on things until about September of last year, when I pulled out all the stops and took us on a massive adventure to see one of our favorite groups, Above & Beyond, at the Gorge Amphitheater.  While the debt remains, I will say this in my defense: How many times does a man turn forty years old?  And, while the trip was vastly overpriced in so many ways (like $2000 to spend the weekend in a “fancy” tent right on site, and only a few hundred feet from the actual amphitheater), it was utterly priceless to give my beloved a moment of time in a truly strenuous year where he could just exist and not think or worry about anything.  It was debt worth amassing, and I have no real regrets about that.

Still, the balances remain on my cards, and they need to not.  I know, for a fact, that I’m weighed down by this dumb debt.  In fact, another thing I really need to be grateful for is the fact that I am, actually, making more money than I ever have in my entire life.  My job – the one I’m highly over-qualified for and that, for years, was something I aspired to be better than – is actually quite stable and strong.  I’m a really good bus operator.  I get my job done, without much drama, and I can get home and provide for my family in ways I’ve only ever been able to dream about.  I need to dial back the stupid-debt, the money spent on credit cards that doesn’t need to be spent on a damned credit card for date nights, a quick lunch, a spur-of-the-moment ride into the mountains, and get myself back to a mostly cash-based life.  It would alleviate a lot of angst, most assuredly, and get me to a better fiscal spot for the actual life-goals I still have yet to achieve.

Last year, I was swatted away by a mortgage officer at my bank.  I was told, by a Baby Boomer no less, that I was too far into student loan debt to even think about affording a house on my own, let alone qualify for my own mortgage regardless of size.  In that moment, it was as if an entire generation had looked at me, judged me for following their explicit instructions, and when their scheme hadn’t worked out as directed, simply wiped their hands of the matter and showed me the door.  Maybe that’s hyperbolic in a way, but as I sat there, gripping the vinyl arms of the shitty bank chair, mad as hell, it absolutely felt like I’d been betrayed.  It set my jawline tight.  More resistance.  More rejection of the word ‘no.’  While I sat in the jeep with Ray after leaving the bank, weeping in rage, I knew that whatever that grey-haired man in the grey suit under the violent fluorescent lights had said, his was not the last word.  It couldn’t possibly be.  I’m defiant like that, if I must be honest.  I really, really can’t take no for an answer at first.  It takes me a while to let it sink in.

This upcoming year, I want to defy the odds on that front.  I want to secure a space for us to live, with Ray at my side.  I want to give our lovely dog Steinbeck his own back yard.  I want the cat to have space to chill the hell out, where she can claw at a door to her heart’s content without bothering the hell out of me at 4:30 in the damned morning.  So, that’s one resolution, I guess?  I don’t know if I can keep it, but I can keep at it.

Overall, though, I think 2018 will be the year I start to truly un-define myself.  I don’t want to be labeled or categorized at the whim of anyone else.  I want to give those who need to interact with me a reason to push deeper, to ask more questions, and to reframe their initial assumptions about me.  I don’t know exactly how that’s going to happen, or what shape it will take, but it’s my 40th trip around the sun and, goddess knows, I’m done with being mediocre.  I’m done with falling in between anything.  I don’t care what people think of me, truly, anymore, but I do care about how I see and present myself.  Freeing myself of stupid-debt, getting my house in order, and taking on the massive physical challenge of getting into some form of muscular shape will be the things I focus on primarily over the next twelve months or so.  I mean, my own personal new year started back in October, so I’ve had a couple of months to get up on this horse of mine, which I have on some fronts.  I’ve already got my budget lined up for the next year, I’ve signed onto a decent fitness program that I’d walked away from (more like limped – I had to quit it back when my knee gave out a couple of years ago) in the past, and I have my jaw set, defiantly.

2018 will be the year of Defiance, Resistance, Persistence, and Dis-categorization.

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