Me and my 4-year-old miniature Australian shepherd are happy. I’m single, healthy, blessed with professional success, and financially secure.
But things weren’t always so picture perfect. I’ve had a journey, ya’ll. At almost 35, the life circumstances I’ve experienced along the way have provoked some pretty big realizations. If I could talk to my younger self, I would say the following…
In love: Don’t marry the wrong person.
Sorry Warren Buffett, but I’d like to flip your “Marry the right person” advice and raise you a “Don’t marry the wrong person.” And my advice is better, I’d venture, as there’s far more damage to be done (emotional, financial, interpersonal) by marrying the wrong person than waiting to marry.
I’ve never been married. But I’ve been in relationships headed to marriage. Twice, my partners and I have picked out cut, color and clarity. But none of those engagements ever came to fruition; for that, I am extremely fortunate. In the space of five years I’ve changed immeasurably — if I had married then, I can only imagine the fallout — fallout that many of my friends have experienced themselves.
Somewhere around age 30, I got really honest with myself and admitted that the traditional family life — marriage and kids — just wasn’t an aspiration of mine. I had been brainwashed by society to follow that path, since the first baby doll to the last, thinly-veiled “So what’s next for you guys?” comment. Once my blinders were off, and I understood that those milestones just weren’t for me, I felt so free… free to let relationships naturally develop vs. nudging them to the altar.
Here’s my piece of free advice to the 20-somethings: before you jump into a lifelong commitment, ask yourself, what do you want?
I love my singledom, not settling, hopeful that my right person will come along. But still, marriage may not be in my cards, and that’s ok.
In career: Don’t live to work.
We were taught very young to: work hard, get good grades, graduate, get into the workforce, climb the career ladder, make money, and retire. Don’t dilly-dally, don’t waste time, don’t waste money, don’t waste your potential.
In my 20s, I was desperate to get out into the workforce, to make my parents proud, to bring in a paycheck, and to impress people with my accomplishments. To achieve this, I took on heavy course-loads required of my major, forgoing any electives that would slow me down.
I wish I hadn’t rushed it. I could’ve taken another year to graduate. I would’ve taken the musical theatre class. Tried out for the play. Became fluent in Spanish. Studied abroad.
So I joined the rat race… but something was missing. I found myself looking for an outlet for my interests and passions. So I took three years of private ballroom and Latin dance lessons (if only you could see me tango). Spent a small fortune every year on Broadway tickets (Hamilton, San Francisco, Row 8, BEST DAY OF MY LIFE). Joined a few choirs, performing several times a year (complete with solos, dancing, costume changes and the SPOTLIGHT). It’s not that I didn’t know I loved performing when I was younger and chose not to explore it. I sidestepped my passion to instead pursue a “sure thing.”
What I would tell my younger self is this: Don’t live to work. Live for what feeds your heart and soul, what makes you feel alive. The rat race will always be there. It’s not all there is. And your job doesn’t define you. (Few of us are so lucky to have our passion and our work be one and the same!)
In money: Experiences over possessions.
As I was climbing up the corporate ladder and making more money, I saw my friends with status symbols like cars and handbags and felt a need to show off my success. So, I upgraded my clothes, jewelry, and furnishings; amassing a ton of stuff. I got a luxury convertible I really couldn’t afford.
But those things weren’t me, and they didn’t actually make me feel successful or financially secure — the opposite, in fact, was true.
Now, I drive a humble CR-V (without air-conditioned seats). I wear the same basic earrings every day, save a special occasion. I buy one new purse a year. I save or invest 40% of my earnings, living way beneath my means. The only big purchases I make are out of need or in furtherance of experiences — whether I use my stockpile of savings to fund the sabbatical world trip I’ll take one day, or to retire early, financial independence is far more valuable to me than material wealth.
What I’d tell a younger me: the earlier you put money away, the more future buying power it has; exponentially more than money spent immediately or money put away late.
To wrap it all up…
My single MOST IMPORTANT piece of advice, from which all of my earlier advice stems from… FORGET WHAT PEOPLE THINK.
Don’t get married just because you’re “supposed to” or because “it’s time.” Don’t choose your career on “suitability,” choose a calling. Forget the things that’ll make you look rich, invest in what truly enriches your life.
Let everything you do be best for you; for now or later, and for the betterment of what really matters in this life.
Please share if this resonates with you, and leave me a comment below. 😘