In Another Town

Who are you?

That was the question that was asked to me for my most recent job interview. “Make a 15 minute presentation that answers the question, ‘Who are you? Personally and professionally?'”

Well, damn. How do I answer that? I know who I am, or so I thought, but I think like many of us, I just get so wrapped up in the day to day life, that I often forget to sit and reflect on who I am as a person.

As many of you know, this past week I was doing a bit of travelling. I had an interview at NYU, but made a pit stop in Albany to visit some family. So within the past weekend, I was in New York, Albany, and now Buffalo. And it was bizarre. I felt as if I was living three separate, very different lives.

In New York, I felt like the person I wanted to be. I was dressed to the nines in my stylish new suit,  I was wearing my favorite pair of dress shoes, I was making my way up and downtown via subway and cab, and meeting so many incredible people. All in the span of one overnight trip.

In Albany, at home, I always find myself in this strange role. Does anyone else feel that way? Even though I’m 25 years old, and basically a full adult, I still find myself molding into my old high school self.

And then now, here I am…back in Buffalo, writing this blog post. Today is great – I’m surrounded by friends “doing work” [hey, friends], but in general, I’m not the most thrilled to be back. There are only a few months left, and I will definitely miss some people here, but especially after such an amazing trip to New York, I’m kind of just ready to be there.

But that got me thinking.

In general, I used to think that no matter what setting, I was just myself. The same Michael, regardless of the situation or the people I was around. But I’ve been realizing lately that I am different…not necessarily around different people, but definitely in other places.

At home, I’m happy. It’s good to be home. But my role is very different. In Buffalo, it’s cool…but it’s not the place for me, and my happiness level has plateaued here. And then, visiting a completely new city in hopes of potentially moving there, I realized I am a completely different person. I felt complete in a way. I had the time to be with really good friends that I missed a whole lot, while also feeling fulfilled in (hopefully) doing really well in the interview. I just felt that, for the first time, I was living the life that I wanted. This potential job would be amazing, having a consistent group of friends and social supports would also be great, and on top of it all, I was meeting so many new people that I would love to get to know even more.

In another town, I am the same person. In another town, I felt completely different.

“Maybe you just need a change of scenery,” some people have said. But I’m always torn by that. Do I really just need a change of scenery, or am I just running away from a life that I am not completely happy with, and haven’t necessarily put in the effort to make any better?

Who am I? That is a really great question. And through this visiting of other towns, I’ve learned a lot about myself, especially considering that this next step in particular will be choosing the next significant part of my life. I’ve learned that I am someone who needs social support in my life. AKA, friends. I can’t move to another new place where I don’t know anybody and hope for the best. I’ve learned that my next job is important, but it’s not the most important thing. And maybe most importantly, I’ve learned that no matter where I go, I am still myself.

So, regardless the all the other towns, who are you?

 

 

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I’m (Mostly) an Adult!

In last week’s post, I wrote about the “right” way to becoming an adult. Historically speaking, this included completing all levels of education (usually only high school), obtaining a full-time job, getting married, establishing a home, and having children. In that order. No kids? Oh well, too bad. Not an adult. Accidentally (or purposefully) got pregnant before marriage? Nope! You didn’t do it “the right way.”

Well, it’s time to throw all of that out the window, people. Because in today’s world, there isn’t any “right way” to becoming an adult. But this idea really got me thinking. If there isn’t a right way to grow into adulthood, then what does it mean to become an adult? How can adulthood be defined? Because even though I don’t have kids, I’m not married, and I haven’t yet established a home, I still feel very much so like an adult…(says the guy who still watches Spongebob).

So in my mind, here are the twentysomething signs that make me an “adult.”

