In barely perceptible waves, even as I have started this blog and have been sharpening my budget streamlining tools, it is occurring to me that I am a financial creature. In addition to the other things I am. Brought to you from Ms. Goodies’ philosophy file.
Part of this realization is understanding that ever since I was a child, I thought my sole purpose in life was to impress and please my parents with academic and career accomplishments. It seems so silly and narrow to say it that way, but it is true. I truly focused most of my energy on career advancement because it seemed like a comprehensive prime objective: it would make my parents proud, and would ensure my survival. It has taken conscientious chipping away at that level of work enthusiasm to allow myself to engage in other areas of my life.
In more recent years, I have (with varying levels of cognizance) started to figure out how to be a better sister, better daughter, better friend, how to be stronger and more self-sufficient, how to be a better cook, living more harmoniously with nature. You have to start to figure these things out relative to the baseline when you have been living your life as though on an island, worrying about your solitary sustenance.
But of all these things I have been learning about myself and subsequently trying to improve, consideration of myself as a financial person was not one of them until even more recently. Take sisterhood: at one point in my life I probably did not think of it as a role that defines you, that requires active participation and that you therefore could be good or bad at (though I imagine I was always probably at least ok without trying too hard). Whereas when I was younger and thought this idea related to me only on birthdays, I now realize this is something I could maximize and be good at rather than overlook.
If you had asked me five or six years ago whether I think I am a financial person and whether I am any good at it, I probably would have responded that “no, I am not a financial person because I do not have any money, but once I have money I will be a financial-type person and I will probably be good at it because I am decently smart.” I thought of it like whether you are a good parent: that is to say, it is “n/a” unless (or until) you have any children. But money is not like children, because even if you do not have any, you must still deal with it and try to get it to stick around. In that regard finance is more like dating!
Anyway it is humorous (or scary) to think back on how I thought being “financial” started when you have money (whatever or whenever that is), and until then, being financial is n/a. What tautological crap! How do you amass the wealth if you are off the hook for financiality because you have no business worrying about it because you are broke? My only defense is that I wasn’t actively thinking about it, just as I did not at one time think about family relationships, nature preservation, or other ways to excel in your life.
But now that I understand that I am an inextricably financial creature, I have decided to go ahead and totally excel in this subject matter area. I don’t care that my current financial situation requires only budget streamlining and breathtaking student loan payments. I need to be ready for the next step by figuring out life’s big scary questions about investments and retirement planning. Because you can’t get there and expect everything to be cool if you weren’t actively participating all along.
A side benefit of these exercises of self-awareness is that now I can go try to figure out what else I am, or could be, and how to excel at those! I am realizing now that work is the most important thing you do – for about 40 hours of the 168 hour week. Good to keep in perspective.