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Monday, November 23, 2015

things I learned in my 20s

The other night, at a gathering, someone new to our school probed about our ages. It is true that one aspect of expat life, especially as an international school teacher, is having to make new friends constantly. Many teachers come and go often.

And part of making friends is learning things about each other.
Things like age.

Most people giggled.
Some lied playfully.
And no one wanted to fess up to being 30+.

I am not even 30 yet, but I don't think I will have any problems kissing my 20s goodbye come next May.

My 20s were hard. I think everyone's 20s are hard. But I am very thankful for the past decade of my life, and all of the hard won lessons I learned. Like:


ladies, be your own keeper
Yes, I am married.
Yes, I trust my husband through and through.
Yes, he could provide us a nice life with his income.
Yes, he even has that desire.

But you had better believe that I will be taking care of myself regardless.

I will earn my own money.
I will have my own bank account.
I will maintain myself, period.

It has a little to do with precaution--because, let's face it, life is unpredictable. Divorce and death are the two ways all marriages end. But mostly is has to do with pride, freedom and team work.

Some days, I do fantasize about taking advantage of the fact I married a more traditional man. One who is okay with supporting his little family of two.
But I earned an education for a reason, and it wasn't so a man, even one as wonderful as my man, could become my financial plan or keeper.

I feel empowered knowing that everything I have is because of my hard work. All the trips, all the hobbies, all the cute clothes, all the fun days. I like knowing I gave myself those things.

Income equals power, opportunity, and most important, income offers personal freedom to be in control of your life.

just because everyone else is doing something doesn't mean you should too
Credit card? No thanks.
Smartphone? I'll pass.
Kids? Not yet.
House? No way!
Car payment? I'd rather not.
Big screen TV? I think I can live without one.
Cable? Nah.
Partying? Not for me.
Quitting your job to "find yourself"? Um, no.
Money rich and time poor? YOLO.
Dye my gray hairs? Not gonna happen.

Life is one big example of opportunity cost. That means: what do I have to give up in order to get/achieve/do X. Blindly consuming greatly limits your future opportunities. I'm not saying you can't do or have all of these things, but I am strongly urging you to ask: what is the cost?

If you buy that shiny new car, what does that mean you cannot do next week, next month, next year? If you absolutely have to get the coolest new gadget each time something is released, what are you not allowing yourself to do or get in its place?

Just because everyone else is doing something doesn't mean you have to as well.

You can be your own person, and live a life that is true to your values.
But in order to do that, you have to stop and actually think about what you truly want rather than what you have been taught to want.

being rich in time far outweighs being rich in money
It is true that not having enough money leads to misery, but I also know quite a few people who have more than enough money and are still miserable. That's because it is true: money cannot buy happiness. Different things make people happy, but one commonality all of those things have is that they require time for engagement.

Lately, I have been grappling with the idea of moving onto a school where my husband and I could easily make $50,000 more yearly. But then we keep returning to the question: at what cost?

We have more than enough money. It's easy to get dollar sign eyes. But why pursue more? Here, we have ample money and time.

Time to make yummy dinners at home.
Time to run, rock climb and play tennis.
Time to take long walks before bed.
Time to go to bed early and sleep well.
Time to date each other, and not just on the weekends.
Time to watch movies and eat popcorn.
Time to read for fun.
Time to play music.
Time to sit up on the roof and talk.
Time to dream and scheme.

Time not to get lost in everything else.
Isn't that time kinda priceless?
And isn't $50,000 nothing in comparison? 

most people don't love their jobs, but that doesn't mean they lead unfulfilled lives 
A job is a job.
Work is work.

Happiness is an inside job, not something you earn or find at the office.
I am not saying people should do something they loathe for 30 years, but I do call b.s. on those people who are "living the dream".

Whoever said the point of life is to be happy and carefree everyday and all the time?

Whoever said that just because life is hard -or work is hard- you must be doing it wrong?

I think work is something normal people have to do because they are not independently wealthy. I think work is something normal people have to do so they can support their own existence. I think work is something normal people have to do because no one will do it for them. And I don't think we all have to love our work.

That doesn't mean we are robots.
That doesn't mean we live unfulfilled lives.

I think work is just part of the human experience.

marriage is not about you, so get over yourself
My husband is the greatest gift ever given to me.
As his wife, I have learned to make our marriage about him.
Likewise, he makes our marriage about me.

We've always got ourselves covered.
That's basic human nature.

What makes marriage special is deciding to well and truly have another person covered as well. Experiencing the complete love that comes from a dedicated and true marriage, well, in my opinion, there is just nothing sweeter or better on this great, big earth.

So this year, to cover him, I have been doing all of the grocery shopping and cooking and dish washing. He gets a pass while he struggles to find his feet at work. That is one way I can love him, and it is truly not that big of a sacrifice.