  1. Having enough money to purchase a cup of coffee when you’re in need of a caffeine boost, and not having to worry about how much of a detriment it will be on your bank account.
  2. …while also acknowledging that a Quad Venti extra-hot soy hazelnut cappuccino is a beverage that should probably only be seen as a “Treat Yo Self,” because that shit ain’t cheap, and it adds up.
  3. Going to the grocery store and being confident that you can make a plethora of relatively decent meals from the ingredients that are scattered all around the store.
  4. Paying bills. A necessarily evil…but I really like my electricity and hot water, so I guess I’ll continue to write those checks.
  5. Eating relatively healthy, or at least understanding and being aware that eating Burger King five times a week is probably not the best option for my body.
  6. Finding a job that you love, or at least having aspects of your job that you know you enjoy.
  7. Working hard, but not too hard. Everything is about balance, especially between work life and personal life. It’s not easy, but it’s so so important.
  8. Realizing that if you don’t “click” with someone on a first date, it’s nothing personal. They just aren’t the right fit for you at that time.
  9. Coffee is preferred over vodka. Most of the time.
  10. Seeing laundry as an unnecessary task, until you realize how much you’ve already spent on underwear just to avoid doing said laundry.
  11. Offering to pay for your friend’s coffee or lunch, just because you can and it’s a nice gesture.
  12. Cleaning your apartment suddenly becomes fun…? And if not fun, you can at least look around afterwards and feel rewarded in your cleaning efforts.
  13. There is a generation younger than me, and they use lingo that I don’t know. I still don’t know what the hell “salty” means, but I’m hip enough to know that it’s kind of an outdated term now. Right…?
  14. Happy hour is the new favorite hour of the week.
  15. You may still call your parents for small adulting-type questions, but that doesn’t make you any less of an adult.
  16. You hear your parents voice in your head almost on the daily. Wear a jacket! Don’t forget to bring an extra pair of gloves! And you realize they were right all along.
  17. You are much more comfortable and confident in your own skin now then you were, say, when you were fifteen. Even though it may not feel that way all the time.
  18. Early weekend mornings can either be seen as a peaceful, quiet bliss, or a time to sleep in, but either way, you praise the person that created the weekend.
  19. Quality over quantity. In almost every aspect of life. You finally understand this rule.
  20. You may not talk to your good friends every single day, but you know that they are always there for you, no matter what.
  21. Life can throw curve balls, but that’s what keeps things exciting.

So regardless of whatever the traditional pathway was, the fact is, that pathway is no longer the pathway. It’s pathway, for some, sure. But for me, I have twentysomething other ways that make me feel “adult.”

Baby Pictures and Mustaches

This is a picture of my parents from their wedding in 1989. My mom was 22, my dad was 29. Aren’t they a beautiful couple? (Check out my dad’s mustache, lol). They are both stunning and beautiful and happy. And in their twenties.

This is a picture of my mom and I from 1991. My mom was 24 and I was just a babe. Wasn’t I precious?

Just in case you all didn’t know, I am currently 24 years old. AKA, the same age my mom was when she had her first child.

Now, I know what you’re all thinking, but don’t worry. This is not going to be a blog post whining and complaining about how I, at 24 years old, don’t have a partner or any kids. Times were different back then, right? Right. It was only 24 years ago, but it seems like an eternity (no offense, parents). A time that can only be seen in the movies. Only talked about in stories of generations past. And yet, here we are.

Granted, I do know some folks today who were married by their early twenties and started having kids right away. That is definitely not me. Maybe if I found the love of my life, maybe if I didn’t have so many emotional walls, etc. etc.

It really is a different time, though. And coincidentally enough, I’m learning about this in one of my classes. This week, we’re learning about the transition into adulthood. In academic terms, we’re learning about the “variability and sequencing of adulthood pathways.” In other words, there are so many freaking options to take into the adult world, and there is no “right” way to do things anymore.

Back in the day, there was one pathway into adulthood (and this is actually supported by research): finish school, get married, buy a house, have children. In that order. But now, it’s not like that. What makes an adult? Because I haven’t finished school, I’m not married, and I don’t have children…but I certainly would like to think of myself as an adult. But now, people are doing these “adult” things in whatever order they want. People are getting more education, which means they are most likely in school until their twenties or even thirties. Because of this, some people are getting married while still in school. Or some people are having children before they are married. It’s all good, because there isn’t a “right” way to be an adult.

Hold up.

Maybe this is the epiphany I needed. There isn’t a right way to be an adult.

If you look on social media, you see all these people living these amazing lives. Friends in big cities doing big things. Traveling. Meeting new people. Making memories with good friends.

