I stood on the sidewalk outside my apartment in Korea waiting for my taxi to the airport. I had six suitcases, a bookbag, two cats, and one dog. I was loaded. My taxi driver shook his head in confusion when he saw one me with ten bulky items.
I also had over $10K in my checking account from teaching there for three years. With the money, my plan was to return to Chicago, start a Masters program, and live life to its fullest. I hopped on the plane that day with all the ambition, and all the baggage, one could have.
It’s all gone. That money lasted for less than a month. The cats are gone too.
A few weeks before leaving South Korea, my American friend had suggested this beautiful apartment on the north side of Chicago. It had two bedrooms and exposed brick. Without any hesitation, I signed the contract virtually through email. My new, perfect life was just around the world.
That contract blindsighted me like a janky sidewalk in Baton Rouge. I somehow overlooked the two-year, up-front rent commitment. Before I was even settled into my new home, I had carelessly spent it all.
Move-in day, as you can imagine, was full of emotion. It was thrilling, and it was tiring. As my friend and I were setting up my new IKEA furniture, it was, “WTH am I doing?”
To drown my sorrows, Starbucks became my best friend. She was there when I was sad. She was there when I was lonely. She was there right around the corner from my new place.
I spent nearly $15 a day on coffee and food. Baristas learned my name. Jefffff with extra F’s. They knew my order. Grande blond roast in a venti cup. They knew my story. Man with way too much time on his hands.
A barista one day suggested I open a Starbucks credit card to get points for my exorbitant purchases. So I did as I was told. I dined at Starbucks for free for two weeks. I lived large and felt really good about it.
After those two weeks, I found myself in a committed relationship with plastic. In came the debt. In came more, “WTH am I doing?”
I was also committed to a real person. Nine years younger than me, he thought I was Mr. Money Bags. But really, my credit card was the money. We had a beautiful three way going without him meeting my lady in green.
Flowers went on the credit card. Meal prep went on the credit card. The gingerbread houses even went on the credit cards. And his house still looked better than mine.
At least I was accruing points. Points meant travel. Travel meant running away.
A year after standing on that sidewalk with all of that luggage, I went from over $10K in cash to three dollars in cash. I went from next to nothing in debt to over $6K in debt. Things had completely flipped upside down and very much not in my favor.
Money can only buy happiness temporarily. You probably already know that. But it took me a while to fully understand this. But hey. At least I still have my dog.