The logistics of getting ready to attend a program as demanding as Hacker School can be frustrating and extenuating at best. In my personal case, I had to figure out how to maintain an income, continue supporting my household, paying bills, and finding a place to stay at in New York among other things.
Being the only income of a household is already an incredibly stressful situation to be in. As the main breadwinner, you are not only looking for ways to satisfy the basic necessities of your family members but you also strive to provide a quality of life that’s better or at least the same as the one you had growing up.
When you have a child, you want to be able to afford as many toys as you feel compelled to buy them. You want to be able to always provide shelter, food, clothing, entertainment. Whatever it is they need, you want to work hard for. You just don’t want to be caught off guard with no milk in the fridge and empty pockets. (If you are a parent, you may know what that feels like)
Taking all that into consideration, planning to attend Hacker School felt like a very selfish and irresponsible decision from my part. I was OK making sacrifices for myself but I couldn’t ask the rest of my family to do the same. Yes, perhaps my 2-yr old daughter would not think much of it but I could not just drag her and my boyfriend from Florida to New York for three long months without a solid plan. What if I run out of money? What if they get sick? What if the place I rent is not safe?…
I had to come up with a list of ‘events’ that needed to occur in order to make this thing ‘feasible’ and hopefully not make it sound like the crazy idea it was at the time. At first, the list seemed just impossible to achieve:
In order to attend Hacker School…
- I needed to keep at least 50% of my current income:
This meant working 20 hrs/ week while in New York, getting my manager’s approval for it, maintaining at least my Health Insurance benefits, and using up all of my leftover PTO. After several weeks of uncertainty and four levels of management approvals, this worked out in my favor. I really did not think it would. I knew I was highly appreciated at my job but my request was most certainly pushing the boundaries. I felt blessed.
- I needed to end my rent lease early:
There was no way I could have paid for two rentals at the same time and my lease would not be over until January. I was able to get this resolved by forfeiting the rent deposit in exchange for the early lease termination and by asking very nicely. Our landlord could have chosen to enforce the terms of our contract but he didn’t. I felt lucky.
- I had to find a big enough place for the three of us in NY at an affordable price:
I asked for help. I looked on Craigslist and Airbnb every single day, several times a day. I contacted the people renting places, I offered what I could pay even if their price was higher. I had nothing to lose.
Moving to NY as a family meant that we needed at least a one-bedroom apartment as opposed to shared-room accommodations. We ended up staying in three different rentals and paying around $2000/month for the cheapest of them. The deposits for these rentals averaged about $500 and were refundable.
We could have certainly found better and cheaper places but not being familiar with the city did not help. Still, I feel that we were able to get the minimum we needed and having a safe place to arrive to was the initial goal.
- We had to figure out a way for my boyfriend to continue school while in NY:
He had signed up for three classes for the Fall. He decided to drop two classes but kept one where the teacher agreed to do one-on-one lessons via Skype. Sometimes technology does come in handy.
- I had to figure out whether I could afford childcare for my daughter or not:
I called places, searched online, compared prices and the costs/risks associated with that were too many. For one, most of the preschools had a specific time frame for yearly admissions and we were already late in the process. Some of them would not consider taking in a child for just three months, others seemed a bit shady.
In the end, we decided that she and her dad would spend the day together in the apartment while I went to HS. It was free, we could always arrange for her to have a ‘learning’ time during the day, and we did not have to worry about all the drama involved in dealing with a new daycare. It just made sense.
- We had to find a place to store one car and our household items/furniture for three months:
We moved most of it into a storage unit for about $300/month. I sold various pieces of furniture on craigslist for $20-$40 bucks and gave away a bunch of items as well. I’m still a bit sad about my drawing table which was left behind. But things are things and sometimes they need to be sacrificed too.
- I had to consider the possibility that additional expenses could occur:
And, oh boy! they did. Thankfully, the last four months of the year were my busiest as an Etsy seller. Knowing what the previous year’s profits for those months were, I planned to make that happen again this year and use that as my backup. It was a risk but I still packed my supplies and three printers, put it all in the trunk of my car and crossed my fingers!
In the end, there were enough solutions to most of the items on that list. They were optimistic solutions at first, but with a little bit of luck, they became real solutions one by one.
Nevertheless, all that would have still not been enough without the help of the Etsy grants. The grant money I received is what made the difference between ‘working hard so that I can maybe go to Hacker School‘ and ‘actually going to Hacker School‘. Without it, I don’t know if I would be writing this right at this very moment and for that, I’m also thankful.
For a family depending of a single income, moving to New York for three months is just prohibitively expensive. If you have a family and you are considering applying/attending Hacker School, please do not see this post as something that is meant to discourage you.
On the contrary, I intended to expose as many details as I could about my personal experience with the hope that you would prepare yourself to confront whatever obstacles are put on your path. If Hacker School is something you really REALLY want, then make it happen. If you need to ask for help, don’t be afraid to do it. I don’t want to encourage anyone to put their family through a difficult situation, but I do want to encourage you to pursue your dreams if all the traffic lights are green. You can do it!
Overall, things have not been easy here. I’m still stressed out and trying to figure out the part where we move from New York back to Florida and into a home we don’t currently have.
However, with the help of family, the support of HS faculty, and the energy, happiness, satisfaction, and inspiration that the Hacker School experience is leaving me with; I know we’ll be alright.
Please, stop waiting.
Apply for Hacker School’s Winter batch here.
Read more: Hacker School [step three] – Hacking