And then there’s me. Or so it feels. Working away by myself in grad school and working a full-time job. It’s exhausting. But…there is no right way to be an adult.

This new motto might not change anything. I’m still working the same job, the same (lack of) social circle, the same city. But it helps to know that I’m not doing anything “wrong,” necessarily. It’s just different. It’s different than my parents, it’s different than the generation before me, it’s different than some people my age. But if I’m being honest, most people I’ve talked to about this are in the same situation. There is comfort in solidarity.

So if you’re like me, I have two quick tips to leave you with today.

  1. Talk to other twentysomethings
    • I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve made a comment about a twentysomething struggle, and the person I was talking with was like, “Ugh me too!” It is such a great feeling knowing you’re not alone.
  2. Make your own “right” way
    • When is your opportunity for change? Mine is next year when I graduate. You want to move to a city? You want to travel? Well why the hell not? This twentysomething time is a time for you, especially if you aren’t fitting into the traditionally “right” way of adulting. Make your own way.

Happiness in Just Three (Easy) Steps!

This past week, as some of you may know, I was at a conference for work with other student affairs professionals. When I returned to work on Thursday, people asked, “How was it?!” I responded with one phrase: “life-changing.”

“Why?!” everyone asks.

My scripted (and entirely true response): “It was life-changing because I felt educated, inspired, and connected.”

Over the course of this past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about why those three feelings contributed to the overarching sense of “life-changing.” And as I thought about it, I realized that these three feelings – educated, inspired, and connected – were also relevant to a twentysomething life. Maybe even life in general for people of all ages. Here’s why:

  1. Educated
    • At the conference, I learned something at almost every single session I attended. For other conference goers, you know how rare that is! But after each session, I walked away with pages of notes and dozens of new ideas to bring back to my campus. Student affairs professionals like to use to term Lifelong Learners, and it applies to all of us. Having a feeling of growth is a major component to happiness, and that includes your brain. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, suggests picking up three new magazines every month that you would have never read otherwise. Or watching a documentary on something that interests you and learning even more about it. Either way, the point is to learn. Forever. Becoming a life-long learner will absolutely contribute to your happiness.
  2. Inspired
    • The amount of times my job has come up through the course of this blog might be one too many, but here’s a plot twist: after this conference, I LOVE MY JOB! And more than that, I love the field of work that I am currently doing. It was a reminder of why I’m doing the work that I’m doing, and why I love it so much. So how do you start to feel inspired when you are feeling completely lack-luster? Well, I would ask yourself, why? Why am I doing this job? What made me want to do this job in the first place? If that doesn’t fill you with passion and inspiration, maybe it’s time to reconsider. Another idea is to check back in with yourself about your goals. When you first started at your job/company/office/etc, what were your goals? Have you reached any of them? If not, are you currently working towards them, or did they kind of fall off the bandwagon? Realign your work with your goals. Goals provide a purpose in your work, which in turns provide a sense of inspiration.
  3. Connected
    • By the end of the conference, I was able to look around the room and feel connected with most of the people in the room. Some I knew before the conference, some I met while I was there, and others were just a friendly face that I had gotten used to seeing over the past four days. Again with Gretchen Rubin (she really is great), but she says that people/connectedness is another contributing factor to happiness. So how are you connected? What are you doing to get involved, get connected in your office, or in your community? We are always telling college students to get involved, but we need to practice what we preach. No matter what your job is, get involved. Make an active positive presence for yourself. Join a committee, attend events that are not required, offer guidance to a coworker in another department, volunteer on the weekends. Soon enough, these additional responsibilities that at first may just seem like extra time commitments will soon pay off in having connections and in having some really amazing people in your life.

So, I guess that’s it folks. The three key factors of happiness: Feeling educated, inspired, and connected. Although I know it’s not that simple, it may be a good place to start.

What are other ways you feel educated, inspired, and connected?

(Not) Spinning Out of Control

This week has been a freaking week, let me tell you.

In one week, I visited my sister, caught up with a friend from college, went to an LGBTQ dinner club, went on a really great date, played bananagrams with friends, started rewatching Parks and Rec, AND let’s not forget the best part…I MET LAVERNE COX!!! Yes, it’s true.

