I am bombarded each & every day with things that compete for my interest. When I embark on this list below, I could imagine you will have a mental checking system of which ones are also incorporated into your life:
text messages – email – Slack – social media – advertisements – traffic – tweets – likes – swirling thoughts – task pings – notifications – calendar reminders – hunger – thirst – sleepiness – body temperature change – red lights – podcasts – breaking news – green lights – sneezing – breathing – work out routines – talking – shouting – music – hand waves – high fives – cash registers – and on…and on…and on.
Yes, this may be a random list. But I look at this list and I feel…off balance. I started to recognize that I expend a lot of my energy in multiple facets of life, and some days I forget to reflect on just….myself. That’s craziness.
This blog was a way to capture that reflection of self. I could look back on the entries and recount the journey of where I started, the progress I made, and where I was headed in my future. Attempting to detract all of the thoughts from my head (trust me, it’s a confusing place at times) and placing them in a coherent post was an advanced exercise that challenged me. The mere idea that I could connect with someone that I had never met in life on the other side of the globe captivated me. The people I could connect with on a different level of conversation after they read my posts was incredible.
When there was a void of these writing exercises during my hiatus, I tended to find myself lost down the paths of everything else that competed for my interest. I left barely any room, time, or space in my schedule to myself.
Don’t get me wrong – I would still find ways to increase my personal, professional & physical self. But check this out: when I work out, I still need music or a podcast running in the background. When I read, it’s usually in an environment where all sound is not drowned out. When I listen to music, I’m typically having to focus on another task at hand whether it’s driving, or digging into a project.
The one place I found where I could reflect the most on myself was after reaching a summit of a hike (thank you, Spencers and Skinners Butte). At the summit, all is quiet. Still. Calm. The blanket of nature enveloping you, while a slight breeze tantalizes just the surface of your skin.
Yet even at a summit, it is difficult to find a time to hike within my schedule where I will be sharing these moments with several other people who have the same idea to hike. Once you reach the top there is still music, chatter, dogs barking, and the lot.
Writing continues to be my place when I exercise a reflection of self.
Then comes in another obstacle – the creation of pressure to write as much content as I can possibly manage to maintain a schedule. Since writing is such a sacred endeavor (yes, it’s that powerful to me at times) – I felt this force placing much more weight on my shoulders. Another line item of a task to define myself as being worthy and qualified.
I also thought a lot about this on my hiatus. While I was maintaining GenerationYRA, one minute I would say: “Oh, I left my phone at home – I don’t need that!” Then the next, I was going down the worm hole of pressing link, after link. Post, after post. Comment, after comment. Drawn into that virtual reality world on either a phone, or a computer. I had this push pull of how much time I should actually spend on my site.
Now that I am going down this path, I get lost in the tumultuous terrain of feeling worthy. I am not ashamed to admit this vulnerability.
Somehow there happened to be this creation of a picturesque life where likes, view counts, filters, resume qualifications, followers, internships, volunteerism efforts, re-tweets, career titles and accomplishments define who we are.
These are just things. Things that somehow place people into a trophy case where life creates a facade of a rose colored lens all of the dang time.
Sure, the positive things in life and external reinforcements can be good things.
But who really are you?
Because YOU are you for the rest of your life.
You are not compared to all of those around you as much as you think. Most of that is just a mental battle.
If you were to shed away all of the social media reinforcements and gold stars…who would you be? How would you describe yourself? What drives you internally without external reinforcements?
And what about our failures?
People fail all. of. the. time.
And I am not just speaking of the high profile figures in the lime light, the actors, or reality TV stars, and the professional athletes that we read about in the news.
Regular people fail, but they are ashamed. Ashamed of the guilt, the fear, the conversations that are to follow. But I want to know about these people. I want to learn about the ‘average joes‘ because I can relate to them on an immense amount of levels.
Every experience creates a foundation for your next happening in life.
That happening can be positive, or negative.
Let’s not just rely on the halo that was created by everything else around us.
Okay Alyssa, it’s been awhile (over 3 months!) and you got me here reading this – what does this even have to do with personal finance?
I’m going to be real with you here. Absolutely, I was so incredibly busy I could not even fathom generating content for GenerationYRA.com. I started a new job, was planning a wedding with my fiance (it’s in July!), worked with a steering committee to put on the first ever Eugene Young Professionals Summit, continued to volunteer locally, and kept up with my family & friends. When I had any breathing minutes, or seconds I was committing to my site – and not so much to myself.
But here is one of the more vulnerable and challenging points to admit, especially when I attempt to maintain a positive space.
I was consumed.
Consumed by all things personal finance. It was on my mind literally…all of the time. I needed books, podcasts, blog posts, content, everything I could grip my hands on or listen to with my ears. I couldn’t get enough. It was almost maddening. I poked & prodded and forced conversations because I felt like people needed to talk about personal finance more. Instead of an organic learning process, I created forceful amounts of efforts so that I could ensure I would not fail with money.
