I wasn’t around much last year; that’s no secret. The past year had many challenges and I am glad it’s over. Still, it was full of learning. It was busy and while our financial situation improved greatly, things are still tight. We did make progress paying our debt down, but not as much as I had hoped.
Life is tough. Even with all the good that has come from 2016, it has also been scary and sad. At the beginning of December, I found out a good friend of mine has cancer. Think about that. All the while, I’m over here stressing about whether I should put more money towards my credit cards or car loans. My friend is 24. I am 26. It definitely made me reevaluate and think about my trivial problems and stressors.
What is debt when you are fighting for your life? All this + additional struggles over the past 12 months have caused me to reflect on what I truly understand and know about life.
1. My problems aren’t really problems.
Every time I think about our debt, I feel hopeless. I feel like we’ll always be in debt and we’ll never make real headway. But is that really something to stress about? When I compare my “problems” to my friend being diagnosed with cancer, money really isn’t that big of a deal. Mike and I never struggle to pay our bills and we have a lot left over to have fun or pay off debt. Cancer is a real problem. Hunger is a real problem. Homelessness is a real problem. My loans aren’t a “real” problem. Neither are yours, unless they’re causing any of the above issues.
2. Opportunity is everywhere, but you must have the guts to take it.
When I got to Colorado, I thought I was simply going to continue on the IT path the Air Force had set me on and pursue my Master’s degree in some related field. A few months in, I realized that path might not be right for me. Sure, I am okay at my job and it suits me fine. However, it definitely isn’t my passion.
When I learned about the NECP, I knew I had to try. A large part of me believes I will never be accepted – that I’m not smart enough or won’t be what they want, but I still have to give it a couple of enlistments and try for acceptance. I don’t want to be left asking… What if?
3. I hate audiobooks.
On a more humorous note… Audiobooks, how I loathe thee! This is a recent revelation. In an effort to complete my 2016 reading list, I’ve taken to listening to audiobooks when I cannot sit and read. This is the most irritating endeavor I have ever taken on. I hate them. I think it’s making me judge the books and authors too. Some books had potential, but the minute I started listening to them on audiobook, I began hating them. Still yet, this is a necessary evil to read as many books as possible to accomplish my reading lists. 2017 is going to be full of audiobooks.
4. Money is only as good as the time you have to use it.
When we decided to aggressively attack our debt, most of our life choices became driven by the desire to make more money. It’s a one of the reasons I enlisted. However, even with these goals, I would never sacrifice my life for money. What good is money if you have no time to spend it? That is why Mike and I are prioritizing work-life balance this year. Life is short and money isn’t everything.
5. You don’t have to love your job.
Oh, how naive I was in college. I fed into the lie that you had to love your major and be passionate about your career path. Certainly, loving your job will make life easier, but it’s okay to just be good at your job with no strings attached. I don’t love my job in the Air Force, but I enjoy spending time with my co-workers and the pay/benefits (obviously) are amazing. As long as you’re not losing sleep at night or stressed to the point of sickness, working a good job that you don’t love is OKAY.
6. Your real friends will be there when you need them.
You can imagine the disconnect that happens when you move away from your home state. It doesn’t take long to learn who your real friends are. Anyone who doesn’t take the time to connect with you after you’ve moved away isn’t a real friend. That’s just the way it is. Your real friends will be there (via phone or Skype) when you need to cry or vent, and they’ll be the ones wanting to come visit and say hi. The not real friends… well… they’ll probably disappear.
7. Socializing is good, even if you kinda hate it.
I am an introvert by nature. Socializing outside of work hours is just not my thing. However, it is good to branch out and spend time with other people outside of your home. Last year, I spent a lot of time outside of my comfort zone, going out with friends and hosting various shin-digs at my house. It has been good for me, and it’s been nice to connect with my people who I may not have known, otherwise.
8. Drinking water is the #1 way to feel better.
I love drinking Coca-Cola, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t effect me negatively. Since joining the Air Force, I drink a lot more water and the positive effects it has on my body are obvious. Water is so much better than anything else you drink. I hate the taste, but love the way it makes me feel when I’ve been drinking a good amount for several days. I’m going to start combatting the flavor with cucumbers and lemons, etc – all the typical things people use to help them drink more.
9. Eating breakfast is the #2 way.
The breakfast I eat isn’t always healthy, but it is vital to starting the day out right. Sometimes, all I eat is a banana and apple, leaving me starving by 11am. However, when I eat toast and oatmeal or toast and eggs, I feel ready to greet the day and take on anything that comes my way. It keeps me from walking into work at 730am already daydreaming about lunch.
Eating breakfast sets you on the path of a good day. Take the time to work it into your schedule. You won’t regret it.
10. Any amount of exercise is better than none at all.
This is another piece I’ve taken from spending the last year in the military, where there is emphasis on fitness and smart lifestyle choices. Last year was the most fit I had been in years – probably since high school. Paying more attention to my body and how fit I was made a huge difference in how I felt about myself.
Give some time to making your body strong, and you will reap the rewards.
Every year, it goes the same way. I realize I’ve been holding on too hard and stressing too much. Every year, my age increases and I realize that maybe I don’t know as much as I thought.
I’m not saying you should take my expeiences as absolutes, but if you can find a bit of wisdom and apply it to your own life, more power to both of us, right?
What did you learn in 2016? Please share with me!