Surviving the Terrible Twos: Money is a Big Deal

Money is a Big Deal

Creative Commons – Sean McMenemy

 

Here we are at week 3 and the final installment of Samantha and my 20s series, with the icky subject of Finances! I have loved discussing the awkward parts of  20s life with you all, so thank you for reading. Each week it has made me dig deep, think and look at my own life with a new eye.

Make sure you read Sam’s newest post HERE. Getting to know this girl better has been a privilege; she is funny, God fearing and true. I love that the internet has connected a Texan and Londoner to create this series. Two perspectives from two girls stumbling through their twenties. It’s been fun and I’m sad it’s over.

Week 1 – Careers
Week 2 – Dating 

Money is a big deal. You don’t realise it until you lose your wallet or debit card, and the simple things like buying your lunch become a problem. And if you’re like me, even though it’s a little out of your control, you still feel embarrassed or sheepish asking for someone to help you out until you can get some cash.

Which I think represents an awkward attitude that we have about money. I’m not sure what it’s like in other places, but in Britain it’s a fact that everyone has money and it’s no one’s business how much. The pay gap between rich and poor is a gaping chasm, even inside the walls of one office building, but no one talks about it. It’s a hush-hush subject and we’re all meant to keep up appearances, when often the reality is that a large amount of us are buried in debt.

My story is that I went from working full time at 18 without a financial care in the world and that being okay. To now at 23 with minimal savings and a permanent case of wanderlust, and it not being okay anymore. I used to think buying a house was for grown ups and I needn’t worry about such things for another ten years. I unconsciously put it in the “husband box” because responsibility comes with marriage, right? Then recently I had a brain wave; houses are expensive and I might not have a husband as soon as planned. Which means I would have to start saving a hefty amount each month now to buy a house by the time I am 30. Uh, which means, I need to be responsible now.

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Be Interrupted

Mother and daughter

As many of you know, this past Christmas/New Year my mum visited London to see me for the first time since I moved here. Before she arrived, I had a long list of wonderful London things I wanted us to do. Visiting Paris and Madrid was also on the agenda. Mum had never been to Europe and I was set on giving her the best time possible, which meant having a packed itinerary for three full weeks.

A couple of days in I realised that though she appreciated my efforts, she was just excited to see me.

She didn’t care about getting stuff done. The holiday was about us spending time together after almost five years apart. To her, it was about rich conversation and laughter and fun. It was about connection. It was about relaxation. After all, it was a holiday for both of us. She was eager to see the city I call home but what mattered is that she was doing it with me.

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Surviving the Terrible Twos: Careers

career

A few weeks ago I sent out a depressing tweet that said something along the lines of,

“No one tells you how hard your twenties will be.”

The lovely Samantha Jo Berry spoke up in agreement and said jokingly that she could do a whole blog series on it. Always a fan of a challenge and new opportunity, my immediate response was, “let’s do it together!”.

AND TA-DA, here we are. The ten years inbetween going to school and being a mature and full functioning adult is (insert profanity here) hard. It’s confusing and messy and lonely, despite the fact that we all go through it. In true twenties self-involved form, we think it’s only us that’s suffering. Such a lie. Which is why Sam and I are writing this series.

For the next three Wednesdays, Samantha of The Biggity Big Blog and I will come to you with our messy lives and lay it all out. Advice and whinging included, in equal amounts. Today we will cover Careers, the one thing I have a deep love/hate relationship with. Next week will be Dating, and that should be funny since my love life belongs back in primary school. And finally in week 3, Finances. The only advice that will include is what NOT to do because my money management skills are Dire with a capital D.

Your twenties is one thing you certainly cannot go under or over, because then you miss all the joys of going through it. Of which there really are many! We hope you enjoy the series and share your thoughts in the comments.

And don’t forget to read Sam’s post today on careers too, it’s a good’n.

