I spent my twenty-fifth birthday up in San Francisco, listening to bluegrass in Golden Gate Park and grabbing drinks in the Mission with my college girlfriends. My best friend came up with me, putting up with a 12 mile walk to get my favorite pizza and my eternal college nostalgia and just generally being the best. It was one of my favorite birthdays to date, full of laughter, music, and love. Oh, and tequila….a LOT of tequila. Oops. Surprisingly (and thankfully), the next day did not involve a hangover. But, as with all birthdays, I was struck with a need to re-evaluate.
Milestones typically occur at different points for different people, because surprise! – not everyone moves at the same pace. I know that I’m not in a place where I want to get married, or have kids, though many people my age are. I don’t have a book deal or an agent, I haven’t traveled as much as I’d like, I haven’t made any movies or sold any TV shows, and I still live at home with my parents in an attempt to save as much money as possible before I ultimately leave the nest for good*. I don’t plan on going to graduate school – at least, while the degree I want continues to cost over $100k – and I’m still figuring out how to navigate the two career paths I have in front of me, one far more realistic than the other. Navigating the waters of adulthood gets more difficult on a daily basis, and as much as I like the benefits of being an adult, it’s easy to long for the days of being a kid.
I haven’t accomplished a lot of what I’d like to have done by 25, though not necessarily for lack of trying. I was looking over my resolutions the other day and I realized I haven’t met a lot of the goals I set. Why? Because, quite simply, life happens. Sometimes you need to spend two grand fixing your car instead of putting it in your savings account, sometimes you get sick (multiple times in a row…), sometimes you need to forget about yourself for a bit in order to help someone else out, or sometimes you need to live at home for awhile longer than expected. However, despite failing to reach a lot of goals I set, I’ve also managed to accomplish several things that weren’t on that list. At the end of the day it all adds up — and while it matters to me that I don’t have a finished rewrite I can start selling, I’ve been able to take care of people I love when they needed it, and that means a lot.
The most difficult lesson I’m still in the process of learning is how to find balance: between my needs and my wants, between my realities and my dreams. I need to be able to account for both the things I want to do (see: resolutions) and the day-to-day stuff that needs to be dealt with. I’m really proud of where I am, but I know I’ve got a long ways to go. There are so many things I want to do: stories I want to write, foods I want to try, places I want to explore, people I want to meet and I know there’s got to be a way to have it all. Or, maybe not have it all, but have enough of each so that I can feel balanced.
The last couple of months I’ve become a lot more strict about how I manage my budget. I mapped out all of my spending and split it up so that I’m putting at least one full paycheck straight into my savings account. I’ve been able to save more since I started doing that than I have in several previous months, and the best part is – I don’t even feel like I’m depriving myself of anything. I don’t need another pair of jeans or a new bag, and the sense of accomplishment I feel when I put away a chunk of money is far more satisfying that the instant gratification of buying something I ultimately won’t care about. That said, it’s not as though I’m depriving myself – if I see something I want and it fits into my budget, I’ll get it. If I want something expensive (like a leather jacket or a new computer), I’ll put it into my budget so that I can save up for it. Most importantly, I’ve been reminded of how good I can be at something if I’m disciplined at it.
All of that to say: I need to be better about focusing on what I really want, and how to accomplish that. It’s simple: I want to write, so I need to dedicate more time to it. I want to be healthier, so I need to figure out how to fit in a daily workout and talk to my doctor about improving my general health. I want to deal with my stress in a healthy manner, so I should go to yoga more than once a week. If I want to make something, I need to go ahead and actually make it. I need to help myself get what I want, because no one else is going to do it for me. I’ve always been someone who thrives on lists and schedules, and while I think the idea of scheduling every moment of my day is ridiculous, I do think that starting to block out time for the things that are important to me will be really helpful.
I’m using this birthday as an excuse to jumpstart some serious changes. I’m not getting any younger, and until I’m able to Dorian Gray my way to eternal youth I’m gonna try to make the most of my time. I’m ready to take control so that even when life does get in the way, I’m still able to get my shit done and then be able to sit back with a glass of wine and relax.
*This alone will be a whole other post, involving fear of living alone and/or finding the perfect roommate, the economy, graduating in a recession, cost of living in LA and the ever-changing job market. Oh boy!