Over the past several years, my wife and I have been fighting. Not with each other, but against the grind of trying to survive the world. We made some stupid decisions when we first got married (bought a house we couldn’t afford, racked up a ton of debt, stayed employed at a job that I should have left). We are in year 11 of our marriage and are finally starting to see some real progress.
That’s an advantage of getting married at 23, you can screw everything up for the first decade and still be in your early 30s. Of course, had we waited, maybe we wouldn’t have been so young and dumb.
Over the past few months though we’ve really seen some good things happen and our focus is now able to start shifting from fighting for survival to fighting tactically. And as I look around at people that are in similar situations, I realize that there are lots of us that don’t understand that switch is needed.
Have you worked so long in “panic mode” that when things are relaxed you feel like you’ve missed something that needed to be done? I have. When bills are paid and there’s money left over in the savings account I feel extremely uneasy. After becoming accustomed to money always being tight, as we’ve started to do a little better, surplus money feels like I’ve made an error.
Do you sometimes self-sabotage things because if there isn’t a crisis you don’t know how to stay on track? I keep using money as an example because it’s so familiar to me. Have you ever been financially on track and then go buy something frivolous that messes everything up? Afterwards you think, “Why did I do that?” but then you take a sort of sadistic pleasure in bearing down, tightening up, and out working your mistake? I have. As a matter of fact it happened this week. I decided I wanted a Playstation 4. And instead of waiting, like an adult, until I had saved the money, I just bought it. Childish urges ruin me sometimes.
But as we continue to do well, I can understand that I haven’t worked on the skills that are necessary to make decisions when decisions aren’t cut and dry. Several years ago we would have been making a choice between food and electricity or a Playstation. That makes decision making easy.
The lesson here is to keep looking for skills that you haven’t developed as you move into a new mode of life. Because you will not be equipped for new phases when you get there. We are all learning on the fly.