I Voluntarily Quit My Job During the COVID Pandemic. Now What?

Photo by Romain V on Unsplash

Everyone must think I’m crazy abandoning my only source of income when there are so many uncertainties. Maybe even a little resentful that I had a choice to keep a job. Well, my peeps, I am pretty bold when it comes to ideas on how not to work traditional jobs. This may or may not have the best consequences, but it sure has been the best thing I’ve done for myself so far.

Without going into too much detail, I quit my job because I figured it would save both my employer and myself time, money, and sanity if I were to leave right away. Yes, there were deeper issues I faced. But the point is, I am so much happier now that I get to pursue what I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time: entrepreneurship, freelancing, and updating this old blog.

But what am I going to do about money? I still have bills to pay, and debt to resolve (thankfully, it’s decreased to a manageable amount).

Fear not, self! For I have a list of backup plans and actions to take.


Highest priorities first: File for Unemployment

Filing for unemployment
Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

The very first step I took was to apply for unemployment. This was a good time, actually, since the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” mandate doesn’t require me to search for traditional jobs until the mandate is over. I’m, of course, finding other ways to make money, so I’m not entirely depending on this. Who knows? Unemployment may cease to exist tomorrow with the financial state of the federal government.

The other good thing about applying for unemployment right now in my specific case is that my state government offers something called Self Employment Assistance Program (SEAP). This is a program that allows me to continue receiving unemployment benefits while also learning the ins and outs of running my own business. Of course, training is mandatory, but it’s a very good investment of my time for my needs. This also allows me to skip the step of validating my job searches every week as I’m receiving training.

Still, there’s another problem. I only have 4 months of regular unemployment benefits. Granted, that’s a pretty long time, but it still puts a bit of pressure on me with my slower strategy to earning a living.


Follow Thy Passion, And Money Shall Follow

Follow your passion
Even in the darkest of times, paddle on.
Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash

At this point, I have unlimited possibilities and more time. Instead of wasting that time doing things like playing video games all day feeling sorry for myself, I’ve decided to place my effort into my passions to eventually monetize on them. No more “what ifs” and “buts”. It’s now do or die (maybe even literally haha).

One thing that I do recommend is actually researching the pros and cons of your passion and how feasible it is. Can it be turned into a stream of income? What are some things you need to invest in before it can make you money? Can you consistently keep doing it for a really long time? Research is king, but don’t fall into the trap of researching all the tips and tricks and not actually doing anything. I’ve been there for a good chunk of my life.

This is where connections are super important. Fortunately for me, I had a chance opportunity when I spoke to the right people who happened to be consultants for freelancing. The first meeting has been highly beneficial in validating good and bad paths of action, as well as future next steps. Deep diving into strategies is better done with others, and they helped me see things I wouldn’t have known by myself.

Of course, the decision is ultimately up to you. Others can help you along the way, saving you time from going down bad routes. But you don’t have to always follow what others say. Be creative!


Need faster money?

Fast money
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Unfortunately, my specific strategy does not provide income right away. I’d suggest freelancing in the sense of working for others. But fast money in freelancing is also hard to come by depending on what your sellable skills are, and your portfolio. For instance, programming can be done while working remotely. Just be sure you have a specific niche in the otherwise saturated market.

In my opinion, the fastest way to earn money is to look for employment. It’s not what I want to do, but I may need to do it should all else fail. This time, though, I personally would do part time repetitive work to have a balance between that and my other goals. It’s best to do the job you least hate if all you’re there for is money.

There are remote working jobs online through your state’s unemployment job search tool. Another good idea is sending applications to physical places like grocery stores where it’s an actual public need. Maybe even delivery jobs such as DoorDash or USPS.

There must always be a backup to a backup.


Final Thoughts

Remember, this is my action plan. Your situation is unique, and in no way am I telling you to do anything. But if this helped you form your own ideas, then that makes me really happy! Good luck! You’ve got this!


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Plant Trees By Searching the Web!

Tree

You may have heard of the wonderful search engine Ecosia. It runs off of Bing, but gives you the fulfillment of planting a tree, even if it’s indirectly aiding the process.