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Yesterday over on the So Worth Loving blog I shared my struggles with holding my career in too higher esteem. It’s been a big head and heart ache for me since I left school, full of questions about my ability, talent and purpose. It’s made me cry and yell in frustration. It’s made me feel insecure in a city where everyone is someone and I’m lagging. We live in an era where young people are setting up businesses and living their dream because we are told “you can do anything!” and “never give up!”

What about when you don’t know what your dream is, let alone who you are or what you’re good at? What about when you need to pay the bills and don’t have the time or resources to pursue your passion? Continue reading

You Aren’t Better Than Anyone

Creative Commons: epsos.de

Creative Commons: epsos.de

 

We live in a world of class separation. Sure, it’s a heck of a lot more politically correct and subtle than it used to be, but it’s still there; loitering, lingering, blowing some people’s egos up and trampling on the confidence of others. At its core, class separation is just one person thinking they are better than another. Often because of things that are out of one’s control, like their upbringing and family’s financial circumstances.

I find it fascinating that money and education can give people feelings of superiority. Working in support positions in the corporate world means I’ve experienced much of this. No, I don’t have a degree, but it doesn’t mean I’m any less worthy of respect than the person with a doctorate who’s sitting next to me.

Money makes the world go ‘round, indeed, but it can also do damaging things to a person’s pride. Whether it was earned by hard work or inherited, wealth doesn’t change the worth or value of a person. Neither does skill or education. And neither does good life choices, where is where my pride has tripped me up.

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Own Your Life

bwmic

Yesterday I was listening to a friend air her concerns about the guy she was seeing. “Do I really like him though? Do I want to make this official?” she asked. We laughed as I told her she is too old for commitment issues (I shoot from the hip), but I did have empathy.

My friend wanted me, or anyone, to tell her the answers regarding her love life. And all I could tell her was “only you can answer these questions because this is your life”. She probably knows the answers already, but doesn’t realise it because her mind is swimming with a million other anxious and afraid thoughts. On top of that are the host of well-meaning voices that have told her what to do, making a lot of noise.

I know what it’s like, because for a long time I spent every day in her shoes.

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When Is Running Away the Right Thing?

running 2

Running away has a negative connotation. We’re often advised to face an issue, deal with it and go through it, rather than escape it. Enduring hard times and seeing things through promotes good character, yes? I believe in this and all the reasoning behind it, but naturally, at my core, I’m a bit of a runner. I’m a little too familiar with giving up and calling it quits.

There are a number of situations where that’s cost me. For example, I wish I never threw the towel in with learning instruments when I was younger, or sticking with languages at school. It was all too hard, so I made seemingly valid excuses and broke up with German and French, and cello, piano and flute. I regret that.

But is it always bad?

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Living According to Your Potential

potential

Every single day, we make decisions large and small. From what to eat for lunch (I take this one pretty seriously) to whether we should take a job offer and how to spend our money. Then there are hard ones. The ones where our wants and needs are scales apart, and when we ignore the rules of should and shouldn’t. 

At 23 years old, I’m arriving at a point where I can no longer make stupid decisions and get away with it. Well, technically I can, but it’s only affecting me. I’m still young, but my choices matter and I’m old enough to know right from wrong. I’m not 18 anymore and I actually need to take responsibility for myself.

These days I’m finding that when I stuff up, I know better and I know that I know better. Bad decisions usually come from my overpowering impulsive side instead of my wise and measured side. When I use my head, I’m smart.

But I’m human, so I have a heart which likes to pipe up every now and then (as it should). Then there’s sin which often gets the better of me, and the result is a situation where I let myself and maybe others down. So I make excuses to numb my conscience and soothe the condemning voice of my guilt. Recently as I was going through these same motions, a small and captivating whisper commanded my attention;

You are called to greatness,
and you need to make decisions as such.

There is no arrogance in that epiphany. I’m not going to save the world or become the next Prime Minister. Those words simply consist of faith, grace and hope, because I am indeed called to greatness and so are you.

