There I was sitting on the couch watching reruns of Seinfeld.
It had been about five months since I graduated with my Associates Degree from a Junior College.
The Associates Degree gave me no strategic advantage in the town I was living in at the time.
Many people in that town had Bachelors Degrees and Masters Degree.
These highly educated people still had trouble finding jobs that were paying more than minimum wage.
I found a mortgage company to hire me as a loan officer.
The loan officer job was a pure commission job, which meant that if I didn’t produce, I didn’t make any money.
It was the first job I had where I got my very own business card.
At least the mortgage company paid for the business cards.
I’ve been clueless many times in my life, and working for the mortgage company was certainly one of those clueless points in my life.
The only real guidance I got from my employer was to get to know a bunch of realtors.
It made sense that getting in good with realtors was a good strategy.
If I could get on the good side of a few realtors, then they would refer their clients who needed mortgages to me.
In the four months, I worked as a loan officer, and I talked with only one realtor.
I remember calling this one realtor, and he was kind enough to give me an appointment to meet with him.
At the time, I drove a white Chevy Astro van.
Yes, I was a single college-age male at the time.
That Chevy Astro van was a real chick magnet.
I got to know a few young ladies at the time, but I was shy back then.
Nope, I did not get into any kind of relationship when I was in that town.
Getting back to the meeting with the realtor.
I drove about 25 minutes to meet with the realtor in an effort to drum up some business.
We had a pleasant meeting.
With the shyness I have, I always have taken the strategy to ask people about themselves and to sit back and listen.
The realtor shared with me some of his successes and how he had been able to keep his business afloat during a period when the housing market got soft.
We ended the meeting, and then I drove back to my office at the mortgage company.
Another strategy I used to drum up business was to go down to the local courthouse and lookup properties on the computer that had mortgages on them.
I had a white legal pad and wrote down the names of people that had mortgages.
Once I made my list, I went to the telephone book and found their phone numbers.
With the contact information in hand, I had all I needed to do my most favorite job in the world – cold calling.
From 7:00 – 8:30 pm, I called people from my list and asked them if they were interested in refinancing their mortgages.
I got a few people that were interested, and I started loan applications.
I finally closed my first loan and was dismayed when I got my first paycheck.
I think I made around $900 for approximately three months of work.
It was demoralizing, and I realized I was going to run out of money if I kept this job as a loan officer.
That’s when I started to look for another job.
I found a job at a company that did market research.
It was a call center, and I made $8 per hour.
My job was to call people and ask them if they would participate in telephone research surveys.
One of the surveys was tricky in that I had to ask people about hemorrhoids.
Talk about a touch subject.
I was happy because I was finally going to have more certainty in my pay.
The only problem with this job was it wasn’t full time.
I think the most I worked was about 35 hours per week.
I would have been willing to work more, but never got the opportunity to work full time.
To make ends meet, I tried to be as frugal as possible.
When I first moved into the town, I planned to live on $10 a week for groceries.
My diet consisted of tuna fish sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
For dinner, I would make myself a hamburger helper meal or corndogs with french fries.
For breakfast, it was cereal.
Not exactly the best meal in the world, but I didn’t go hungry.
As it turned out, I was very optimistic in thinking I could live on $10 a week for groceries.
I think that the $10 a week budget lasted precisely one week.
Thank goodness I had a credit card.
The credit card enabled me to pay my rent and buy some more groceries while I was waiting to get paid.
Then in November, my job at the call center cut my hours.
Just as I was starting to get my head above water financially, my paycheck was effectively cut because I wasn’t able to work my regular hours.
I had some good friends at the apartment complex I was living at during my time in this town.
However, I was frustrated.
I was in debt, and I didn’t see any way I was going to get out of this precarious position I’d gotten myself in to.
The only way I knew to cope was to sit in front of the television and watch hours and hours of television.
I was a professional TV watcher with a disciplined work ethic of 40+ hours of viewing pleasure each week.
One evening, after I finished eating my bowl of ice cream, I realized I had to make some changes.
It’s incredible how ice cream soothes the soul when I’m having troubles.
There I sat on the couch.
I turned the TV off.
I was ready to solve my desperate situation.
Things had to change.
I was in a dead-end job.
Given the recent cut in hours, it was likely that I might not have a job for much longer.
I lay on the couch and asked a simple question.
“What can I do?”
Then I just sat and listened.
I waited and waited and waited some more.
“You could join the Army,” was the only answer that came back to me.
“Noooooooo! I don’t want to join the Army,” was my reply.
I grew up in an Army family.
As a teenager, I made a vow to myself that I would never join the Army.
Then the thought came back to me, “Damon, you’re watching 40+ hours a week and have no options.”
I pondered a bit more and realized I had nothing to lose by going to the Army recruiter’s office.
I drove down to the Army recruiter’s office in my white Astro van to inquire about my options with Uncle Sam.
A week later, I had signed my life away for the next eight years.
Three years of active duty and five years inactive reserve.
I became a bit disgusted with my TV watching habit.
Watching that much TV each week drained me of my life force, and I didn’t want to have my soul sucked out of me anymore.
During my first two years in the Army, I swore off television.
My main goal in joining the Army was to get myself back on my financial feet.
I wanted to erase my credit card debt and build up some savings.
As part of my enlistment, I was eligible for the GI Bill which gave me about $20,000 for college.
All I had to do was pay $100 per month for my first year in the Army.
That was a pretty good return on investment.
$1,200 turned into more $20,000.
I ended up paying for the rest of my bachelor’s degree and more than a year of my master’s degree with the GI Bill.
I guess in the end, watching 40+ hours per week taught me what I didn’t want in life.