But despite all of those really great things, three events stick out the most in my mind:
1. I caught malocchio (the evil eye)
2. I lost my wallet
3. I “forgot” about a Starbucks shift and completely missed it

It’s the rotten apple idea. Why does one apple have to ruin the whole orchard?!

There’s a theme with my three rotten apple moments. I had absolutely no control over anything that happened. Although there were precautions I could have taken, the truth is, I didn’t take them. And in the moment, there was nothing I could do. I could’ve worn my Italian protection charm to bed every night, but I didn’t. I could’ve kept my wallet in my back pocket, but I didn’t. I could’ve triple checked the dates I was working at Starbucks, but I didn’t.

And when I caught malocchio, realized I lost my wallet, and got that call from work, there was nothing I could do. It was too late. Some may see this as a sign…”Michael, you are spinning out of control what the heck is everything okay what’s wrong how can I help?!??” STOP RIGHT THERE. Everything is fine. But sometimes, life sweeps you up. And when you’re being swept up in that tornado of life, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Remember: some things are out of your control
    • Just reminding yourself of this can help. You can tear apart your bedroom, have friends and coworkers search your office, your room, etc. But damn, deep down you know that if you can’t find that wallet, you are out of luck. It’s not going to magically appear after you’ve searched up and down for a week. Once it’s done, it’s done. That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all, however, which leads me to point #2.
  2. Utilize your resources 
    • When I found out I had malocchio, I immediately texted my dad. I didn’t care that it was midnight. “Help! I have malocchio!” The curse had been cast, it was already done. But I couldn’t just sit back and let it take it’s toll. The next day, my dad called me and told me that my aunt in Italy confirmed that I did indeed have malocchio, and she was doing her rituals to cast it away. And it worked! Reaching out to other people in your spinning moments can be a good thing.
  3. Take time to grieve the situation
    • This sounds dramatic. “Grieve the situation.” But I’m totally serious. Just because something is out of your control doesn’t mean you can’t (and shouldn’t) talk about it. Everyone I came into contact with last week knows about my lost wallet. And when I realized I looked at the wrong date I was scheduled to work, I was with a friend over an hour away. “Okay, deep breaths,” she said, “And let’s talk through it.” And we did.
  4. Follow up
    • You can bet your ass I’m never going to miss a Starbucks shift again. And I’m going to (try to) be extra extra careful with my wallet next time. If there is any precaution to be had, do it. Try to avoid “a next time.”

Some may see these events as “spinning out of control.” But I’m choosing to see it as a growth opportunity. You live and you learn. Learn from the experiences that are handed to you, even if they are all your fault, or not your fault at all. There is always something to be gained.

“The Grass is Always Greener” by Some Other Me

For anyone that knows me, you know that I am obsessed with musicals. Usually ones I’ve seen. Except this time, If/Then has been playing nonstop on my phone, and I have never seen it. There is this one song in particular, “Some Other Me,” that is just so beautiful. But because I’ve never seen the show, I really have no idea what the character is talking about. Basically, there are multiple paths the character can take in life (like most of us). In this song, she sings about all the other selves she could have been: “Some other me is homeless / some other me is queen / some other me has seen things that no other me has seen.”

Okay, so we got it? It’s beautiful and poetic and everything good.

Elizabeth, the character, is thirty nine years old and sings about all the change happening in her life, which, directly parallels to my experience as a twentysomething. Change, change, dramatic transition, more change, etc. Hearing her sing about it as a 39-year-old makes me depressed about my future…will it always be this way?!! Let’s hope not.

Lately, I’ve been feeling very much in a crossroads. May is ringing close with bells of graduation and I have no freaking idea what I want to do with my life.

During my first year of college, I had a friend say to me once, “I can either see myself living in Manhattan with a high-class job and going to see Broadway shows every week or living in a country in the developing world, volunteering and serving others, with no material possessions whatsoever.”

My response? You’re an idiot. That doesn’t even make sense.

OKAY. Well, it makes sense to me now. So, I apologize about my harsh judgement from six years ago.