There’s only a few things I am positively certain about in this life, but one of them is that you and I were both created by God to be kind, intelligent and successful human beings. All within our own individuality, none of us being exactly like another. While doing so, He knew full well it would be very hard for us to be as complete as He created us to be, for the fact that we live in a fallen world with sin on our doorstop from the moment we are born.

In a word, we all have great potential within us. I believe that in heaven we will fulfill that potential because that’s where we will flourish in all our God-given glory. No sickness or sadness or pain. Just the way God intended earth and humanity to be before the fall of Adam and Eve.

Now, I think I’m on my way to being the woman God created me to be, but I’m not there yet. I think I please God a lot of the time, but I know I’m not anywhere near fulfilling my potential. You know why? Because I continue to make choices, often in the moment, that are not leading me to fulfill my call of greatness. They stunt me, leaving me feeling unworthy to keep moving. But I am, because God says I am.

I don’t mean greatness like we are all going to be rich, famous and make a huge impact on the world. Let us not limit greatness to be only one thing. Greatness is reaching your potential, and that is not an easy feat, but it’s absolutely possible. We just need to make choices that align with this goal.

I often compare myself to other people, and think “X would never have done this”. But there’s no point in that, because other than comparisons being entirely discouraging and unhelpful, we should only be measuring against ourselves. Who we are and who we want to be. Where we are and where we want to be.

Imagine if we all made everyday, seemingly unimportant, choices with this framework in our mind. How great would we each become in our own individuality? I’m willing to put it to the test and find out.

Do you find it hard to make choices according to your potential too? What are could you make better choices? Do you believe that you are called to greatness? 

Living the Questions

questions

Probably one of the greatest struggles humans face is not knowing the future. It’s obviously a good thing because all hell would break lose if we did. If you ever saw an episode of the short lived TV show “Flash Forward”, then you will know that seeing the future did not help the characters, it created more problems for them. They faced the dilemma of whether to accept their “fate” or fight it, and some even tried to make it come true. It was absolutely shambolic.

We don’t know the future for a reason but that doesn’t make it any easier to make big decisions based on an unknown future. I know I have struggled with this a lot in the past five years. Recently things have started falling into place, but not without much prayer, discussion and research. Mixed in were many moments of dejection and frustration, while I was struggling with big decisions like “what should I do for a career?” and even heart wrenching ones like “should I marry this person?”

One of my favourite people to talk life, dreams and careers with is my wonderful friend Candace. She lives big and she lives real, and she often reminds me of her favourite quote by Rainer Maria Rilke;

“Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

This has changed the way I see and do life. I like answers, we all do. We like to have it all figured out and know what is next, but the beauty is in the not knowing and who we become in the process. Sometimes waiting is the best thing for us and it fosters virtues like faithfulness, patience and trust.

Questions are such a big part of our lives, for we can only see what is in front of us. The more time we are spending trying to answer them ourselves in all of our limited knowledge, the less time we have to learn. There is something to discover in every stage we are in, whether we want to be there or not.

I dare you; stare your questions in the face. Don’t be afraid of them or angry at them, but make them feel at home. Set them up on your couch with a cup of tea, a digestive biscuit and a smile. Sit yourself across from them and make conversation. Be kind to them. You don’t know how long they will be around, but I can tell you one thing for sure; they definitely have the answers you need. They just aren’t very forthcoming, but you will be surprised what some gentle coaxing will do.

The good news is that the questions won’t stick around forever (not the same ones anyway). Despite how treacherous it feels, we do come out the other side eventually. Stronger and wiser, hopefully! We all have questions, big and small, but we don’t need to have the answers. For perhaps the greatest beauty of life is that we can only live one day at a time.

So quit planning and resenting the lack of answers. Don’t rush or rebuke the process. Instead, try to embrace it and live in those moments, even if they involve tears. You will be okay. Before you know it, you will be living in the answer.