On the main page, there’s a link to see the tree-planting projects Ecosia currently funds. They have background information on the status quo and how planting new trees will affect the area, people, and wildlife. Essentially, the project description raises ecological and social awareness that affects the whole world. As of this writing, I was surprised to learn today how companies make room for palm oil plantations by displacing whatever’s on the land—plants or humans. Palm oil is in a LOT of processed food.

The app shows some ongoing and finished projects, as well as some environmentally-conscious news.

Ecosia does a good job with transparency by publicly posting their financial reports. Also, their servers are powered by renewable energy, though Bing is not.

When it first launched, I had the impression that each search planted one tree. However, that’s no longer the case. The Ecosia project is financed with each ad click. You can visit their FAQ to see more details.

Now why would anyone click ads? As a kid, my father told me to never click on ads since they can do bad things. It’s partially true these days, but I think it depends on the context. For instance, outdated websites most likely have ads redirecting to something more sinister since nothing was done for the upkeep of the website itself, which means a higher risk of security flaws.

However, the ads on Ecosia are usually related to the things you’re searching at that moment. I’ve noticed most of these related ads are the websites I’m looking up, anyways. Not like on Google with the ones that follow you no matter what you search and what website you visit.

So why not help Ecosia out by at least clicking those ads? Even if you don’t do it often, more Ecosia users mean more ad agencies are interested in supporting Ecosia, meaning a better environmental outlook.

As for accessing Ecosia, the two main options for my iPhone (I smell my own ecological hypocrisy) are visiting Ecosia.org on Safari, or downloading the Ecosia app which is basically a web browser in itself.

The App Store version of Ecosia.

For the most part, I use the Ecosia app for my day-to-day searches like “How feasible is starting a small farm?” It does a good job showing me the information I need (it’s really difficult to be a farmer), but I find some websites don’t play nice. Formatting might be an issue, or the page might not work as intended. For those situations, I tap the handy little Safari icon in the bottom right menu to open the page in Safari.

Another potential problem for many people is not having the ability to keep a million tabs open. Like I said, I usually use the Ecosia app as a quick search tool. It’s probably wasted space and memory to keep all those tabs open, anyways. Bookmarking is great to revisit those websites at a later time, but that’s outside the scope of this article.


It may seem a little out of the way, but I use Ecosia as much as possible. I probably do 20 searches on an average day, so it makes sense to put them to good use.

Would you care to help plant trees and make a positive difference in the world?


Here are the links to the website, app store, and play store. Not affiliates (yet), but I still want you to support good causes!

Ecosia.org
iOS: Ecosia
Android: Ecosia – Trees & Privacy – Apps on Google Play

Eventually, I’ll be able to convert them to more “official” buttons, but I apologize for the inelegant links.

Why I Didn’t Have A Plant-based Birthday.

Meat

But Orion, didn’t you just post about veganism? Well, yes. But it was also a post that lightly combined budgeting. What’s better on the wallet for a person living paycheck to paycheck than paying for a bunch of carrots? Free food. (At least for me. We paid for my wife’s surprisingly inexpensive food choices).

When looking online on my birthday morning, I didn’t find many vegan stores around me that honored a free menu item for birthdays. However, there’s quite a few articles about places like Denny’s or Starbucks. Then again, I also received some emails from awesome local places like Hello, Cupcake.

German Chocolate cupcake by Hello, Cupcake
It’s kind of hard to say no to a cupcake you thought was the best. Especially free. Photo by Hello, Cupcake.

What did I have for free, exactly? Well, some eggs, hash browns, bacon, and sausage for brunch. A Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (with coconut milk) — which I’ve never had in my life up until today. A German Chocolate cupcake that is absolutely one of my favorites at Hello, Cupcake. For dinner, I was going to get an Impossible Burger from Red Robins, but I forgot I didn’t have a rewards account with them until today, so I couldn’t get anything free.

