My relationship ended & I quit my job. What’s next?

How’s that for an SEO headline, eh?

A quick-and-dirty recap:

1. I experienced a breakup. Breakups are hard. They make you want to curl up into a ball in your bed for a month only to unfurl long enough to make the trek to the fridge for the tub of chocolate chip ice cream once a day. Enough said.

2.  I resigned from my job at The Associated Press. Read more below.

3. And because change must come in threes, my car was burglarized and my purse was stolen. This was just icing on the life-change cake.

Now, some of these life changes I had control over, but it has still been a lot to deal with all at once. There have been a lot of tears shed, a lot of panicked texts and phone calls, a lot of second-guessing and a lot of wine-drinking the past few weeks. (Thanks to everyone who has helped calm me down.) But it’s reminding me how truly strong I am, the number of obstacles I’ve overcome in my life, and the amount of cool sh*t I’ve done and will continue to do as long as I’m on this earth: I overcame anorexia at a young age when some people said I never would; I attended college out of state when people told me I should stay closer to home; I moved to a tiny island in the Pacific immediately after college when — again — people told me I should do the comfortable and easy thing; I entered a communist country illegally and lived to tell about it — don’t do this; I moved to San Francisco, South Dakota and back to my roots in Oklahoma, because I felt it was right at the time and I followed my gut; and I’ve written a book because it’s always been a dream of mine.

Overcoming challenges and seeking out new adventures is what scares me most in life. It’s also what excites me and gives me energy. This is another time of growth in my life that will only make me stronger.

As for my departure from the AP, it was not spur of the moment and was something I’d been thinking about for a little while. But that didn’t make the decision any easier. I started as a temp reporter in Oklahoma City in the spring of 2011 before I was hired full-time in South Dakota. I survived two brutal (read: easy by South Dakota standards) winters before I returned to Oklahoma City last July. In my more than three years with the company I’ve covered some of the most noteworthy stories of my career: executions, death-penalty trials, Native American tribes, a paralyzed kangaroo, deaths of politicians, alleged police officer assaults and more. I’ve developed strong news judgement, learned how to write fast and accurately on extremely tight deadlines, learned how to take multitasking to the extreme and, most importantly, learned how to throw proper Friday night solo dance parties in two newsrooms in two different states.

So why did I decide to leave? I think if you look back to what I wrote above about what I’ve done with my life you’ll understand why. I seek out new possibilities and adventures. It’s who I am and how I’ve lived my life as an adult. I’ve decided to open myself up to something new: a new job, a new career, a new skill, a new way of looking at the world. The possibilities are endless at this point in my life and that makes me really excited. I’m ready for them. (For the record, this has nothing to do with the breakup. It was just pretty unfortunate timing.)

But because people wonder how I’ll get by RIGHT.THIS.VERY.SECOND, here are my immediate plans:

1. Visit old friends and celebrate some of them getting married

2. Release a book!!! (#Salespitch: pre-order your copy now!)

3. Travel

4. Laugh

5. Dance alone in my apartment and together with friends

6. Freelance write and continually seek out new opportunities, projects and connections for the future relating to journalism, public relations, social media and marketing. (Know of some? I’d love if you passed them along by leaving a comment or emailing me at kristi.eaton@gmail.com!)