What questions are you grappling with right now? 

Don’t Just Survive, Thrive

thrive

Recently I hit a wall. I got into an end of year slump because I was tired and ready to give up. I lost all passion and motivation, and for one week, I was stagnant. Life was one big “meh” and I didn’t know how to get out of it. I condensed how I felt into a few words, which I tweeted; “Surviving, not thriving.” I was doing everything I needed to do to get through the day, but nothing more. Work, eat, sleep. No exercise, no God time, no writing. I had no emotion, just a lackluster, monotonous existence.

The truth is that it wasn’t the first time I’ve felt that way and it won’t be the last. Life can’t always be easy, sometimes it’s really freakin’ tough and that’s okay. But who wants to just survive? Life wasn’t made to be a hazy string of events and we weren’t created to work in autopilot. If we’re just surviving then we aren’t really living, and that alone is a tragedy.

As human beings, we are made to evolve and advance. We are meant to love, laugh and live in the beautiful moments to appreciate them. Our character was designed to grow, stretch and expand. We were created to thrive. And the good news is that we can do that in whatever we are doing, whatever season we are in. Even when our circumstances are less than ideal, we can still thrive.

If our soil is bad, we eventually need to change it because it’s impossible to flourish in unhealthy soil. But sometimes that isn’t immediately possible which is where attitude comes in. I’m currently not in good soil and for a while I got angry about it. I behaved like an entitled and ungrateful brat, and I wilted fast. As soon as I chose to thrive in spite of my environment, it all changed.

These are my practical tips on how to thrive in our everyday life, not just survive:

Be good to yourself – Eat well, exercise and sleep. This is a big one! Some of our greatest issues are so easily fixed with treating our bodies right. Our mind and behaviours are more affected by what we eat than we realise. Feeling lethargic? Cut down on the carbs. Anxious? Drink less caffeine. Oh, and I’m learning first hand that 7-8 hours sleep every night will work wonders.

Selective to be effective – We can’t do it all. Personally, I want to take up all the hobbies in the world and see all of my friends every week. But I just cannot do it. Zone your time, talents and efforts into a few specific areas and go for it. Give it your all. Be excellent at a few things rather than average at many. You are only human and only have so much capacity, so use that to your advantage. And also being a good friend means having fewer but more quality friends. If you’re all over the place most of the time, it may be time to make some cuts.

Connect – I cannot emphasise quite how important community is. Surround yourself with people who uplift, support and love you. As people, we need this more than we realise. Share your life with friends and family that you trust and ask them for help when you need it. There’s so much freedom in vulnerability.

Choose to be passionate – about your job, your hobbies, your dreams, your family, your church, your community, your life! If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I am crazy in love with my #swlfamily (join us!). I am passionate about this cause and these people. It keeps me going. If your day job isn’t your passion, then pick something or a group of people that need support. It isn’t hard because the need is everywhere. Have passions and be passionate!

Get organised – This is really hard for some people. I may be scatty but I am generally quite organised, and this makes life a lot easier. If you prepare yourself for what you have in the upcoming week then things run a lot smoother. Plans meals, your social life and your priorities. Make lists and use a diary, if you can! (Disclaimer: This is such a personality thing and really doesn’t work for everyone.)

Take risks – these can be teeny tiny or really big, but our lives should have an element of risk to bring about change. Just make some hard choices and don’t always pick the easy road. You will be better for it. Push yourself.

Rest – Agh, I can’t tense this enough. Work hard and rest hard. Be intentional about it – book time off to just chill. Do the relaxing things you love like play computer games, read and watch your favourite telly shows. Sleep. Stay in your pyjamas all day. Use the weekend for what it was designed for; rest. Recuperate and enjoy yourself.

Have perspective – Always, always, always have perspective because honestly, you will never ever be happy or content otherwise. Step out of your emotions, your situation and your head to see things for what they are. Truthfully, it’s never really that bad is it? For a start, if you’re reading this, then you are in a 15 percentile group of the world who have access to a computer.