My dinner wasn’t free, but heavily discounted with a coupon for Burger King. $13.99 for 3 Whoppers, 3 cheeseburgers, and 3 fries is not bad for the money (but oh so bad for my health). This is where the bunch of carrots would have been a better choice. At the very last moment, I saw they actually now offer the Impossible Burger! I bought one of those in addition to what was already ordered. So next time I ever get a burger craving while out and hangry, I am definitely going back to get the Impossible Burger from them! Or figure out how to make a really great tasting black bean burger. I called my previous attempt black bean mush. It literally was just burnt mush.

Although I’m not proud of myself for eating meat and dairy today, I’m grateful that restaurants give food for free. One thing I noticed was that all the food and coffee didn’t really taste all that amazing. I would have probably liked my shiitake mushroom pasta more than the burger. PSL was alright, but I wouldn’t order it again. The cupcakes, though, were probably the highlight food choice of my day.

Since this is a rare occasion, I thought I should cut myself some slack from always limiting myself. Of course, I’m going to have a heck of a time on the toilet sooner or later. 🙂

Next time, I should call around to see if the vegan-friendly restaurants around my area offered discounts at the very least. Doubly good would be to eat local and small-shop. Also, better planning before the day of my birthday. It didn’t help that we left the apartment at 11 and I was already hungry and delirious since 7. (I didn’t want to wake up my peacefully sleeping wife)

But after seeing her enjoy all the food we used to eat when we were still dating, it made me happy, too.


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Your Spouse Hates You For Being Vegan, So What Can You Do?

Photo by cloudvisual.co.uk on Unsplash

Update 05/2020: Please check this post out on my new blog!

“You’re vegan?” people scoff.

I get it. I’m known for frequently exercising, commuting by bicycle, and having a relatively tall, muscular build (with a bit of a gut). All vegans are supposed to be hippies who wear plaid with thick-rimmed glasses, have ghastly skin complexion, and run through flower fields as a hobby. When some coworkers look at what I eat, they say, ”That’s too healthy for me.” And best of all, your significant other looks at you in utter disgust. Eventually, you’ll end up eating whatever’s in front of you and give up on the lifestyle you so strongly believed in.

For a while, I’ve fallen in the constant cycle of eating nothing but burgers and pizza, and fueling myself with plant power. My life events tested my commitment to food choices whether it’s caused by finances, social constructs, or accessibility. Then it tested my spouse.


Your significant other has comfort food they grew up with, too.

Spouse eating
My wife definitely loves sushi and Asian food, too.
unsplash-logoFree To Use Sounds

And we can’t hate them for that. Imagine how we’d feel if our favorite recipe was suddenly taken away by someone else. How dare they?

That’s something I had a big struggle to understand when we first started dating. I’ve always been a health nut, researching about what goes in my body and how it affects me down to the molecular level. So I know that vegetables slathered in more vegetables in their oil form is still bad for you.

When my wife and I were dating, we spent a lot of time at each other’s places. If you’ve done that before, you’ll know that that’s where the most surprising facets begin to show — for better or for worse. What horrified me when I first saw her cook was the insane amount of oyster sauce and oil that poured into the pan. In one of the jars of bamboo shoots, it was basically a one-to-one ratio of bamboo shoots to vegetable oil, and she put four jars! All of that topped the fattiest of pork chunks. I felt so horrendously offended by her cooking that I told her to stop making that or else her health would suffer! She quipped with that’s how her family made food when she was a kid.

The opposite was also true. When I made a simple pasta dish with marinara sauce, eggplants (her favorite), spinach, and mushrooms, she said it was “flavorless”. Again, I was offended that the food I ate most of my life was met with such distaste, and this time she felt disappointed that I hyped up the food. She pulled out her leftovers and said she would never trust my sense of taste ever again.

Therein lied our problem: We couldn’t accept the fact that we grew up in two very different cultures and families. For many of us, we ate whatever our parents could give us if they even had the time to cook. That would develop our unique tastes. If anything, we should be grateful that our loved ones would even make food for us.

Keep in mind this was also the time when she couldn’t give up meat no matter what, and I was strictly vegan.

A lot has happened since then and we’re okay now. But how did we make it easier?

