In some cultures there is a tendency to desire a lot when you grew up with little. As a teen all my belongings were able to fit into a duffle bag and unlike my peers I didn’t even have access to a landline phone to participate in nightly 3-way conversations with classmates. So you can imagine I had grandiose dreams of minimum 3-level extravagant home and at least 1 luxury brand car. Consequently, my primary goal for attending college was to land a six-figure job that would allow for all those amenities while making the parents proud.
However, there has always been an internal voice within that has desired more than external rewards. I remember a critical moment in high school when I was ready to make the leap to a less glamorous but more fulfilling career choice and when I mentioned that choice to my mother it was met with silence. I knew right then that was not the vision she had for me and that I needed to stick with plan A, which would provide access to the 6-figure job. I knew my mom meant well seeing that she wanted me to capitalize on newfound access to educational opportunities that could prevent me from the all too familiar financial struggles she had to endure.
Consequently, I quieted that internal voice and headed to college to gain access to that 6-figure job. However, it proved to be illusive. There was always some form of mishap that prevented me from crossing the rungs of the ladder to material success. For example, I initially began college pursuing my second choice major that I had filled out on my application. After my first year it was time to apply to transfer into the program that I initially desired to pursue. A subsequent conversation with an admission counselor revealed that I was not initially accepted to the program because I had selected both a first-choice and second-choice majors, which admission sees as me not being committed to my first choice major. As a first-generation university attendee that was one of the difficult lessons I had to learn – only select one major regardless of confidence level. The admission counselor proceeded to inform me that very rarely were students able to transfer from other programs into the one I am interested; to be precise usually only 1 per year. Yikes! There were a number of other attempts to get into the program I was interested, such as applying to other institutions but there was always some unlikely mishap (not relating to academic merit). You can imagine that after so many experiences I resided that maybe divine order or fate if you like required me to stay put. And that I did.
I decided to go graduate school for one of the “hard sciences”. By far this has been one of the most difficult yet growth-inducing experiences that I have had. There were many times that I wanted to quit but through endurance and a lot of self-work, I made it to the other side with more than just a degree. It is here I began to recognize and accept that I need to value myself and pursue actions that are in direct support of my own dream.
In valuing myself, I recognize that my internal wellbeing and achievements are far more important that any physical possession I can attain. To this end, I have been gradually participating in activities that feed and nurture the inner depths of myself. One such example is mindful living. I am more intentional about the person I am becoming as well as the choices for everyday living.
I have to admit that in coming from humble beginnings it has innately set precedence for being eco-friendly and fiscally conscious. For example, I grew up not wasting electricity – if you are not in room the lights must be off or you unplug appliances such as microwaves when not in use. However, graduate school provided the first opportunity to be “financially independent of my parents” and one trend I observed early on was that I began pouring money into purchases of new clothes. Even though more than 95% of these items were priced cheaply, I realized that I began curating an excessive surplus. A blessing in disguise occurred when I had to move to a smaller house and a bit of downsizing was warranted. Yes there were some furniture that had to find new homes but it was also time for some of my clothes to find new owners. This began a revolution that resulted in a personal contract that for every shoe or clothing bought I had to give away something, provided I was not replacing an item that was no longer wearable. I am now at a point where I have reduced my clothing and shoes by about 50-60% and purchases are based on need.
A very welcomed feeling I experienced after downsizing my space and wardrobe was that I did not miss the extra stuff! For example, I recently moved for work to a new rental home. Rather than trying to fill all the empty spaces, I am fixed on working to donate and/eliminate “stuff” that are no longer needed or of use so that the space is lighter, which feeds my soul.
You see not only does these choices feed my soul but one of my mindful choices is a path of financial freedom. My mindset is the less stress, debt and material possessions I have, the more fulfilled and rewarding this life will be. With this in mind, I no longer care to commit to social norms and status quos that don’t support my vision. One lesson learned from my acquisition of enormous student loan debt trying to access the six-figure dream is that it is better to stay true to my internal voice. Staying true to one’s own internal desires will certainly provide the fuel and ingenuity to achieve them.
And so rather than my mind on money I have my mind on mindset… or at least that is the goal!
You made it to the end of my very first blog post! I can be verbose so I am very appreciative of your perseverance!
I invite you to join me on this journey as I grow in my faith walk, mindful living, financial freedom all while managing the demands of educational debt more than twice my salary as well as heading a single-parent household.
Until next time, sincerest gratitude…:-)