In regards to my own slump, I eventually did what I usually do; I snapped out of it. After thinking about the above points and making changes to my own life, my thinking changed. I made plans for 2013, like places I want to see and things I want to achieve.

I got excited about life again because life is exciting!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, choose to be passionate and thrive. Make the necessary changes for 2013 and then go for it! Many things are out of our control, but we are in our control and we can thrive wherever we are.

I believe in you.

Are you struggling with the end of year slump too? What’s your advice on how to thrive in life?

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Boundaries: You Are (Not) Responsible

I’ve got good news and bad news.

The good news is that you aren’t responsible for the happiness of your partner, spouse, family or friends. They are responsible for their own happiness. So phew, you can stop juggling that ball!

The bad news is the exact opposite of that; your happiness is your responsibility, no one else’s. In case I walked in on you blaming your parents, friends or the world for your problems. I know I know, life’s tough and so unfair! Tell me about it!

To break that down, you’re the one that has to create the boundaries in your life to not take on other peoples issues and problems. But that also means you also can’t blame anyone else and remember that your happiness falls on your shoulders. It’s one of those damn two way streets…

These two things sound simple in theory, but I’ve been surprised by how hard it is to put it into practise. This year has been a lot of learning how to for me.

You and I are different people and I don’t know your story. Maybe you have healthy relationships with every one in your life and you’re the King or Queen of boundaries. Though with all the angry, broken and selfish hearts roaming the streets, you and I included, I doubt that very much.

My story is that I spent years carrying people because I’m a rescuer. Growing up I wanted to make everyone happy and couldn’t stand to see the ones I love upset or hurt.  I’d run circles mentally and emotionally trying to fix everyone and everything. Angry at myself when I couldn’t, as if somehow I was lacking. The truth is that I was just a kid taking on responsibility that wasn’t mine to bear, and that no one has asked me to.

There’s compassion and empathy which is in our human nature. However, without clear boundaries  it can quickly turn into unhealthy rescuing. Pair that up with being a people pleaser (which is more or less most people, in varying degrees) and you have a very burdened person who is always fretting for someone else. Fretting for someone that has a mind, heart and the free will to make decisions for their lives. It’s interesting how often I forget this.

We all have within us the capacity to choose. Some people make good choices, others not so good. Whether you are making the bad decisions or watching someone else do it, look after you and do your life well. That’s the best thing you can do. You’re a better asset to the world and your future that way, not to mention your present life.

I’ve made some good decisions and some bad ones too, and they bought me here, to this very place in my life where I am totally humbled and deeply happy. I’m looking after me and making decisions that I hope will inspire others, but I can’t make them for anyone else. You are always being watched, remember that. Be an example to those who look up to you even if you never see who those people are.

When I was in a relationship, making my boyfriend happy stressed me out. I saw it as my job, my role to be his constant provider of joy. It was hard work for one reason: I was taking his whole life into my hands and buckling under the pressure, when I didn’t need to. He never asked me to. I just thought that’s how it went; that from day one it was my job to make him happy.

Obviously it came from a place of love and because I wanted to make this person happy, but that’s not what relationships are for! Romantic, friendship or family based; it doesn’t matter. Human relationships are to share, come alongside, support, uplift, love, bounce off and have fun with each other. To enjoy life together! They are a source of happiness, of course, but I believe that’s ones own responsibility. Not the people that they do life with.

I want to fix, please and encourage. I can absolutely encourage, but I will only die trying to do the other two. I will never fix anyone or please everyone.

Do your life well and empower others to do their lives well, but don’t do try to do it for them. Your happiness is on your shoulders and you have everything it takes to tackle the daily curve balls of life.

They are responsible for them and you are responsible for you.

Does any of this strike a chord with you? Have you experienced the burden of making someone else happy, or have you blamed other people?