Here are a few approaches to assuaging our discomfort in the other’s food choices (in general):

  • Cooked our own separate dishes. This worked out for a while since we liked cooking. However, we would frequently be too exhausted to cook during a weekday. Or the kitchen’s waaaay too tiny to work at the same time.
  • Cooked on an alternating schedule where Monday night would be Tomato Basil Soup with Bread, and Tuesday night was Chicken Stir Fry. Definitely good if you both have common dishes you like. It also gives exposure to the other’s tastes where it could ultimately lead up to having a common dish!
  • Cooking one dish together. This is very conducive to intimacy or just downright fun. How often do you hear about couples cooking together on a daily basis? Hug each other while passing by or give a quick smooch (but watch out for that knife!). Awesome conversations are bound to happen! Downsides include “You didn’t cut it small enough!” Also, tiny kitchen.
  • Meal prepping on a weekend. This makes it easier to do the first bullet point. One person could have a block of time to meal prep on Saturday and the other on Sunday. This means less cooking throughout the week and more “convenience food” ready to go for both people! My wife could eat whatever she wanted and was happier that we didn’t have to spend $13 for a plate at a restaurant that she could easily make. Even if one person doesn’t like cooking, this will still give you a chance to make both of your week’s menu on a non-time-sensitive day.
  • Cook a vegetarian version of the meal and have a side of meat. The great thing is only one person has to cook one dish, just separately. This one made more sense to me at first. It’s as simple as adding meat, right? However, there are two potential problems:
    • A dish could taste different to your spouse due to the meat flavor not “infusing” into the veggies.
    • If you’re trying to be vegan, some recipes call for things like sauces that have an animal byproduct. Again, this would change the flavor if omitted.
  • Vegan making vegan dishes that would appeal to the other person. This one’s a little more difficult. I’ve found that my wife likes the sauciest of sauces and can tell when a protein source is missing. Making sauces from scratch and buying meat analogues made it more delicious to her, but at the downside of cost, a little bit extra cooking time, and still not entirely tasting like meat. Otherwise, it’s a great choice as the chef of the couple!

The point is, be accepting with each other. If they are proud of making something they haven’t made before and want you to try it, please, try a bite! Even if that means eating a piece of meat or dairy with no adverse effects, your relationship is more important.


Vegans save money (among other things).

Produce
Produce and habits are amazing for saving money!
unsplash-logoScott Warman

The vegan lifestyle doesn’t have to drain the grocery budget. Also, no coupons are necessary. All you have to do is stick to the produce section and do not buy in bulk. Buying produce in bulk is actually a really bad idea because they don’t have a long shelf life. It’s essentially paying to waste your veggies. The only things I buy in bulk are dried carbohydrates like brown rice and pasta. Otherwise, bread and potatoes would have to be bought weekly, just like the produce.

Since I already had brown rice and dried Great Northern beans, I decided to have a grocery list for soup and a bit of fruit to last us the week. My wife had her own grocery list for salad. Total cost of my items: $22.87. That includes carrots, cabbage, nectarines, bananas, collard greens, celery, and shiitake mushrooms. Without the mushrooms (which I ended up not using for the soup), it costed $12.89. That ended up feeding me for two weeks! In comparison, my wife’s salad costed $27.19. Considering that was avocados, balsamic vinaigrette, bacon, croutons, shredded cheese, green onions, and a spring mix salad, I’d say that was a great healthy success…until she ate it all in two days!

My wife appreciated how I saved money. She also worried that I wasn’t eating right. But rest assured, I was eating a balanced meal.

Here’s the catch: I eat functionally plant-based these days. Yes, I do like eating for pleasure on occasion. But eventually functional cooking became so flavorful that I didn’t need to jazz it up. My taste buds completely changed! In fact, I tried a fast food double quarter pounder burger with cheese after those two weeks and felt disappointed (and ran to the bathroom). Vegetables were just…better! Just remember to change it up every now and then for the sake of getting all your nutrients.

Vegetable Soup
Pardon the gross stove, but I’m preparing for the next Great Depression.

By the way, the shiitake mushrooms were later used in a pasta. Good thing we froze them!


Not enough gains, bruh!