As for the purse, the thief or thieves who it took it stole a lot of important documents. Most importantly, they stole my feeling of safety and security. I think one of the most annoying parts of the whole ordeal has been having to deal with people judging me for leaving MY purse locked and hidden in MY car briefly in the middle of the day in a high-traffic area. Granted, I’ll never do it again, but I find it hard to believe that the people judging me have never once left their purse or wallet in the console or under the seat to run into a convenience store to grab a cup of coffee, drop off a child at daycare or take the groceries inside a home. I think it could happen to anyone. It was just especially bad timing for me.
Ultimately — once all the cards were cancelled, accounts changed, reports taken — the person or persons who stole my possessions got $20 in cash, my glasses, a marked-up day planner, a pair of contact lenses, a recorder, a purse and wallet from Target and a few sentimental possessions. I hope they enjoy them.
A funny anecdote came from it all, though. I was freaking out that the perpetrator(s) may discover an item with my address on it and come back for more. How so? I’m not exactly sure — my head just said they’d be back for “more.”
So I called the police early one recent Sunday.
A police officer called me back about 10 minutes later and listened as I explained my situation and why I was nervous and worried about my safety.
I live alone, I told the officer, and I feared they may come back at some point for “more.” I thought I’d get some general tips on being aware of my surroundings, maybe a recommendation to buy a bottle of pepper spray — you know, the stuff your parents told you growing up.
Nope. His response was simple if not a little unsettling when I was deep in the throes of freak-out mode: “Do you have a gun?” he asked.
Oh, Oklahoma.

Technology burnout

I love technology. I hate technology.

Technology allows me to check my email any time anywhere and stay connected 24/7. Technology forces me to check my email all the time everywhere and stay connected 24/7.
I remember when I moved back to the mainland from the Northern Mariana Islands in 2009 I COULD NOT WAIT to buy an iPhone so I could have access to my email and all the wonderful apps that were going to make my life easier.

Be careful what you wish for.

I got that iPhone and a few more since then. (I have, however, refused to buy an iPhone 5 when my iPhone 4 works fine, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find durable covers for my 4. Apple is very smart in that regard.)

But it’s not just my iPhone. It’s everything about our hyper-connected society that has burnt me out. I venture to guess that 15 to 18 hours of my day are spent in front of some kind of screen: a TV, computer, iPhone, iPad. I’m always consuming more: more emails, more tweets, more pictures, more news stories, more Facebook posts, more wikipedia entries.

Sometimes I’ll find myself “relaxing” on my couch and I’ll just pick up my phone and start scrolling through Twitter for no reason. Am I addicted? Yes. There’s no question about that. Am I trying to make some changes to the technology burnout? Yes.

But how do you break an addiction that is considered normal and even praised in some instances?

It’s a question that’s hard to answer, but here are a few steps I’ve taken that I think could help you too. This is a work in progress for me, and like any addict, I sometimes take one step forward and two steps backward. But it’s a start.

1. Take work email off your phone. If you have work email on your phone and your employer doesn’t require it, STOP. There’s no reason to torture yourself. I had my work email on my phone for several years. It was nice in some ways: I knew what was going on at work all hours of the day, even when I wasn’t at work. I knew what to expect in the morning and sometimes heard back from sources at night. That’s also why I took it off my phone. I don’t need to know what is going on at work when I’m away from work, right?

2. Minimize multitasking as much as possible. This is easier said than done, but it can be achieved in small ways like only keeping one or two tabs open on your web browser instead of eight or nine.

3. Only get on Facebook at certain times throughout the day. I no longer scroll through this time suck of a website just to scroll through. At least not during the work day. If I catch myself doing this, I just ask myself what I’m accomplishing and I get off. This has been hard, but it has been one of the most beneficial aspects to my purge.

4. Stop checking your phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night before going to sleep.

5. Read a book. I find that I zone out a lot watching TV or movies and that’s when I grab my phone. It’s like I need even more stimulation. But if I read a book, I actually have to concentrate to understand what I’m reading. If I zone out while I’m reading a book, I realize I need to just do nothing or to go sleep.

Have you experienced technology burnout? How did you cope and what habits did you change?

Money and how to make sure you’re making enough

Money. It’s the one thing that everyone focuses on but no one talks about. Too little of it can make people think they can’t reach their dreams. Too much, in my opinion, is just as bad. Granted, I’ve never been there so maybe that’s why I feel that way.
If you’re like me you think about money way too much. It’s a bad habit I’m really trying to get under control. But I think being aware of your money situation is important. That’s why for the past four years I’ve been tracking my expenses and spending habits each month.