Yes, grocery shopping, cooking, and the dishes.
These things can be love.

your life can be turned upside down, or right side up, in the blink of an eye

I moved to Taiwan July 2012. I hugged my father at the airport, and squeezed him tight. I was sure the next time I would see him was the spring 2013, when he planned to visit. But, seemingly overnight, I was on an airplane heading home with only one thought racing through my mind: please let me get there in time.

In time to say goodbye.

And I did.
We had a few terrible and agonizing days together before he was gone.

That was December 2012.
It happened in the blink of an eye.

Even today, nearly three years later, my brain still wonders: how can it be real?
Sometimes I see my father.
On the street.
In a passing car.
At the track.

Life can change in an instant.
And that is scary.

My life still has yet to be turned right side up.
I'm not sure it ever will be.
Once you learn this lesson, I don't think you can ever move forward like you've unlearned it.
It hovers.

But that doesn't mean good things don't happen too.
Because they do.
Good things that can put your world back to sorts.

I guess what I learned is to expect them both, and to understand that I control neither.

adult friends will never be the same as childhood friends, but that doesn't make them any less special or rewarding
No one really seems to talk about how difficult it can be to make friends as an adult.
Or, maybe I'm just really awkward?
Either way, I know I discovered that friendships change a lot after college.

I've had friends dump me.
For real.
I got married young and started my career when I was 21; I think some friends just could not understand where I was at in life at the time.
I think now that we're almost 30, they get it.

I've also found myself befriending coworkers who were two decades older than me. But they always felt more like mentors than friends.

Now, I live in Taiwan.

I guess there is always some kind of barrier.

But there are all different kinds of friendships, and I have learned to find the magic in each person I have befriended here in Taiwan.
I am not perfect.
My friends are not perfect.
My life is not perfect.
Their lives are not perfect.
But I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet each one of them, and to better learn the magic of friendship. Because inviting another person into your life and allowing them to settle in does require a little bit of magic from time to time.

Through my adult friendships, I've learned I don't always have to be like my friends or agree with their choices in order to love them, enjoy their company or respect them as individuals.

take care of yourself
Cook your own food.
Plan your meals.
Buy real food -- buy ingredients.
Make food that takes time, tastes great and nourishes your body.
(And save the left overs for lunch.)

Get enough sleep.
Do what you need to do so you can truly rest.
I take scented bubble baths and read before bed.
I am happy to report that I go to bed by 10 every night.
I wake up at 6 feeling great.

Move your body.
Don't do it for any other reason that to take care of it.
Do whatever feels good.

Be kind to yourself.
You do a lot.
You're kind of amazing.
Treat yourself like it!

life is not one big chore, so don't treat it like one
It's so easy to grumble about this or that, but perspective can change everything. Tonight, at 9pm, I spent 30 minutes preparing my homemade chicken & rice soup for tomorrow night. It needs to sit in the crock pot all day, so I had to have it ready to take out of the fridge tomorrow morning before I leave for work.

I have learned to love acts like this.
I love them because I am seeing to the details of my life.
I don't want to eat crap for dinner, and I don't want to feed my little family crap for dinner.
I want to look forward to eating something that I made that will be healthy and delicious.

While making dinner was a chore, I didn't look at it like one so it didn't feel like one.
This can extend to so many other things too.
Like doing the laundry.
Or going grocery shopping.
Or cleaning the bathtub.

Looking at every day as a never ending to-do list seems like a pretty poor way to live this one and only life of yours. As I mentioned earlier, happiness is an inside job.

The attitude you take towards even things as mundane as making dinner can go a long way. 


So while I am not quite kissing my 20s goodbye yet, I certainly had the opportunity to think back over the past decade of my life and feel relieved to have made it through those years and still be someone I can like and respect. I still have a lot of growing to do, but life has a way of taking care of that for all of us.

Add your comment

  1. Saving leftovers for lunch is a very important thing :)

    I like they way you put everything here. Being your own keeper is absolutely true, for women and men, I think we should all be able to look after ourselves, feed ourselves and understand the most basis of life things.

    In the last two years or so I've really starting moving into a life of minimal things (more money for adventures!) and treating money decisions as a "what will this cost me" kind of decision. Especially this weekend since we wanted to invest in new backpacks and good winter coats for our New York trip and the expense was quite something... but I could never justify the same expense on a new phone.

    1. Thanks!

      I agree that both men and women need to keep themselves, but it seems to me that more often than not it is totally acceptable for women to give up their livelihoods and rely solely on their husbands. While that can work long term for some people, I have seen disastrous endings and I think women need to protect themselves from those kind of endings. Statistics show that women have a much harder time reentering the work force after a long "break" than men. It's one reason why, even when we decide to have kids, I will not be a stay at home mom.