It makes sense because I think to all of us, there is “some other me.” Right now, I’m working in higher education and I work with college students and I’m a grad student. But some other me is working full-time at Starbucks in New York City and playing guitar on a street corner and endlessly working to try and publish the latest draft of my book. Some other me is living in Europe, going to the fresh open markets every week, walking through the city districts in my tailored suit to get to my office on time. Some other me is happy in all areas of my life.

And despite all those grown-ass adults telling me “it’s completely normal to hate your job,” I refuse to believe it. I absolutely refuse to believe it until I am an old withered man who has to drag myself to and from an office every day. Disclaimer, I don’t hate my job. I just think there might be a better fit for me out there in the world somewhere. People who think it’s “normal” to “hate their job” are people who have settled, and I won’t give up hope.

It’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of life, but I like to think that I am an optimistic person and try to stay as positive as possible. However, is it so wrong to think that some other me might not have to try so hard to find those positive aspects of my life?

Maybe the grass really is greener. Or maybe it’s dry dirt painted in a vibrant shade of life. Either way, there’s something to be said about trying and finding out for yourself…isn’t there?

50 (Twentysomething) First Dates

We all know the movie with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, right? If not, here’s what you need to know: Drew Barrymore has short-term memory loss. She goes on 50 dates with Adam Sandler, but each one feels like a first date because said short-term memory.

Okay, well living the twentysomething life is kind of like that, except instead of all of us having short-term memory loss, this is a time filled with 50 literal first dates.

Now, don’t worry…this isn’t a blog post where I’m going to brag about how many dates I’ve gone on recently. And to be honest, I have more fingers on my left-hand than I do number of dates I’ve been on in the past year. But something weird happened this past week. A customer at Starbucks slipped me their number. A first! And an all-time barista goal. So for that, I am proud.

So I went on the date. Coffee. Casual. But I was shocked to hear the phrases that were coming out of my mouth. Instead of my usual small talk (“What’s your favorite color? If you could be any animal, what would you be? Tell me about your first pet.”), I was asking much more pointed questions. What social justice issues are you involved with? How are you involved in your community? What are your  goals?

And maybe it’s because I’m older and more mature, or maybe it’s just because I really don’t give a fuck what your favorite color is, but I’m past the point of small talk on first dates. Like, I get it. It’s casual, it’s polite, it’s conversation. But it’s kind of like the classic card game, “Go Fish.” If you don’t have the cards I’m looking for, you can Go Fish because ain’t nobody got time to swim around with a fish that isn’t the right one for you.

Needless to say, this person was not asked back out on a second date. Sorry, but not sorry.

For most of my twentysomethings, in regards to dating, I’ve felt hopeless, single to a fault, and lonely AF. And why wouldn’t I? The majority of people around me are either married with kids or in long-term committed relationships with the person they’ve been in love with forever and ever. And there is nothing wrong with that, at all, but when that’s all you have to compare yourself to, it’s hard. But “comparison is the thief of joy,” am I right Theodore Roosevelt?

But it doesn’t have to be complete opposites: married with kids or single and lonely. Why can’t it be single until you find the person you’re looking for that makes you happy? Well, now it can be. This blog post is official permission for myself and everyone who reads it to be single and loving it. Maybe I just needed a reminder of what I wasn’t looking for…because I’d rather be single than with someone who is completely uninspired by the world around them.

What’s cool about being a twentysomething though is this: I finally feel like I know what I’m looking for. Which, ironically enough, means that just as I start going out on more dates, I start to feel okay with being single. Weird, right?

So if you know any goal-oriented, inspired, and relatively attractive people, feel free to send them my way. But in the mean time, I think I’ll be okay with going on 50 first dates.

Be your best self…even when it sucks.

Well folks, it’s almost September. And you know what that means…regardless of whether you are in school or not, there are dreams of bright red apples, hard-cover textbooks, and first-day-of-class outfits dancing in your head. Working in a college environment, I understand that I am biased. No matter how old I get, I will always view this time of year as “time-to-go-back-to-school,” no matter what.

Except this year, I’m trying to be a little more intentional in approaching the school year. The summer flew by, training hit me hard, and now I am literally enjoying the very last day to myself before classes start.

