You know what I’d love to do? I’d love to take a month off from work and all obligations so I could stock up on groceries and hide away in a cozy cabin on the side of a mountain somewhere. Set myself up with no obligations, no social media, and no schedule so I can just live for a month. Eat when I’m hungry, sleep when I’m tired, and just let my life drift into some kind of equilibrium. Rest up from the exhaustion of worrying about money, about my job, and all the anxieties of living in the modern world so I can figure out how much of my constant exhaustion is me wearing myself out with constantly working on stuff or not getting enough sleep and how much is from trying to cope in a world that seems to always be somewhat offset from my natural pace.
I’m currently promising myself that, once I’ve eliminated all of my debt, I’m going to take that vacation. It’s still a few years off, yet, but I feel like I’ve finally got a realistic grasp of how long it’ll take me. Back when I moved to Madison and had to deal with the prospect of paying back my student loans, I slapped a bunch of numbers together and figured I’d need about five years at my then salary to get everything paid off. That was untrue. I failed to account for taxes, the much higher cost of living in Madison, the fact that my minimum monthly loan payments would be mostly interest at first, and that I’d need a new car almost immediately on moving to Madison. Turns out that, even with about ten thousand dollars worth of raises over the three years I had that first job, I was just barely making ends meet (and spent a lot of time sliding into a decent a mount of credit card debt because I actually couldn’t afford to live at my initially salary once my car payments kicked in).
I’m in a better situation now, thanks to clearing up some of the debt, a much cheaper living situation, and the fact that I get paid for any overtime I work, now. I’m finally getting a good handle on my finances and get to enjoy the feeling of watching the numbers in my bank accounts go up until I dump it into a loan or something. Financial security feels nice, even if the forty-eight hour work weeks I need to do it leave me often at odds with my desire to rest more or try to get more writing done. An extra eight hours doesn’t sound like much until you’re cramming it into four days. I won’t deny I have it way better than people who need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, but I wish we could all just do forty hours of work and not need to worry about money. That’d be really nice.
Ever since I left college, I’ve lived pretty much every day with the mantra of “pay off my loans and do whatever it is I have to do in order to maximize my long-term financial and personal health.” It’s a long mantra, but it’s important to stay focused on that specific goal. Being debt free isn’t going to be helpful at all if I’ve got stressed-induced health issues or I’m constantly sick from years of living in terrible situations and a horrible diet. I can’t spend my money frivolously, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t buy myself things to make me happy or that are perhaps a little more expensive. The whole point of having money beyond what I need to support the requirements of a (relatively) healthy life is to enrich my life. New foods, the occasional convenience, hobbies, and good causes. All of them are fair game because they’re usually things that inject some positivity into my life when I’m struggling. Which is usually when I’m making a decision that’s the right choice in the long-term but means being upset or suffering or being majorly put out right now.
It’s kind of interesting to know you’re making the right choice and still feel miserable. Whenever I fall into a pit of self-pity, this is usually my focus. Thankfully, it isn’t as often as it used to be. Still, though, it can be really easy to get focused on how my life is nothing but an endless string of decisions made to maximize my future potential for success or happiness or whatever in exchange for present-day discomfort or negative feelings. If I didn’t allow myself some hobbies and the occasional bit of short-term happiness, I’d probably struggle with it more. Nowadays, I actually make sure to spend my personal interests budget every month, usually on a new game or going to the movies. I used to tell myself I had to make one dumb but fun decision every month, but it usually wound up being something along the lines of staying up all night playing video games. Now I just stay up all night writing or watching the stars, often more frequently than once a month.
The original intent was to get myself to move outside of my comfort zone a little more, to do something relatively harmless that would encourage the kind of impulsive joy I used to occasionally indulge in when I was still a college student. Stuff like random all-nighters at the library with my friends, drinks before writing a paper, getting the gang together for an all-day D&D session, going to a bar and flirting with a random stranger while we both watched the Lord of the Rings marathon that was on the TV. You know, normal stuff. It’s just a lot harder to swing once you’re out of college because the bars feel louder and you can’t always just stagger back to your room if you drink too much. The college libraries don’t really like being filled with non-students and you’re probably not going to run into anyone you know anyway. Walking into a random bar and flirting with a stranger still works, but you generally don’t get to do it until the bars are too noisy to hold a conversation and my conversation skills are 99% of my ability to flirt.
It’s kinda difficult to be impulsive and thrill-seeking when that mostly means buying a tube of cookie dough and eating it with a spoon. Life as an adult is weird, sometimes. Or maybe it’s just my life that’s weird.