Weekends are hard for me. Sundays in particular. No, I don’t dread going back to work the next day. The problem is that the weekends are a chance to slow down. Sometimes. And when I do slow do, I spend time catching up. Often times, I’ll read posts like “How to Pay Off $100K in a Year” and “How I Retired at 33.” I get inspired. But I also get really sad.
Those accomplishments are so far outside of my frame of reference. Simply put, they’re just not doable. Not now, and maybe not ever. This weekend, I started reading part of an early retirement post to my dad. For someone who doesn’t say much and pretends to notice even less, he read my face so fast, stopping me after only a few paragraphs: “You guys do well enough.”
Not the Best, But Better
One of the other comments my dad will make on occasion is the idea that we’re better off than a lot of people our age. He’s wrong, of course, if you look at my Twitter feed. There are people who have retired or are getting ready to retire. There are others who earned enough money out of school that they’re taking time off to pursue degrees in fields they love or are traveling the world. There are people who launched businesses and landed book deals. These people are our age.
The personal finance world is filled with exceptional people who are also kind enough to share their struggles and their successes. Part of what makes their stories so captivating, though, is the fact that they are choosing different paths, they are bucking the norm, they are pushing themselves, and they are challenging the rest of us to do the same. There is no doubt in my mind that I am infinitely better because of this community.
But I am not better off than these people. The personal finance world is not a microcosm of the world. It is not representative of the way that most people think of money, handle money, or approach life. And it’s so easy to lose sight of that. When you spend time in a world where a simple tweet about wanting to earn more money is met with dozens of different strategies by people who have actually charted the way, it seems like this world is a reflection of real life. It really is. And it also isn’t.
There are scary financial statistics about Americans in general. And then there are these statistics on millennials. Nearly half of us don’t save for retirement. About a quarter of us have been delinquent on bills. 40 million Americans, many of whom are my age, are paying off crushing student loans. I have friends who can’t cover unexpected home repairs. I have coworkers who worry about dying in debt. And for as much as I hope on some small scale that my own story might help someone else, I somehow manage to occasionally lose sight of these realities when I surround myself with success stories.
Well Enough in Other Ways
I have big dreams for the future that I’m only starting to figure out how to discuss. But I also have a career that fulfills me right now, a day job that lets me see an immediate impact on the world. I have a family who has put a strong foundation under my feet. I have a husband who is my perfect counterweight. And many times, I spend my time doing exactly what I would do if I weren’t working.
When we visit my parents, I spend countless hours out on the water. I walk through winding roads and wooded grounds. I spend time bird watching and failing at photographing them. Try as I may, the only thing I’m developing proficiency at is scaring them away. We have bonfires, we tell stories, we play games.
Even when I’m home, I walk the lake by our house. I hike the forest preserve trails that stretch for miles including an overlook that lets me see all the way to downtown. And I still can’t photograph those birds. Ducks, yes. Other birds, no. I garden, I read, I write.
I don’t have a great success story to share in this post. I don’t have expert advice or a post that is part article and part list that will enrich your life, lessen your debt, or double your dividends. But in this moment, right here and right now, I am doing well enough.
So Tell Me…Have you ever lost sight of well enough? How do you keep perspective and stay grateful?