One activity during our office’s training that really stuck with me was “Developing a Personal Mission Statement.” The author of the worksheet identifies five steps to develop your own personal mission statement:

  1. Define what you want to be and do
  2. Identify an influential person
  3. Define your life roles
  4. Write a draft of your personal mission statement
  5. Evaluate

Well when you write it all out, in five easy steps, it sounds…easy! Don’t let the steps fool you. It’s not hard work, necessarily, but it will take some thought. I’ll give you an example of how I started with step one. “I’d like to create a meaningful impact in the community for myself and for others. I’d like to be balanced with a consistent yet fluctuating sense of well-being.”

Okay. So what does that mean?

It means that ultimately, I want to be my best self. For others, but also for myself. And eventually, that’s how I developed my own mantra for my last year of grad school. “Be your best self – for others, and also for yourself.” It’s quick, simple, and meaningful to me.

Growing up, I was always told that as long as I did my best, the outcome didn’t matter. Whether it was grades in school, the next piano recital performance, whatever. It didn’t matter, as long as I tried my best. I think the message that is missing though is that as long as you try your best, the outcome for yourself doesn’t matter. If I messed up at a piano recital, my parents didn’t mind…but wow, I sure did! I would beat myself up for weeks, hitting the keyboard for hours after the fact, practicing and repeating the exact same measure over and over until my fingers cramped. Did I ever miss that note again? Nope. But did I try my best at that piano recital, even though I messed up? Well, yeah. I did.

I’m finding that the twentysomething life is a lot like performing at a piano recital. Sometimes, it’s flawless. Other times, it sucks. But regardless of the outcome, as long as you do your best, that should be enough…for everyone involved, including yourself.

I’m also in the process of learning that it’s more than just being your best self. It’s allowing it. Allow yourself to be your best self! Embrace it. Own it. Love it.

And allow yourself to embrace it, own it, and love it even if it sucks. Even if you messed up. Even if it wasn’t the best. As long as it was your best, that’s all that matters.

A simple lesson, really…one I learned in elementary school. Yet, reading it through a twentysomething lens really seems to add a whole new perspective.

Feeling Lost? A Twentysomething Guide.

For this week’s post, I was tempted to just come up with some creative title for this picture, post the picture, and then just leave it at that. A picture says a thousand words, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, the inner writer in me felt the need to explain more in depth. What does this picture mean? Why did it resonate with me in such a way? Why is it on a twentysomething blog? Maybe some of these questions are obvious, I’m not sure. If that’s the case, please ignore the rest of this post and just thank me for posting the picture.

Anyway. I came across this photo earlier this week, and I never felt I related to a picture more than the one above. First, you’re a baby, then you’re a small child…some time goes by…and then you triumphantly hold your diploma high in the air, Breakfast Club style, after graduating high school or college. For me, it was college. As soon as I graduated, this twentysomething dizziness started to kick in. Fast forward thirty years, and the person at the other end of the time line seems to be thriving. Running, even! They are so excited about their amazing life.

So what is that chaotic jumble of squiggles in the middle?

Well folks, that’s the twentysomethings. That’s what this blog is all about. And in addition to the jumble, the title also caught my attention. “Lost in Life?” YUP. I am. So for this post, I thought it might be helpful to write about three ways that I, as a lost twentysomething, have found myself to be a little less lost.

1. Find your passion

  • I know this sounds like a daunting task. But the challenge here is simple. Think of your life right now and what you do. Work, school, XYZ responsibility, etc. But if you didn’t have any of those responsibilities, if you didn’t have to go to work tomorrow, or didn’t have to take classes, what would you be doing? In other words, how are you going to spend your days when you retire? In my case, I know I’m going to be sitting in a Starbucks all day, writing. And right now, I work at Starbucks, and I’m writing this blog post…so hey, maybe I’m not doing so bad!

2. Find your center

  • Life is stressful. Life throws challenges your way. But when everything becomes too overwhelming and chaotic, what do you do? What do you do to find your balance? Your center? What brings you back to the core? For me, it’s those deep breath moments. When everything in life is getting to be a little too much, just take a deep breath and think what do I need to do right now? Take a walk, stretch into a few yoga poses, some more deep breaths, eat twenty pieces of chocolate. Anything! As long as it makes you feel more connected to yourself.

