Hey everyone! I have a great post for you today from Rebecca over at jaggedjourney.com. If you've been reading M$M for any time now, you'd know that I'm a huge fan of learning from people who are older than I am. Lots of wisdom in this post. Enjoy! ~M$M
A lot of inspirational quotes are nothing more than a bag of hot garbage.
Take the quote, “Everything will fall into place.” I’m now 41 years old, and in my earlier days of stressing over money, I chose the route of not stressing, of lying in a comfortable overpriced bed made of blissful ignorance because “everything will fall into place.”
Twenty years later and things still haven’t exactly fallen into place because I’m still paying for huge financial mistakes I made then.
I lived a life beyond my means.
I lived in Chicago and I remember being in line at a Whole Foods one day with my roommate. We had no business splurging on organic-this and fancy-shmancy-that on our salaries, but we pulled out our credit cards at the checkout line and exhaled our usual carefree phrase of, “Gotta fake it ‘til ya make it.”
(That’s another cringe-worthy phrase I sort of want to shove down the throat of the 22-year-old version of me who said it.)
My 20s and 30s were filled with working really hard, but making such horrible financial decisions that were based on the naïve belief that everything would magically fall into place one day.
I failed to remember that while this heroic “one day” waited on the sidelines to rescue me, the money I owed towards credit cards was multiplying. The seemingly benign groceries bill was growing to at least twenty times that amount with interest, but I put my blinders on to that.
This life of “faking it ‘til ya make it” had my head so far in the clouds, I’m pretty sure I have permanent bird doo on my face from it.
But looking back, I get why I lived with such quicksand mantras in place. I am an extremely idealistic person. So it’s a fine line to walk, this wanting to live with optimism and hope that life will come around and bring you the treasures you seek.
But what I wasn’t getting in my early days was that this wishful thinking only comes to fruition when paired with a realistic foundation of living within your means, saving and planning.
Believe me, I was working my butt off, working several jobs to pay rent and stay afloat, but the money seeped out of my grasp quicker than water.
When I got married, we bought a condo way out of our price range and used the same aloof rationalization that it will all fall into place with time. Surely our salaries would go up, and we would one day be able to afford the condo we just signed our lives over to.
Remember in the early 2000's when everyone was qualifying for home loans? I was one of those people who no way should have been approved, but I was.
Then, I decided to go to a private liberal arts college for grad school simply because it was on my bucket list. Why not go ahead and take out exorbitant loans for that since we’re so far in the hole anyway, right? Sure!
The bills for that gratuitous degree came rolling in, and when I found out an option called “deferment” existed, I think you know what I did. For years. And I think you know what inspirational phrase I used to rationalize it.
Then we had babies.
Then I took a lower paying job.
Then 2008 hit.
I’m divorced now, but that husband and I fed off each other’s ability to enable the other’s destructive financial decisions. We figured it was more important to go after our passions, no matter the cost, because life is short and we were each other’s misguided cheerleader to go after everything.
Even though I’m not a materialistic person, I am a person who craves adventure. Buying a condo out of our league seemed like a fun, adult challenge.
Going to graduate school was so enticing and the thought of one day being a professor was too alluring for me to pass up (cut to several years later when I was an adjunct professor making such little money, I had to go on food stamps).
So where does that lead me to today?
I have a new mantra, and it’s “Face the poo.” That includes everything in life—the divorce, the financial hardships, the curveballs we duck every single day. I face it all, and do not put my head in the clouds anymore.
I teach my young children about debt and our ability to make sound decisions not rooted in impulse. My son wanted a Lego set, so I told him I would buy it for him, but he must work his way out of that debt. When it took him 3 months to do so, I asked him, “Was that worth it?” He answered, “No. I don’t even like the Lego set anymore.”
I’m hoping they get it more than I did because the world is increasingly full of competitive materialism that leads to disappointment. I want them to see that buying clothes from Goodwill is incredibly smart, and giving away our things to others in need is how to be a good human.
These are the lessons that need no money.
I work in local government, and if all goes as I plan (I’m assuming it won’t because I’m now an ardent realist), the remainder of my grad school loans will be forgiven in a handful more years.
My new husband and I bought a foreclosure home, and we put sweat equity into it. It is within our means, and as I type this, at least half of the house is not how we want it to be. But, we can’t afford to fix it all at once, so we work hard and know that it will be taken care of when we can afford it.
Our happiness does not rely on stainless steel appliances.
We rarely do vacations, shop second-hand, and plan menus ahead of time to ensure we cook at home instead of throwing our money away at restaurants. The old me would’ve been ordering whatever I wanted at a Chicago restaurant and slapping it on a credit card, but the new me, now living in Dayton, Ohio, knows the true joy of cooking at home with my kids dancing around me in our ugly, unfinished kitchen.
There is no more faking it.
There are no more shallow dreams of everything falling into place like pixie dust sprinkling from an azure sky (okay, so that’s how I picture it).
Maybe it’s the years I’ve accumulated that have altered my thinking, but I no longer put faith in one day. I put all my energy into this day.
If each day I make wise decisions for my heart and wallet, then my hope is that my life will be lined with authentic happiness, imperfect and rooted in reality.
There is no place I’d rather be.
Rebecca Rine is a humor, nonfiction writer and speaker living in Dayton, Ohio, transplanted from Chicago. She is a contributor to Dayton Daily News and an on-air commentator for public radio. Her website, JaggedJourney.com, is devoted to empowering people to live imperfectly. She is currently writing a self-help book called “Face Your Divorce Poo”.