back, again

Hi folks. That got pretty bad for a while there, but I’m doing better. I fell off the wagon a bit regarding marijuana usage (still not drinking), and generally stopped taking care of myself. Now I’m a little behind at work and a lot behind in my own projects, but, as always, there’s nothing to do but to get up and try again. So I do.

There have been some major events in the van-build project since I stopped posting regularly. A few weeks ago I actually made a down payment on a van and went to go have a look at it, expecting to buy. Some of this is discussed in my last “i’m back” post.

Well, the damn thing was a lemon. Took an overnight bus after work on Friday (a crowded, uncomfortable bus), very little sleep, and the thing was a lemon. The guy had told me that there was some relatively minor rust damage, and no other issues. When I got there the damn thing was bleeding out oil (I’m guessing they hadn’t started it in a while, before that morning), the battery was dead (they jumped it that morning), the check engine light was on (maybe for the battery…who knows…they didn’t have a code scanner), and the rust damage was much more extensive than I was led to believe (including the tail-pipe being eaten through to the point I could have crushed it with one hand). Oh, and no service records. So I passed on it. I doubted I’d be able to make it home in the thing if I had bought it.

It also occurred to me that, given that I’m not a mechanic and even I could find so many issues with this vehicle, there were bound to be many other, less obvious problems.

So after a sleep-deprived and anxiety ridden morning in Pittsburgh, I managed to rent a car and drive home. The whole trip cost me a weekend, some mental health points, and about 300$. Ain’t that about a bitch. Live and learn. I’ll definitely be taking my own code reader next time (I have one, but not for diesel engines), and will ask more specific questions about the last time a mechanic looked at the vehicle in question.

So, yes, shady used car dealers are a thing. It did get me thinking about maybe increasing my budget for the vehicle itself…maybe start looking at vans with around 50k miles and/or those in the 25k $ range. SunTrust had approved me initially for a 25k loan, so that’s feasible.

I looked at new vehicles too, and there is a lot of appeal in getting one fresh off the line with all the features I’d want, but it’s too much. And it will be easier to cut holes in a used one.

My brother (in TN), mentioned that I should shop around down south, to avoid the rust damaged vehicles. That’s not a bad idea.

But I am going to cool my heals a bit on the purchasing of a van. I need to file taxes, and I worried that I’m going to be asked to do my part to fund this tax break for the rich that president-von-clown-stick has gifted us. And I want to see what kind of job offers I get for next year before buying a vehicle with a lien on it.

I’m fairly certain that SUNY will hire me back as an adjunct teacher if nothing else, and the idea of dropping to part-time hours sooner rather than later is appealing. I don’t want to teach full time for long, and the more hours I can claw back from employment now, the sooner I can make that transition.

I’ve been giving some serious thought to trying to sell some novels. A writer was the first thing I ever wanted to be, as a child. And it’s well suited to a peripatetic lifestyle.

So anyway…I need to handle my tax bill, see what my employment situation looks like come August, and save a few thousand at least before I buy a van. I’m almost inclined to wait another year, just because funds are short and issues are piling up, but there’s no way to make sense of paying rent for another year. If I can get an auto loan and can at least afford to insulate the van and put a heater in it, I can live in it, and can use the money I save on rent to finish the build while already in the van. It’s not optimal, but it’s an option.

I’ll make 50k this year (gross), and will spend 12k of that on rent. I’m not doing that again.

Reckless spending goes hand-in-hand with rampant drug use, so I’ve burned through some cash lately. Going back to my careful, zero-dollar days now. I’m going to start documenting all my daily expenses, so I can get some sense of how much I spend, and how. That and calorie-counting seems like some good, daily-life-type uses of numbers.

My top priority right now is controlling my weed smoking. I used to aspire to the ability to drink in moderation, but I’ve given that up as a lost cause. Now I aspire to the humbler goal of being able to use weed in moderation. I’m reminded of a mathematical researcher who once told me “Research is a process of continual retreat.” You start with a difficult, ambitious project, and when that turns out to be too much, you try for something more modest. Continue that process till you find a problem you can actually solve. That is the spirit with which I approach this new goal. I now aspire to be able to use the gentlest, least addictive of the recreational psychoactives in a controlled way (meaning Friday nights and Saturdays only). I’m giving myself 3 strikes on this before I have to abstain for a full year. I have 2 strikes left.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you wreck your life on drugs. As you try to come back, there are so many issues that need attending, and it’s easy to edge toward panic and the desire to escape again. It’s a great relief to focus on the largest issue only, especially when that issue is of great personal importance, and more especially when that resolution of that issue will make the others much easier to address.

It’s like that for me in math, too. I like to solve the parts of the problem one by one, in order. Well, the first, most important issue for me is substance abuse. I’m still not drinking (today is day 176), so I’m miles ahead of where I was a year ago. But I can still manage to fuck myself up pretty good with just pot, so it remains an issue. In fact, it is now the issue.

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