Another re-post from my blog…
At some point in our lives, we can take a serious self-inventory about ourselves. We may or may not like what we see. What it all comes down to is comparison. We compare ourselves to others, to people we admire, to people we are envious of, to the status quo. We set the standard so high sometimes that we can’t ever measure up to some false standard.
Sometimes we take a measure of ourselves to honestly find out where we are, due to circumstances. We measure where we were, where we are, and where we want to be. This can be insightful, but it can also be deflating. If things have changed, even with all of our effort to the contrary, it can be disheartening.
As a female, I find myself comparing what I have and who I am to the other women around me. It’s a little bit like a quote I heard at synagogue the other day, “I might not be perfect, but I’m better than they are!” We laugh, but it’s true to a point. We want to be as good as some people who have it all (so it seems), but in order to lift ourselves up, we compare ourselves to people who drive the beat up 1980’s Ford Escort that’s on it’s last tire. We know that they buy their clothes at Walmart, but we got ours at Target. Small things to perk us up. But then the guilt appears. We really aren’t any better than they are.
I wish I had the good shoes, the great wardrobe, the acrylic nails, the highlights in my hair, the expensive purse. Instead, I’m the clearance rack girl with chipped home-painted fingernails and the $7 box of hair color on my hair. I can’t afford to keep up! (Have you seen the price of hairspray lately? Seriously!) Now, I do try to buy high-quality clothes when they go on clearance at the department store. I can’t pay full price, but I want quality for what I can afford to spend. I do the best with what I have. I try to match up my clothes well and accessorize them as best I can.
I compare myself to friends and family who have homes. Real homes. Not a rented apartment. Not living with family. Not scraping by. The ones who can afford to buy a steak when we all get together, not the $3 side salad. The ones who can fill their car up with gas without thinking twice. The ones who can send their kids to camp without batting an eye. The ones who don’t have to shop the “buy 1, get 1 free” aisle.
And then I have friends and acquaintances who make ridiculous amounts of money and have their own homes and can afford to have more than 1 child.
And we budget! I’ll admit that we are on one, single, teeny tiny salary right now. And we have to have auto insurance. And we have to have health insurance. And we have to have jobs to pay for it. And we have to put gas in a car to get there (the bus is just not an option where we live). And we have after school care and summer camp to put our kids somewhere because we have to work and can’t afford to stay home.
I look back on the days of the 40’s, 50’s, and so on. One income family. One nice home. One car. Two Point Five kids.
And I wonder where it all went. We have always struggled. We’ve never starved. We’ve never been homeless.
But I can’t help but to feel envy for those who “have it all together”. Especially those who are younger than me. What did they get earlier on that I didn’t? Yes, I’ve wasted some money in my life. And I’ve taken inventory. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. I’m a spender. I don’t always spend wisely. In the past 3 years, we have cut back on our expenses so much that it’s crazy. We’ve put down expensive habits like cigarettes and designer coffee. However, we have more than we need of useless stuff. But even with a budget, we’re at a point where that isn’t good enough.
2. I need to be a saver. This sounds pretty basic. I have “emotional shopping” issues. Bad day? Mean words spoken to me? Forgot everything at home (across town)? Yeah. I try to bring a lunch. I try to bring my water jug. I make my coffee at home. I get the B1G1 stuff at the store. I get my bills paid on time to avoid late charges. But I can put money aside at the beginning of a paycheck. Even $5 each time over time will add up. It’s a matter of telling myself, hey, do you want the house, or the $10 of useless stuff? The house? Stick that $10 in savings. If you can spend it that easily, you can save it that easily!
3. I’ve sold myself short. For my entire life (well, maybe the last 30 years), I’ve listened to the wrong words. Instead of believing the words of value and encouragement that have been spoken, I’ve listened to the words that bring comparisons. The kids in junior high who wore Girbaud, while I wore hand-me-down Jordache with the broken zipper. Why didn’t I listen more to family and friends who told me I was good enough, that I worked hard, that I was a nice person? I don’t know. Why didn’t I try harder to succeed at my place of employment? Could it be because other people told me there was no room for advancement (perhaps only because they had not)? I’ve made excellent grades at college. I try to do my work with excellence. Sure, we all make mistakes.
4. I don’t stick to my goals. I am impatient sometimes. Sometimes the “now” ($) makes me spend the “then” ($). I’m not long-sighted enough. Perhaps I never set real goals, because of Point #3…. And there’s no reason for it. Everyone needs to have a life goal. Everyone needs to have patience and persistence. Shyeah. Yes, I’m talking to myself here, too. I don’t have a workable 6-month plan, let alone a 5 year plan!
5. It’s never too late to change. Yes, I’m a tad bit older than I should be. I’ve had a great life up to this point. I’ve been places. I seen things. I have Hubs and Beanster. We have some family and friends that care for us. We live in a beautiful place. We are trying to set those goals, make the step by step plan to get there, and then execute those plans. It will take even more changing on my part, for sure. I still want to spend money on bad days, but I am more focused on all the things we didn’t sell and still had to move ourselves. I think about that and I put back whatever is in my hand…. It takes time.
6. I won’t beat myself up over failure. Yes, I still buy stupid things. Frivolous things. I am working on it, but I remind myself that I’m not where I used to be. Most of the things my money goes toward are necessary evils like bills and insurance. The “wants” get put aside with more frequency these days. That’s a good thing.
I was really bummed thinking about things when I got started on this post. I really wanted to vent and say “life’s not fair” like Beanster does. However, I do know that with a plan, I am working on that map to get me where I need to go. Yes, I can succeed at whatever I put my hands to. Yes, we as a family can have our own home one day. Yes, we can send Beanster to college or trade school when he graduates. Yes, we can take control of our lives. There may be dark days, but the goal is always there. Always there.
Peace and love, everyone.