I started doing this when I was a freelancer and basically had to to make sure I wasn’t spending more than I was bringing in. It was really helpful to see how much I was making vs. spending.

Mint.com is really helpful in providing a monthly break down of where you’re spending your money, and I recommend downloading the free app.

But what I do each month is just make sure I’m making enough to cover everything I want to be covering.

In my own expense report I’ll put in a note for especially large expenses, like a treatment at the dentist, new tires on the car or a week-long trip to Greece, or large influxes of cash. For example, some months I get three paychecks instead of the normal two.

Here is an example of what it looks like:

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So at the each end of each month I pay my credit card bills and then go into my bank account and add up the money I made and add up the credit card bills and the automatic withdrawals for car insurance, electricity, phone bills, etc.  My amount earned is only the money that I actually take home each month after taxes, insurance, 401K and union deductions and the like.

Then at the end of the year I can add it all up and see how much I really spent and break it down to find my average each month. I’m sure there are nifty apps and programs that do this automatically for you, but I like doing it by hand because it helps me have a better understanding of how much I’m earning and where it’s going.

By keeping track of my total bank account each month, I can track to make sure I’m bringing in enough or see that I need to rein in my spending for next month.

Do you have any methods for tracking your earnings and expenses?


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The one souvenir I buy on every trip

I spent my last semester in college studying abroad in Italy and traveling to various countries in Europe. Every time I stepped foot in a new country or saw a once-in-a-lifetime sight I had to buy the perfect possession to remember it by:  an oversized coffee cup at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a necklace made of blown glass in Venice and a snow globe from Rome, among other items.

Keep in mind that back then I didn’t drink coffee and I hated wearing necklaces. I bought them because I was happy, and I thought buying stuff would make me happier or I’d somehow keep that happiness high longer through the purchases. I also was doing what every other person was doing: buying the shiny objects that were offered to us.

Later, though, I had to somehow get all the souvenirs back to the United States. I bought a suitcase for 80 euro just for the souvenirs!

The snow globe broke somewhere in the air between Rome and Chicago, while the rest of the souvenirs sat in my childhood bedroom while I continued on with my life. I only recently brought the Eiffel Tower coffee cup to my apartment and now use it to hold all my leftover foreign coins.

I’ve since come up with a souvenir I can buy in every country for the equivalent of a few dollars. It’s something that I enjoy using, have fun picking out and usually has some sort of story behind it.

Here’s what it is:

I got these bracelets in Greece. The one on the left is from Santorini while the one on the right is from Mykonos.

Bracelets!

These are from Greece. The one on the left is from Santorini and is a talisman meant to ward off bad wishes and bad people. (The evil eye is pervasive on Santorini). The one on the right is from Mykonos and cost less than 2 euro.

 

I’ve never been a fan of necklaces and earrings, only bracelets. I sometimes purchase bracelets that cost a little more but are more durable and can be worn for years. Like these:

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This is from Suva, Fiji.

 

Both bracelets are from Italy.

Both bracelets are from markets in Italy.

Recently, though, I’ve been focusing on buying bracelets that are even less expensive and wearing them until they basically fall apart. Once that happens it means it’s time for my next adventure.

This is from Broken Bow, Oklahoma.

This is from Broken Bow, Oklahoma. I wore it so long that the knot that made it easy to get on and off fell apart.

Buying bracelets is ideal for me because they’re easy to transport, they’re inexpensive, I actually use them AND I can spend as little or as long as I want to to find the perfect one to remember a trip!

What kind of souvenirs do you purchase while traveling? Do you display your purchases once you get home?


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If time is money, how much is yours worth?

Time is money. That’s what we say in America.

I was reminded of that recently.

Back story: I’m curious about something, and being the methodical (read: nervous) individual that I am, I’m asking people for advice. I’m turning to friends, colleagues and random strangers on the internet to get their input.

I know when people ask me for advice I feel a little flutter inside. I think about how I’ve miraculously convinced one more person that I have life figured out. Score!

