Monday, December 06, 2010

It Gets Better

You may have seen a series of videos that have been popping up on You Tube over the last couple of months with the theme "It Gets Better." They're mainly directed at teens and young adults who may be feeling suicidal because of bullying due to their sexual orientation (actual or perceived). In the videos, various celebrities such as Project Runway's Tim Gunn talk about how they struggled with the same kind of misery yet eventually got through it and lead happy lives today.

There are so many reasons that being young can suck-- you haven't figured out your life yet, you haven't figured out who your true friends are, and half the people around you who feel the same way cope with it by being really mean to anyone who seems vulnerable. But another thing that can be especially miserable for young people is worrying about money.

If I could send a You Tube video to my younger self... well, first of all, I'd only shoot it from the waist up so she wouldn't be shocked at how big her butt was going to get. But otherwise, I'd have a lot of reassuring things to say to her. When I was much younger, I didn't know what I wanted to do but had some vague sense that I'd be really awesome at whatever it was. I didn't really have any idea what that might mean in terms of supporting myself.

But by the time I graduated from college, I realized I wasn't particularly awesome at anything and had no great prospects for making money. Facing that sudden responsibility scared me to death. It wasn't that I was totally clueless about money-- I'd grown up in a family where money was always a source of anxiety, so I knew I needed to make money and save a lot of it. But in those first few years, that was so hard to do.
Then once my career started to settle in, it was easier to save, but I was aware that every year passing meant I'd have less time to reach my goals. And as I thought more and more about the realities of this country's economy and my place in it, it became harder and harder to imagine that I could ever get to a point where my financial life would feel comfortable.

But in the years that I've been writing this blog (about 5 1/2), I somehow turned a corner. I advanced in my career, bought my own home, saw my retirement savings grow a lot, and built up additional savings and investments. I watched myself like a hawk, calculating budgets and projecting various scenarios of what my net worth might be by retirement... but then I started to let it go a little, when I realized I could relax and put my finances a bit more on auto-pilot.

This is not to say that I'm somehow "done" with what I need to achieve financially. I have to keep saving, investing and increasing my earnings. A lot could still go wrong in terms of the economy and the real estate market in ways that could really set me back. I could be hurt by things I have no control over. But I finally feel like I have a good sense of my goals, and I think I can reach them. In terms of how I manage my own life, I've found a kind of balance, and what's more important, I have a faith in my ability to take care of myself that I didn't have when I was younger. Things did get better.


Doctor S said...

The mental state of the youth today does not receive enough attention. What is crazier is that as people get older, they still are not ready for adulthood b/c from a behavioral standpoint, they aren't ready to be out on their own the way you handled it.

I'll be honest, I am at a point right now similar to where you were 5 1/2 years ago. I am 27 and on my own now financially and have to get myself back on track after getting out of a relationship. I do like what you say how you are not "done" with what you need to achieve. Never satisfied.

Rachel.htpmv said...

I think that vague sense of future is something that a lot of high school students have these days. I know that I never had a solid handle on what I wanted to do, so getting out of college, even though I was trained and educated, was kind of a shock. Career development and counseling should begin before kids even reach college, and when they do, it should be a mandatory course in freshman year!
Cash Advance Blogger

Brad Castro said...

OK, just had to say that this made me seriously laugh out loud:

"If I could send a You Tube video to my younger self... well, first of all, I'd only shoot it from the waist up so she wouldn't be shocked at how big her butt was going to get."

But still - Be nice to yourself!