I am terrible at living in the moment. I’m always looking ahead. To the weekend, to the warmer weather, to the day I can finally own my own home, to the day I hit $50,000 in net worth. As soon as I hit a goal, I tend to barely even pause and appreciate. I just adjust my sights, settle on a new goal, and keep on chugging. A prime example of this was when I finally became debt free. I had planned on blowing one month of debt repayment money on whatever I wanted. But what did I actually do? I put it into brand new retirement fund instead, and every penny after that went to my newly minted savings goals. Sure I celebrated, but I didn’t pause.
This kind of single minded ambition is typically applauded in our society. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Having motivation to set and achieve goals, to become a better person, is a great quality that more people should spend time cultivating. But as with any skill or attribute, there is a balance that needs to be struck. Too far in one direction, you lean towards becoming a sloth. You never get anything done, an all goals have a “some day” deadline.
On the other hand, being too motivated also has downsides, and one of those is never stopping to appreciate accomplishments. That’s why this post from Our Freaking Budget made me pause and think back to how far I’ve come in the years since I had my personal finance awakening. I thought a good place to look would be two years ago.
Two years ago I had $18,000 in debt. I lived in a 400 square foot cottage and 95% of my furniture was second hand. I was making about 30% less income than I’m making now, and my husband was making 60% less. I owed money on my car, and my student loans, and my entire life savings consisted of $2,200.
I was pretty happy back then, because I was surrounded by loving family and a wonderful husband (then fiancé). But I was also stressed. I was getting married that summer which was exciting, but I was terrified that something would happen to wipe out my emergency fund. I was constantly afraid of not being able to pay my student loan bills or my car loan payments.
Today, things are better. I’m living in a city that I adore. I’ve got a beautiful apartment that isn’t too big or too small, and fits my budget nicely. It has some amenities that I took for granted as a child but now love, like a dishwasher. I have no debt, and my furniture inventory is down to about 80% used. For the first time in my life, I have savings, enough to ensure I can weather most storms. I have investments that earn me money, and I’m well paid in my job and have a decent side hustle that helps me meet my goals faster. I still have an amazing husband, who I still appreciate immensely. I can afford to eat out occasionally, and buy beer occasionally, without worrying about getting an “insufficient funds” message on my debit card.
In short, I am incredibly, incredibly fortunate.
Most of this bounty came from hard work. It came from me putting in 50 hours a week working full time and freelancing. It came from setting goals, from talking about them, and having the audacity to pursue them, even when they seemed impossible.
I want to keep setting goals, I want to keep improving. I want to keep hustling and growing my skills and pursuing raises and new side hustles. I want to keep working my butt off and improving my lot in life. I want to be productive and maximize my potential.
But I also want to appreciate what I have. I want to stop multi-tasking so damn much. I want to take more time to listen to podcasts that aren’t about money or careers. I want to read more fiction. I want to go for walks and clean my apartment and cook delicious meals. I want to continue working on DIY projects. I want to play video games with my husband.
These feel like opposing values. Strive for success, appreciate the moment. Make more money, value things other than money. Spend time on my career, spend time with my husband. It’s almost like there are two versions of me that are diametrically opposed to one another and I’ll spend my life trying to bring those two me’s together.
It’s like a delicate balancing act and I rarely get the balance just right. Most of the time I’m too far on the career side, right now I think I’m too far on the appreciating life side. Right now, I’m appreciating life. I’m appreciating how far I’ve come, and for once I’m not obsessed with the future. I think this is ok. I think working hard and enjoying life don’t have to be mutually exclusive. There is a balance, but I’m still trying to find it.
For now I will just pause to appreciate the life my hard work has gotten me.
How far have you come over the years? Are you appreciative of that progress or like me, do you just keep looking forward to future goals? I want to know.