But alas, I don’t. And I don’t think most people do. But I do think some people have figured out certain parts of life more than others. Thus, I think asking for advice or help is beneficial. So that’s what I did.

But in my attempt to reach out to various friends, colleagues and people I admire, I realized how crunch for time the majority of us are. I’m one of them. That’s why I’m making a concerted effort to make time for relationships, but I’m also focusing on making time for the relationships that matter the most and learning to be OK with eliminating the ones that don’t. I’m keeping the essential and eliminating the unnecessary.

This is what I’m repeating to myself:

-Know that it’s OK to say no. It’s OK to say no to a possible commitment for my own well-being. I’m focusing only on what is essential for me, not what I’m told is essential.  I read a great article about this recently. Read it here.

-Remember that relationships matter, and I need to continue to cultivate that ones that I believe important.

-When I’m feeling stressed and like the world will collapse if I don’t check my email or check that next task off my to-do list, ask myself: will the fact that I let it go matter five years from now?

-Is this something I care about? Does it bring happiness and make me excited about the possibilities?

What do you tell yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed or overextended? How do you deal with it?

 

What I don’t have vs. what I do have

Minimalism isn’t just being cheap. Some people think that, and I get why they would from the outside. But it’s actually just deciding what is important to you and doing away with all the stuff that doesn’t help you live a happier life.
I know that based on life circumstances some people need more than others. I also know sometimes people don’t need stuff, but they still choose to accumulate it just because they can. That’s fine.

However, if you’re constantly feeling stressed and like you can’t keep up, shedding some unused possessions may be helpful.

But be warned: certain things are seen as “normal” in our society. When you don’t have something considered a basic must-have, you may be looked at as odd or strange. It’s normal to have 100 pair of shoes. It’s not normal to only have three or four. It’s normal to buy the bigger, sleeker, shinier version of every item you own, even if the original item works just fine.

It’s not considered normal to go without a microwave. My last apartment that I lived in for two years came with a microwave. When I moved states last year, my new apartment didn’t have one. It was no problem for me because I never ate anything that required a microwave. But I got some grief for being in my late 20s and not owning a microwave. So I caved and got one. How many times have I used it since? Exactly zero.
It looks nice taking up half of my countertop space though. (Sarcasm)

This further helped me realize that I need to stop listening to what I “should” have in life.

Here are a few things I don’t have:

A house and mortgage I live in an apartment, and after seeing and hearing what some people go through with their homes, I’m not even sure I want to ever buy a house. Maybe that will change in the future, but right now I’m content with an apartment.

Debt This is partly due to hard work and my simple living and also partly due to circumstance.

Cable TV I did away with cable when I returned to Oklahoma about a year ago after I realized I was only using it to watch one channel. I’m not ashamed to admit it was Nick at Night. I also did away with paying a monthly fee for 4G on my iPad after realizing I only ever use it at home with wifi.

An ironing board, blender or toaster I do have an iron that my mom gave me a while back, just no board to use with it. How many times have I ironed my clothes? Maybe once.

Any single piece of clothing that cost over $100 to buy I think my most expensive item is a $100 winter coat I bought at TJ Maxx when I lived in South Dakota. I appreciate that people want to spend $500 on a purse, but I’d rather spend that on something else, like a flight to the Caribbean or spending a staycation at a swanky hotel

Here are some things I do have:

A TV with bunny ears to watch local programming Truth be told, I’m only really interested in catching news programs or “Law and Order: SVU” on TV nowadays, and even then, it tends to be while doing other activities, which is a habit I’m trying to break.

Basic furniture This includes a bed, kitchen table, dresser, coffee table, nightstand.

A gym membership I pay $10 a month for access to a gym.

A passport full of stamps Traveling and seeing the world is important to me, though I realize that people may have other passions.

A page from my passport.

My passport. 

What about you? Have you gotten rid of certain items you don’t use anymore? Have you ever bought something just because you thought you should, even though you didn’t really need it?