Pullups
unsplash-logoJen Theodore

For fitness couples, dogging each other fires up a certain kind of healthy competition. But there’s a common misconception that meat or whey protein is the only way to build and repair muscle. I’m not an expert at bodybuilding or kinesiology (sorry), so please take this with a grain of salt. As a I gained muscle mass while conditioning myself through calisthenics on a plant-based diet. For about two months, I ate a variation of beans and brown rice with nuts and kale. Reason why it sounds so bland was I needed to burn fat while gaining strength, all on a budget.

Strength is different from size and one cannot excel without a minimum of the other. So calisthenics was the cheapest and most relative to what I needed to do. Burpees and running for cardio. Pushups, pull-ups, squats, and situps (among other things) for strength. Eventually I was able to run 4 miles and do 60 reps of each strength exercise on a typical day (broken up into sets).

My chubby self.
I’m still chubby, but I’m strong enough to ruck/run 5 miles to work every day and still maintain pushups and pullups. Also, I swear I’m not flirting with you. There’s sweat in me eyes.

As a side effect, my muscles grew and I lost a little bit of fat. I think it’s really hard for me to lose fat, but my muscles visibly got bigger and more defined, especially on my thighs and arms. Though, this is just a personal observation and your body works differently. But if other vegan athletes can do it, then we can at least try it, too.

Who knows, maybe you can accept a little healthy challenge for a week of plant-powered protein with your partner?


What about treating them to an outside dinner?

Dining with your spouse
If this was a real restaurant, I’d be surprised at the random berries all over my table.
unsplash-logoPablo Merchán Montes

This is where it gets very tricky. There are restaurants that have pretty good options for vegetarians, but almost very rarely for vegans. Even then, you want to see your significant other happily chowing down at their favorite restaurant, right?

Let’s just say it’s at a steakhouse. After studying the menu, you realize the only vegan thing they have is a small side of steamed vegetables and a side of mashed potatoes. One portion is not enough to feed you, so you’re tempted to order a bunch of them. /Don’t./ It would sadden your loved one to watch you struggle to eat. Let it slide for the day, order the same thing as them, and enjoy the night together. Make their day special.

However, if you are medically advised to be vegan, your spouse is most likely understanding at that point. This would also probably mean you wouldn’t need to worry about this. If you did happen to have trouble and somehow managed to work it out, please share it in the comments!


The big takeaway: respect each other.

Respect and agree
unsplash-logoChris Liverani

It takes two to tango and it takes time. By being reasonable and understanding, you can take the first step to co-exist as vegan/vegetarian and omnivore. Sometimes, we’re not aware that we offended the other person based on what they eat. Just respect each other’s boundaries: it’s no fun being told what to do. And as a vegan or vegetarian, you’re still making less of an impact on the environment and animal life. One more person making a difference.

But if they’re the type to kick animals and litter, then… My condolences.


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Used up

Image

Have you been using everything to its fullest extent?

In the picture, the most obvious should be the pencil. When I found it, it was twice the size of what it looks like now. I would have thrown it away since it wouldn’t fit my hands. Get this: it’s from my middle school years, about 8 years ago. Same with that Staples sharpener.

That click eraser is probably almost as old as me. It has no eraser, but I use it as a pencil extender. I guess being poor has its merits of thriftiness.

I, myself, am a sucker for all things sparkly (am I a crow?). From the latest ultrabooks to products in minimalistic package designs, I want to research the heck outta them and decide on buying them.

Image

 

Image
Icons by Jonathan Quintin on Dribbble: http://dribbble.com/shots/1181986-MILKSHAKE-icons

 

I like things efficient (that’s the main point of the blog), so I buy anything that’ll help me get there. And sometimes I’ll buy something just because of its well-designed package. 

But do I really need them?

I have lots of stuff I haven’t used around the house. I could be buying the next greatest thing that could replace them, but I can’t bring myself to throw away potentially useful things. That could ultimately lead to a pack-rat lifestyle. So what do I do to reduce clutter? Use what I’ve already got.

Anyways, try using something that seems like you’d throw away, but still has some usefulness left. Think of it as the pantry challenge. You wouldn’t want food to go to waste, would you? Besides, it’s probably best not to keep buying those new snacks that tempt you whenever you pass them at the grocery store.