I applauded myself for squandering away savings. I would sweat bullets any time I had to make a purchase at the cash register, or made my way to a check out page online. I gave myself literal headaches from stressing about every aspect of a future purchase. I frowned upon choices that were made because they were viewed as ‘reckless’ in terms of finances. I would toss and turn at night attempting to mentally calculate my accounts because I wasn’t checking them online, or through an app. I cried tears because after I would finally make a decision with money, I experienced regret because I felt I did the wrong thing. I spent countless minutes (maybe hours) checking my portfolios, personal finance apps, and mobile banking platform. I would purchase items in the most prudent manner, only to find that I ended up having to make repeat purchases because the quality was not there. I was incredibly focused on the future of my retirement, that I forgot what living in the present was truly supposed to feel like.
This is the ugly side of personal finance. The intense highs and lows of everything related to my money actions and thoughts were taking a toll on me.
Money can consume your thoughts even when you think you are making all the right decisions. Sometimes it can be a shock to the system when you focus on a particular thing for a positive change, that it inevitably ends up being a hinderance.
Of course, this is not the case or story for everyone. But I needed a break. I chose to focus on other areas of life, and slowly the stress began melting away.
And you know what happened during my hiatus?
All of my money decisions and habits remained the same. Except, instead of stressing about it all of the time – I let the positive habits take their course.
My automatic savings for investments continued to pull from my account bi-weekly. I still contributed to my future retirement accounts. I would still research purchases, but made decisions at a faster pace. I allowed myself to participate in more activities and events with my friends and family to celebrate the present – even if that meant higher dollar amounts than what I would normally intend to spend. If I actively made purchases in one area a bit higher, I automatically chose to decrease spending in another category.
My savings continued, my stressful thoughts decreased, and the positive personal finance habits I worked diligently to implement continued on auto-pilot.
I’d say that was one of the major highlights of my hiatus.
Because just like external reinforcements that sometimes prove our worthiness (likes, re-tweets, followers, etc.), money is also just that.
It’s an external reinforcement. It’s a tool. It is an extension to allow us to accomplish purchases, savings, basic human needs – but it is not a true extension of ourselves. (P.S. Jason Vitug does a wonderful job of explaining this in his book, You Only Live Once: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life – I had to give him a plug, because the work he is doing is amazing).
Contrary to the previous depiction of the ‘American Dream’…people are becoming more intelligent to learn that tangible items, goods, and things do not make themselves as a person. Wealth & status will not always fulfill the void, create true happiness, or really define who you are. More and more people realize that even the most wealthy people will choose to drive a used car, live in a modest sized-house (or van!), and choose experiences over fancy items.
Money is a tool, and if someone were to strip it away from your possession – who are you as a person?
Who you were 10 years ago with either less, or more money does not change the true individual that you are today. Yeah, money may be able to allow you to take some trips, make some new purchases, increase your savings account – and I am not saying these are negative things…but if life was void of that, what could you say about yourself, the people, the experiences you have had if they were not influenced by money?
Be grateful. Stay humble. Smile with everything you’ve got. Invest in relationships.
These are things I love, and none of them have to do with money. The fact that I can exercise these four things with vivacious energy, and no cash/credit necessary truly makes me feel full of contentment.
I may have had to go to an extreme of taking a break from GenerationYRA to really discover these truths, but I think it was certainly for the best. At 26, I’ve got a lot of life to live, and a lot of wonderful people to share it with. I’ve got a lot of personal and professional development to experience, and growth that oftentimes comes from moments that do not require any form of monetization.
From now on, I will be using this space as a reflection of self on moments and life. I will still include elements of personal finance and money and how it intertwines with those experiences, but it will not be the sole focus of GenerationYRA. To start back up, I also will not have a regular posting schedule – this well help alleviate adding another item on the to-do list. It’s amazing how being on a break for 3 months makes me feel as if it’s going to take time to get back into this groove.
I understand this change may lose a certain portion of my readers & viewers – and that’s okay. You only have so many given minutes in the day and I encourage you to use them wisely. Invest in the places, the people & the content that you want to spend time on.
I just want to say a huge THANK YOU to every incredible individual that has been on this crazy journey with me (especially if you have been reading since the beginning!). To those I have had the gracious opportunity to meet in person, your conversations mean more than you know. Time, and time again I am blown away by the spatial areas of connections that the internet closes the gap on in the most positive of ways.
I’m still going to be around, don’t you worry! It just may look and sound a bit different around here. 🙂
Oh, and P.S. personal finance is still one of my jams. I will take you up on any conversation you would like to have either in the comments, via email, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, or any in-person conversation on any given day. I am still learning all the time, and that includes hearing from you!
It feels great to be back – thanks for reading, all!