Aaron's Path A journey of happiness and financial independence

The journey so far

This is the story of how I fell into debt, discovered happiness, and changed the direction of my life. Essentially how I got to where I am today.

My parents talked about the value of private school, and I went to one growing up, and so I never seriously considered giving public school a try.

When I went off to college my parents did not provide any financial help, so it was up to me to borrow what was needed.

So I did (-12,000)

My family imploded during my first year in college. My parents announced their divorce. It was a surprise, and it made me question everything I thought I knew about healthy relationships.

I began to question my life path as well. I thought I wanted to be a doctor, but I was reading studies that shows most physicians wouldn’t do it again if they could go back.

The other familiar path would have been to study computer science. I had taught myself to program and loved the possibilities.

But I felt betrayed by the familiar, and totally afloat by my parents divorce, so I decided to immerse myself in somethings totally foreign. I wanted to stop coasting on things that were easy, and take on something that I knew nothing about.

So I moved to the east coast, and studied art. 3D animation to be specific. This opened my mind up to a world of color and light that I did not know existed. I had no idea that there was a grammar to visual imagery. Art was difficult and rich, and I fell into the world happily. (-30,000)

The program I was a part of was really new, with upperclassman teaching some of the classes. After a year and a half I realized that while some of the fundamental classes were excellent, it wasn’t going to help me prepare for a job in the industry.

Also, as much as I loved the creative process and traditional art, I found the process of animating frustrating.

So I moved back to California. But now I was on my own, there was no home to move back to. All of “my” belongings from childhood had been mostly sold at an estate sale, along with the home I grew up in.

Over the next several years I worked full time, and took college classes at community colleges in the area (finally! a smart financial decision).

I was on a mission to find work that would make me happy. To find something that I could enjoy doing for my whole life. So I took any and every class that looked interesting. From Chinese Medicine to Accounting to Dance.

After several years of this, many of my friends from art school back east started finishing their degrees moving out to California. They couldn’t find work, so many signed up for masters degrees in animation from the Academy of Art in San Francisco.

After some deliberation I decided to join them in San Francisco. I gave animation another shot through an online school with a rising reputation (-48,000), but found I disliked it just as much as before.

So after considering the properties and processes of what I enjoyed about art, and what I disliked about animation, I realized that photography would be better suited for me.

The academy of art also had an undergrad photography program! Score! I could live in SF with my friends, study something really cool, and be happy.

The first year of photography was incredible. More than I had hoped it would be (-70,000). I was borrowing to pay for school and living expenses, and was able to work on photography 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. (I took Saturday’s off for a mental break).

The second year was just as awesome (-92,000), but I was starting to get really stressed about my accumulating debts. I had finally found work that I loved, that I could sink my heart and soul into, but at what cost?

My friends and acquaintances all encouraged me to stick with the program.

To be continued in part 2…