3. Find your purpose

  • This one is my most recent challenge, posed to me by a good friend. It’s the why. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Why do you do what you do? It could apply to anything. Work, school, friends, anything. And if you don’t know the answer to that question, I would suggest some soul-searching, or consider trying something else. I had a tough time recently. My question was why do I want to work in Student Affairs? And after some good conversations with mentors and friends and some internal reflecting, I’ve found a partial purpose. Some days, I forget that purpose and want to do something completely different…and that’s okay too.

So, friends, the moral of the story is that life is hard. It will give you ups and downs. But don’t let it throw you off course. It’s easy to get lost. I’ve been lost the majority of my time as a twentysomething. But I don’t think that means I can’t keep working to find myself.

Twentysomething Dollars (…or lack thereof)

This week, I did an adult thing. I paid off one of my student loans.

Now don’t get too excited. I’ve received only one reaction from the few people I’ve told: “OH MY GOSH LUCKY YOU THAT’S SO GREAT.”

Okay, hold on people. Let’s clarify some things. I’m not debt-free at all, by any means. And that tiny loan I just paid off? I have another just like it, except it’s four times bigger. And now, more than ever, I’m feeling financial stress like no other because my bank account has suddenly plummeted. The dollars were put towards a good cause…my education…but still, it feels like I just threw my money in the shredder.

And now, I’m feeling all these other financial burdens. Twentysomething problems, and money are the majority of them. **Disclaimer before reading: this list may cause severe stress and minor heart palpitations.**

  1. Student loans
  2. Student fees
  3. Textbooks for grad school
  4. Groceries
  5. Rent
  6. Utilities
  7. Cable
  8. Wi-fi
  9. Car payments
  10. Car insurance
  11. Gas
  12. Random car maintenance
  13. Random apartment up-keeping
  14. Phone bill
  15. Gym membership
  16. Clothes
  17. Wine
  18. Going out to eat with friends
  19. Coffee
  20. Books to read for fun
  21. Travel
  22. Going to see new movies
  23. Concerts
  24. Other fun things

Okay, you get the point. Out of that list, the first 14 are mandatory. Basic necessities (unless I go without a car, which is not feasible at this time). I’d even say #15 is a necessity in order to keep up with physical well-being, but that’s debatable. But regardless, out of twentysomething financial burdens, OVER HALF are things that I can’t control. I can’t decide not to pay rent unless I want to be kicked out. I can’t decide to go without food for a week (LOL let’s be real here).

So I found myself in a trap this week. Should I put a financial hold on myself for the rest of the list? Limit myself from all of the other “fun” things that I can control? Maybe I don’t have to buy this new book…maybe I shouldn’t go to the movies…maybe I should stay in instead of meeting my friends…

Well, I just have one word: NO.

I tried that this past week for you all so you wouldn’t have to, and I’m here to report, it’s not worth it. Because those “non-essentials” are what make the essentials worth living for. Sure, I could sit in my apartment and not do anything. Saving money, yes. But what kind of life is that? I could also cut back a bit on certain things. Maybe I don’t need to get Baby Spinach and Spring Greens Mix at Wegmans for $4.99 a pack…(yes, for me, that’s “expensive”), but I want to be healthy and eat the best foods possible. I could have ramen, etc, but to me, it’s worth spending the extra few dollars.

Another tip: a friend on Facebook posted this earlier this week, “When I say ‘I’m broke’ it doesn’t mean I have $0. It just means I have responsibilities to handle first before spending it on dumb shit.”

Well ain’t that the truth! Literally, I have money in my bank account. It’s all fine. I just need to take a deep breath. But if a group of friends are going to see a movie I have no interest in, or if someone asks me to go to a restaurant that I’ve already been to and didn’t enjoy, why bother? Either A) suggest a new plan that is worthy of your hard-earned cash, or B) maybe wait until something better comes along.

And that’s another point…twentysomethings work hard for our money!! And no matter how old you are, the majority of the day is spent working. So why not spend the money on something that you will truly enjoy?

A lesson from my grandmother: Save your money and spend wisely. But a lesson from my dad: The point of working is to have money to spend.

Contradictory lessons? I don’t think so. Work hard to earn money, save some, spend some. It’s all about finding that oh-so-important balance.