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Keeping the faith is a lot easier to do when you’re Billy Joel. Or, you know, Jesus.

February 5, 2011

I’m not gonna lie. The past couple of weeks have pretty much sucked, and keeping my New Year’s resolution has proven to be next to impossible. It all started around Christmas, when Jenn got a sinus infection. Followed by an adverse reaction to a gynecological procedure. Followed by a concussion. Followed by the stomach flu. Followed by being laid off by the company that hired her exactly two months ago. And yes, for those keeping track at home, this is the third time Jenn’s been laid off in the past 14 months, and the second time in the past four. And the moral of the story? Social workers get the short end of the stick, kids, so do yourself a favor and study something super useful–like journalism.

There, there, Connor. I'm sure Jenn and Vicky can still afford to feed us.

Needless to say, we’re both a bit stressed out right now. Case in point? It’s one-thirty in the morning, and I’m still wide awake. Even though I know that one has absolutely nothing to do with the other, I can’t help but wonder if I’m somehow being punished for having quit my job at the university. You see? a devilish voice in the back of my mind whispers. This is what happens when you behave irresponsibly. You never should have resigned. Now you’re both going to be living on the streets and your dogs will have to eat out of garbage barrels. Which, come to think of it, they probably wouldn’t mind so much.

This logic is, of course, flawed. Before I resigned, I made sure that I had an entire year’s salary in savings, and I’ve supplemented those savings with freelance writing gigs and other odd jobs. Jenn will qualify for unemployment, and if God forbid we get into trouble, I know our families will help us out. But I’m willful and stubborn, and the mere notion of asking for help feels like a big, fat failure.

On top of this, I’m really beginning to panic about my impending graduation from grooming school, which is only two months away. That’s right, they’re going to set me loose in less than 60 days, and I can’t confidently groom anything expect maybe a golden retriever. And that’s on a good day. We still aren’t allowed to do faces, and I cut a nail too short at least once a day. Last week Susan told me that the hair between my dog’s toes wasn’t short enough, even though I’d taken extra care to clipper the dog’s pads and I thought it looked pretty darn good at the time. I still don’t know which blades to use, or when to use a snap-on comb instead of a finishing blade, and two weeks ago it took me three hours to groom the neighbor’s shih tzu. Which brings me to the ultimate question: how the hell am I ever supposed to earn a living doing this, exactly?

Jenn has decided that she wants to open a private practice, which totally makes sense, given that she’s been laid off so many times, but now we’re both talking about working for ourselves, which means no health insurance, no built-in vacation or sick days, no 401Ks or flex-spending accounts. Hell, we won’t even be paying into social security.

In his 1933 inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Hrmph. Easy for him to say--HE had a job. I mean, so what if he took office in the midst of the Great Depression?

A few weeks ago on lecture day, Susan recommended that we read Napoleon Hill, who wrote a series of personal-success books, including Think and Grow Rich and Napoleon Hill’s Keys to Success: The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement. I’ve always been pretty skeptical about the whole motivational speaker, self-help movement, but I took notes during Susan’s lecture anyway. “According to Hill,” Susan said, “ninety-eight percent of people have few or no resolute beliefs, and this alone puts true success firmly out of their reach.” Furthermore, she continued, 90 percent of getting a business started is motivational–in other words, it’s all about your thoughts, dreams, goals, and visions. Only 10 percent of starting a business is actually about actions–skills, techniques, and how you implement them.

I thought about this earlier today during a discussion with Jenn. I was feeling extremely discouraged, hopeless, and overwhelmed, which always makes for a pleasurable afternoon. “I’m freaked out over money,” I confessed. “And I’m tired. I feel like the past year and half has just been punch after punch after punch. When is it going to stop?” “Everything’s going to work out,” Jenn said. “Yeah?” I demanded. “How? I’m in school, you’re unemployed, we both want to start our own businesses, and I can’t even groom a dog without Susan coming over and pointing out everything I’ve done wrong.” “You just need to have a little faith,” she said. “Jesus, Vic, don’t you believe in anything? A higher power, a guardian angel? How about yourself?”

I shrugged. I’m fairly indifferent toward organized religion, and I’m not sure how I feel about guardian angels. I’ve never been very spiritual. I don’t pray or meditate, and every time someone tells me to relax and focus on my breathing, I get nervous that I’m doing it wrong. That’s right, I don’t even know how to breathe. I tend to rely on myself, my family, and my friends in times of crisis, and as for believing in myself–well, let’s just say I’m working on it.

Jenn’s right about one thing, though: I am crippled by fear. And because I don’t know how to overcome it, I try to escape it by eating or sleeping or marathoning episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix. Deep down, I think I know that things will work out–that my grooming skills will improve and I’ll open a shop someday. I think a small part of me even believes that one day I’ll be a writer again. But in the meantime, I’m really scared.

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