August 18, 2016

It’s been a little bit, hasn’t it?

By Daniel

Today has Diana and I both taking the train instead of driving to work, a statement that indicates how much has transpired over the intervening months.

Diana’s job search concluded successfully in late June. She’s working with me again, in Santa Fe. Her desk is about a 30-second walk from mine. It’s a significant pay raise, plus a full 40 hours a week. Combine the effects of both and her pay has doubled. But so far, from my position, it’s well more than double the work for double the pay. It’s been a bit difficult to watch. Even if the last job was overall a crappy gig, she was at least able to largely leave work at work. That hasn’t happened with any consistency since. She tells me not to worry about it. That’s, uh, difficult.

With the increase in pay, as well as the fact that we’re now both commuting, I insisted that we get an apartment in Santa Fe to reduce commute time, while we try to find a house. We put a deposit down on a really nice 2-bed deal north of the city, and the house search began again in earnest as we waited for a spot at the apartments to open up. Then I made a mistake, or so I called it at the time.

I saw what houses go for in Albuquerque.

Diana and I will occasionally go to a good-sized park a couple miles away. It’s got a tennis court, basketball hoops, and a nice big area for the dog. It’s a good combination of open and shady. It’s a really nice park.

I could get a 4-bedroom monster of a home, with a front door that faces that park, for less than a dilapidated 1-bedroom in Santa Fe. Seriously. There’d be enough money left over to buy a new car.

At that point, it became a question of balance, cost versus commute with a vague idea of “quality of life” being at its highest at some point in that balancing act. Unfortunately, if you’re not familiar with the area, there isn’t much immediately around Santa Fe in three directions. We looked around, but choices were slim and still overpriced for what they were.

Rio Rancho became an option, it knocks about 15 minutes off the commute each way, and several friends, current and former coworkers had all recently bought there because of what you could get for the money. I found some listings and we headed over there on a Saturday to look around.

Way up on the northern border of the city is the established community of Enchanted Hills, with a lot of good offerings for the money, and just northwest of that is a community so new that if you drop in with Google Street View, it’s all dirt with some roads roughed in and a construction office trailer. What it is now, is one of the few places in this part of the state offering affordable build-to-suit homes.

We drove in because one of the homes was for sale, but we ended up stopping in with the home builders office and they gave us a little walkthrough of what they could provide. This was a game-changer. I hadn’t given building our first home any serious consideration because I thought it would be about $300,000, not half that.

Long story short, we had the design appointment a couple weekends ago, picking out paint and carpet and all those things for our new home. It’s happening, and in the intervening time with Diana’s pay increase, we’re able to save up quite a bit of money. The mortgage payment will work out to an increase in living expenses equal to about one of Diana’s new checks, but now she gets paid weekly instead of bi-weekly. The other new check can go to savings, or paying credit cards, or all the other stuff we’ve been able to do at an accelerated rate. We’re hoping to be in the new place before Christmas, but it’s going to be close.

The builders, incidentally, told us that we could get the same plan that we really liked built in Santa Fe…for an extra hundred thousand dollars. That was really the last straw. The only place still building in Santa Fe is about 20 minutes from work. So shaving 25 minutes off the commute for $100,000? I can’t make that trade-off in good conscience. The extra cost would be a significant burden, and have us back to treading water.

I feel like we’ve made a good decision there.

I’d thought work was going well until about two weeks ago. Apparently my boss had a different opinion for months, and I wish I’d known. Now I have to struggle to make things right between now and early November, or we’re in real danger of every happy thing I wrote above being taken away.

I’m toying with the idea of us taking the train every Thursday. We’ve both been working 7:30-4:30, but Diana is expected to be able to stay late on Thursday for a meeting. Right now, the time to sit and write would be put to good use. I’ve been driving two hours a day every workday for over a month straight. It’s a better commute than some people have, but it still stresses me out. It would cost $20 a day, though. So $80-100 a month, which is a tough sell for something in which I have to leave ten minutes earlier, but get home a full hour later.

On the other hand, it’s a rather therapeutic time. It’s hard to quantify the value of it. Would it be “money well spent?” Debatable, but then again I have a hard time determining such things.

What if I need it to work through the problems that will make the difference in keeping the job? Then the train becomes worth quite a lot of money. I know we’ll be taking it tomorrow, as well; there’s some construction going on that reduces I-25 to one northbound lane, and we saw the traffic jam span over a mile yesterday on the way back home. I really don’t need the stress.

I’m starting to question if I need the stress of driving at all. It was one thing when it was occasional, once a week or so. Doing it for a month straight has rather taken the charm out of it. But is the stress worth it to be home relaxing an hour earlier? Probably. Even if I’m not doing much of anything with the extra hour, the feeling I was experiencing of only having about an hour to myself was pretty rough.

There’s no reason it needs to be an all-or-nothing, right-now decision. I’m going to have to think about it for a bit. The fact that I’m already approaching 1200 words means it’s probably worth doing more frequently than what’s been happening lately.

I haven’t talked to a mental health professional. Haven’t even tried. I said I would, and lately, not doing it feels like I’ve been unfair to myself. I should make the call, at least to get a referral. It’s not going to be immediately available anyway. With how I’ve been feeling lately, I’m even reconsidering my aversion to medicating the problems, which is a major personal paradigm shift. I’m not sure if it’s just a desire for escape from the way I’m feeling.

I need to do whatever it takes to keep this job, to prove I can do what’s desired. The future of more than just myself is depending on that.

I know that if I can hang in and prove to be the right choice, Thanksgiving is going to be pretty spectacular. But I need to improve every day between now and then.

I’m going to be writing again on the way home, but since it’s going to be largely about work and topics I can’t discuss freely, I won’t be posting it. But it’s going to be useful to me, just the same.