Lately I find myself feeling quite alone as I am reaching that stage in life when many of my peers are starting to hit their stride professionally and financially. Yet here I am a year and some change shy of 40 and basically starting over, yet again. Some years ago my father in law and I had a discussion when I found myself needing to ask him for a rather large sum of money (since he’s not my Dad I did the asking since it felt less personal) and while in the end he gave us the much needed cash it didn’t come without the lecture that parental types like to give when giving you money.
It’s never been a secret that many of the choices I have made professionally have had a negative impact on us financially. No one really minded when a year after getting married I made the decision to go back to college and get my BA, it seemed like a pretty good idea. But my decision to get a master’s degree that at times feels pretty damn useless combined with my tendency to work at small and struggling agencies that do amazing work yet have very little in the way of financial rewards is a source of tension. Oh, the Spousal Unit will never say anything directly but my father in law gave me a loving talk about the matter since when I decided to move to Maine, it meant his son aka my husband gave up a financially solid position to become a freelancer. What that meant was his son who had never asked for help found himself asking dear old dad for help multiple times especially in the early days of getting established as a freelancer.
The exact details of that discussion are irrelevant though the focal point was that as an adult one must make adult decisions and that personal bliss is not always an option. I admit it was a hard talk yet his words continue to ring in my ears.
Often when people talk of personal bliss as it relates to work many have the belief that money will follow yet my own experience is that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes following our values and beliefs can cost us a great deal. Despite the cost though I continue to live according to my values, just yesterday I was lamenting to the Spousal Unit why is it that our monthly budget is always is blown? He lovingly pointed out that if I stopped shopping at the local farmers market and instead shopped at Wally World I would stay within the budget. You know what? He’s right, except that buying local and eating local is something I feel strongly about. I suspect my stomach’s inability to deal with grocery store meat and dairy has something to do with that but also the strong belief that if we all stopped supporting our local businesses what does that mean in a larger context? Yet the price for living this belief is that my budget gets busted though I am willing to see what things I might be able to downsize on.
In thinking about all of this today, I found myself thinking how easy it is to live our values when there is not a cost to us. In other words you earn plenty of cash so it’s no big deal to buy organic or local. While I have worked at larger agencies in my career, I prefer working at smaller ones where on any day I can see the difference my work makes in the lives of others. That fills me with joy, the downside though is I work at an agency so small there is never time for me to take my vacation time. Granted I don’t exactly earn enough to go on a vacation and a staycation would be equally disastrous to my budget…ask me how I know?
Oh, I bitch and moan but ultimately I enjoy what I do and while I am hoping at some point to transition to some form of writing as a career I know if that does not happen I will be fine where I am. However there is that little nagging feeling that maybe I am just fool for the choices I make, I mean how many of my friends have to do mental calculations before they head out lest they spend too much and really blow the budget? Even now with things slowly starting to stabilize financially I still have thousands of dollars in dental work that I have no idea how or when will happen. I keep thinking by the time I finally save up enough to get all the work done I will be told my teeth are too far gone instead I will be using that cash for some snazzy fake teeth.
So I sit here on a gray, rainy day wondering maybe the cost of living my values is too high…I wish I had an answer!