Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Life Lessons from 2009 (or just a bunch of words in one place)

Things that I learned in 2009

1. Waste makes Haste

Yes, I know the saying is haste makes waste but that is not the lesson I learned.  I learned that waste makes haste. The year of 09 was cluttered as could be.  I was no longer a newlywed (I say we still are, but for the sake of this lesson-learned, I was not)  and I was no longer fresh out of college. I was working 40 hour weeks, juggling bills, moving homes, making and maintaining relationships, volunteering, working for free, and doing an awful job.  There was just to much "that" for one of me.

Simplifying my world was the answer.  Everything from keepsakes to weekly obligations, bills to luxuries, it all is in a process of streamlining and simplification.  I have a lot of work to do still, all the while working on not throwing the baby out with the bath water.  But dang if that baby isn't a fatty.

2. Living with people is hard
2009 will henceforth be known as the year I lived in community. I started out the year with just my husband and I in a one bedroom apartment.  Then we moved to a 5 Bedroom, 4 bath home with 2 4 5 other people for 5 months, until the house sold. The rotating number of roommates was chaotically fun.  There was always something cooking (in the kitchen and otherwise) and never a lonely moment.  We then moved to a 5 bedroom 2 (as in: 1, 2. 2) bathroom house, in which we currently are living.

I am amassing some major life lessons. Best not to get into them all right now.  The best advice I had received before moving in to these places was "Learn the lessons that come up here, and learn them well.  These are lessons you don't have to learn on your family."  You are welcome, future Waneka babies, I am learning away so your barefoot selves will like me a little better.

I think the best thing I have gleaned from my living situations is that it is hard to live with people.  No matter who you are, and no matter who they are.  If it is easy you then it is probably hard for them.  If it is hard for you, it is probably still hard for them. The simple act of placing yourself in the mix with 5 other (or 1, or 2, or 3) personalities brings out all kinds of surprises.  Most of all from yourself.

3. Debt is the problem, not money.
As I'm sure I have mentioned 100 times before, this year started out with a couple of big challenges for me.  Tyler and I were only about 6 months into our marriage and already going through the lows of a job loss, the stress of a major injury and surgery, and beginning to pay off the debts we earned in the fleeting early years of adulthood (aka STUPID COLLEGE BILLS).

About mid-way through the year we began meeting with a financial mentor.  Our friend, Michael, is 40 years married, retired, and debt free.  A great role model on so many levels.  As we started to come clean about our bad habits, divulge the details of what we owe and who we owe, and own up to some of the dumber choices we made, one thing became clear to me: money doesn't suck. Debt does.

We had lived under the advisement that it was more important to live now, and worry about it later.  But yo, so wrong.  As Tyler and I have begun our aggressive attack on debt we have learned first hand that when you have debt, you are under someone's thumb.   I want to be the boss of me, so we're chiseling away.

4. Trusting people to be your friends even if you don't get why is hard but makes you a better friend.
I have some wonderful long-term friendships, some have lasted longer than most marriages in the US.  The thing about these friendships is that I began them when I was young.  I was young and baggage free.  Unfortunately, I have had some friendships that came and went quicker than a travel mug (because dammit, if those things don't just run away on their own).  I have come away from those places a little bruised up and carrying these ideas that close friends in adulthood might not exist.

This year, a light has come on.  They exist and they are wonderful.  You just have to scale back your baggage to about the size of a carry-on. We all have had relationships that make it hard to be comfortable in new ones, but as long as you are walling everyone out you will be walling yourself in.

I have an obnoxious sense of humor, I sneeze really weird, and I sometimes ask really stupid questions.  But to know me is to love me  and some people want to do that. Who I am to stop them?

5. Love is better in action.
I think my biggest lesson of the year came in February. The same month that Tyler and I learned that surgery was going to cost us about a month's worth of income, not including physical therapy or incidentals.  We began to discuss the idea of putting off the surgery until we had saved up enough to pay for it, or simply not doing it at all.  Tyler was wrestling with the idea of never snowboarding again at 24.  Kind of brutal.

One night, at one of our weekly dinners with our friends we told them about the idea of putting off the surgery and how that was the direction we were leaning.  They had already been there for us, making dinner for us while Tyler was on crutches and watching the entire 10-hour series of Band of Brothers because we were pretty much locked in the house for a few days after the injury. They were taking care of us, and keeping our spirits up. After we finished telling them our plans for the next few month they handed us a card with a check in it, a check to cover the surgery.

Close to 20 people, some really close friends and others just barely knew us, pitched in what they could and raised a couple thousand dollars to cover our costs.  It was incredible.  I still don't know how to explain what it felt like to receive that check. They were already there for us and supporting us through a pretty stressful experience and didn't need to do anything more.  What moved me the most was that they jumped in and footed the bill.  They didn't hope for the best and then wait to see if we were going to sink or swim, they jumped in the water with us and made sure we made it.

This experience has totally changed my perspective on how you care for the people you love.  It is always good to have good feelings, and warm wishes towards the people or the issues that you care about.  But the way that you feel is really only about you; it's what you do to show them you care that matters. Excuse me for the drama but the St. Crispen's Day speech from Henry V says "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother," so poetically sums up what it means to carry burdens with the people you love and how thankful I am for my friends who have done that.

And so...
I wanted to write about the things I learned and try to remember the changes that happened this year, more for me than for anyone else.  But I have stumbled through my language, and don't know if I even said what I wanted to. Oh the fine line of blogging and that which resembles public drunkeness.

Well I had a good year, and I didn't know I was going to.  Goodbye Aughties, I'm off to the tens, or the teens, or you know, the next ones.

Merry Christmas Internets!