Today I’m sharing some thoughts on what I consider to be “the big three”: the big rocks we attempt to wrangle into place in our twenties—love, career and money. If I could count the hours I’ve cried, stressed, and anguished over these three areas of my life…I just wouldn’t want to know, period. It’s a lot of hours, and it was sucky. We’re going to leave it at that.
Once upon a time, I was smitten with a boy. He was handsome, worldly, charming, and when we were in a room together, he was captivated by me. He’d tell me I was pretty, he’d want to show me off to his friends, he’d make me feel special and wanted and beautiful.
But when we weren’t in a room together…he wouldn’t pick up his phone. Ever.
Multiply those two facts by about six months, and you’ll get a confused, roller coaster of emotion in which plummeted from “He’s so definitely into me!” to “Did he die or something?” in sixty seconds. I hung on for dear life, desperately wanting to make the entire relationship match the best half of what I got from him.
Fast forward a year. After I cut ties with Mr. Unavailable, I met another boy who was handsome, hilarious, charming, and captivated by me. He made me feel special and wanted and beautiful. And he picked up the phone…every single time I called. (And then I married him.)
The lesson: Bask in the adoring attention from the boys who fall for you, but never settle for habitual disappointment. Listen to the wise voice inside you who knows the correct ratio of “making you cry” to “making you happy”. When that voice says “no more!”, trust you are worthy of something much better, move on and shower yourself with the love and care you were yearning to get from the boy.
If my own history is any indication, you can also trust that someday you’ll find yourself in a relationship so wonderful, that you’ll see clearly why all the other ones didn’t work before.
After I graduated from college, I was confronted with a harsh new financial reality that I hadn’t expected. Consolidate your loans! they said. Um, how many loans do I have? I said.
While my dear dad was filling out my FAFSA forms and coordinating the payment for my college tuition, I had been…not paying attention, even a little bit.
I called the 800 number for the student loan consolidation. The voice on the other end of the line sounded like Greek to me, so I went to the bank. The man politely said he couldn’t really consolidate my loans at the local branch office, but would be delighted to sit next to me while I called the 800 number again. I called, and listened to the first question…and promptly launched into a messy sob session because I had no idea what the person was asking for, no idea where to find the answer, and no idea who the hell had allowed me to become an adult when I clearly couldn’t handle the responsibility. The nice man on the other side of the desk was absolutely bewildered, but kindly walked us through the rest of the interaction as I sniffled and used up all his Kleenex.
The lesson: Educate yourself about money: where it’s coming from, where it’s going and how much you owe. Even if you’re starting in the hole (let’s be honest, most of us do), you’ll be in more control of your life when you can see how the numbers add up and use them to make educated decisions moving forward. If you don’t know how to do this yourself, ask for help. There are lots of people who know way more about this than you, and they will help you get from point A to point B—even if they are a perfect stranger and you just collapsed into a ball of tears.
The control you have over your finances is directly related to the sovereignty you have over your life. Sometimes getting there means crying at the bank, but at least it makes for a funny story later.
Late last year I found myself getting very burned out at work. At the end of a particularly rough week, I had reached a breaking point and was discussing the problem with my afore-mentioned husband of my dreams. I wasn’t ready to leave the job, but something had to give.
Jon suggested switching to part time. My first answer? No way, that would never work! But the idea grew on me, and I realized it might be just the thing I needed to step back, gain some perspective and get a much-needed break from the things that were grinding on me.
I went into the meeting with my bosses half expecting to be fired for having the gall to ask for such a huge change. But much to my surprise…they said YES. I got everything I wanted, and all I had to do was speak up.
The lesson: Your chances of getting everything you want are slim to none if you don’t A) figure out what you want and B) SPEAK UP. Asking for the thing you want, the thing that would make your dreams come true, the thing that someone else has the power to give you, can be very scary—but if you keep the desire to yourself, you sure won’t be getting it unless the other person is a mind reader. (Mind readers are hard to come by, in my experience.)
If you liked this post, you might want to read more of my advice to my younger self here.