 

In efficiency, there is no waste.

The Writing Medium

WritingThroughout my life, I’ve been a stationery addict, fetishist, whatever you’d like to call me. It amazed me how a simple tool had the capacity to change the world, for better or worse. There have been large debates on which is better for writing–pen, pencil, or computers. I’ve been through all three. Many others say it matters on what feels comfortable to the individual. I say, in addition, it matters on how ideas materialize.

Unnatural at first, tools are grown accustomed to over time. Most of us have first started off with wooden pencils or pens in school. I remember those first scribbles of letters I made with graphite. Horrible. Yet, I continued to use the pencil throughout my elementary school years and improved, like anything with practice. I still continue to improve.

Eventually, I wanted to try writing with a pen. But upon picking up a ballpoint pen, I hesitated. I could no longer erase my mistakes. It glided too smoothly across paper. I feared I needed to commit my thoughts with accuracy.

I tried my best using only pens. The more I used it, the more I liked the permanence, the vivid lines, the smoothness. Committing actually helped bring ideas out and kept it as proof for future reference. Eventually, I picked up a cheap Manuscript calligraphy fountain pen and loved it (I still do). At fountainpennetwork.com, fellow users opened up a whole new world to me. I bought blue ink instead of black. Uncial became my favorite script as I experimented with my daily longhand. I’d scribble countless nonsensical sentences about which ink and nib combination were the best, which angle and grip were optimal. 

In a mechanical pencil-filled university class, I was the only one using a fountain pen. Some people noticed but didn’t care. The unique tool in hand felt powerful as I flowed across papers. People became impressed with what I wrote. Positive comments encouraged me to write more.

Soon, however, I found it became too cumbersome to carry around and use. Sometimes the ink leaked out, causing a massive cleanup. My words became too squished and bold in college-ruled lines to the point where “e” became “c.” Ink ran out too quickly. Changing cartridges took too long and distracted my thoughts and other people around me. I needed something simpler, despite how much I love the experience of romantic fountain pens.

Computers were much faster to pound out words and ideas. They also decreased my paper usage. As an environmentally-conscious individual, I seek to find the least negative impact on our Earth. Conversely, I cannot find a way around my carbon footprint, other than using low-powered, energy-saving tablets/laptops, and smart usage of household electricity. I digress.

Workspace Tablet
My desk with a tablet

Simply put, I am a Computer Engineer major, meaning I definitely need a computer (I really hope administration will allow me to transfer to Computer Science). I’d make my laptop the go-to, all-powerful device for everything. I recently purchased a Samsung Chromebook, which definitely cuts the weight of my backpack.

However, writing with a computer felt unnatural. Although I typed at a decent speed enough to write almost as fast as I thought, the ideas formed were not the same as writing with a pencil or pen. I had been used to the physical act of writing on paper where I am forced to slow down and simmer in thoughts. On computers, my sentences appeared rushed. Coherency dropped.

But now I’m typing a blog post after many usages. It isn’t too bad, right?

Perhaps the simplest tool for me is a pencil. Yes, I’ve used mechanical pencils before, and I’ve mentioned pencils in the beginning of this article. But I love the friction wooden ones give as well as their organic feeling during sketch sessions. They appeared easier on my eyes with its gray marks. I missed using them so much that I pulled out the leftover 50 wooden Staples pencils I bought in middle school.

Every now and then, I’d cycle between the three — computer, pencil, pen. Each had their strengths and weaknesses.

But what I really needed to focus on was the content.

What was supposed to matter throughout my journey was what I wrote, not just about “which is the best tool.” I’m supposed to immerse the reader in my thoughts and opinions. I’m supposed to release whatever is in my mind. Without commitment on paper, it’s as if my ideas never existed. Eventually, I’ll forget what it was I wanted to say. Do or die.

I now prefer pencil (for its simplicity, feel, and environmental factors) and computer (for its convenience and keeping me awake). Because I’ve been practicing with them all, the words flow smoothly from my brain, to my hands, to my tool, and finally to existence.

It’s not which tool is larger than the other. It’s about the flow of medium.