I remember thinking six months ago about how simple my life would be right now. I was about to enter one of the most exciting and challenging six month stretches of my life. I was switching jobs into a new industry after working with my previous employer for 10 years. I was finishing my my doctoral program. We were getting our house ready to sell and searching for a new one. We even bought a new (to us) car and traveled for several weeks.
The anticipation and stress was intriguing but I enjoyed the challenge. I remember thinking, “Oh, how simple life will be when this phase of life finishes.” Well, it’s finished. But, life doesn’t really feel like it has slowed down very much. I seem to have a pretty consistent level of stress despite the excitement in and around my life. My brain likes to think ahead and anticipate changes or challenges if the current set of stressors are not enough. I finished my 12th and final year of college. We sold our house and bought a fancy (*soon to be) new one. I moved into the field of financial planning full time and have learned a lot! We returned our electric car and reverted back to gasoline. I’ve even switched from coffee to espresso. I’ve settled in after traveling quite a bit and kids are a few months older than they were before. 2016 was a fun year. (Picture: My awesome parents at my graduation)
It’s Just Getting Started
Life is full of change and surprise. When my life gets too routine and predicable, I tend to instigate change or find new challenges. So, despite finishing up one stage of life, I’m simply entering a new phase with a different set of challenges. The house we purchased is a major fixer-upper and we just finished our first holiday with kids without traveling. We’re looking at schools, and helping the kids get prepped for the new academic subjects they will be learning once we register them in a few weeks.
My job is going extremely well but I still have a lot to learn. As soon as I figure something out- I get a new task to learn and complete. The pace of life will continue to grow, change, and evolve. As soon as one season passes another one will be on the horizon. And I like it. Life is pretty fun right now. I enjoy seeing big projects checked off the list. I also enjoy seeing fun ones added. I’m looking forward to the next few months and years.
The past six months have taught me something about stress. I need it. At least some level of it. It helps me get things done and make mental and physical progress. I’m a little more careful now about the types of stress I accept. I’m no longer looking to remove “stress” from my life, instead I’m willing to embrace aspects of it and make sure it is a positive type of stress that is motivational instead of detrimental. Finishing one stage of life simply means starting another. One tasks’ completion means I have mental room for the next one.
I miss writing. I miss taking the time to write out all of my thoughts, organize them, and get them in a publishable format. I’ve still written every week for the past year because I need to get stuff out of my brain and on paper/computer to maintain a relaxed mind. However, the random thoughts, starts, and stops have little cohesion and little value. The secondary process of culling the work, organizing it, and building depth to the thesis is the best possible way I can organize my brain. The past few months I have been doing a disservice to my brain by not prioritizing the writing and editing process. Well, at least for my personal self. I finally finished a well researched 150+ page paper about risk tolerance; but it was driven by external and not internal motivation (to finish school). The last few weeks I’ve taken the time to do some editing and organizing and it has been a nice way to finish/start the new year.
When You Finish
How long do you celebrate when you finish something important? It is a pretty fascinating question. When your team wins a playoff game, how long can you celebrate before moving on to prep for the next game? In life, we often get too ‘busy’ to really celebrate our achievements. There is too much focus on what comes next and we often begin to stress about the next item on our list before we actually enjoy what we’ve just completed. I actually took a nice mental break for about a week and celebrated with gratitude all the amazing things that have happened over the last year. I spent a lot of time with my kids and family over the holidays and I really enjoyed it. It has been fun; however, tomorrow begins a new season of hard work and mental problem solving. Part of me is looking forward to it. I like breaks- but I also like new challenges. 2017 should be pretty entertaining.
The Stress of Debt and Commitment
Sometimes we don’t realize the amount of stress we are under until it is gone. This is especially true of the longest term projects, activities, or obligations. There is a strange sort of pervasive stress that bounces around in the back of our heads at all times. In fact, we may actually go through days, weeks, or months without even thinking about it. But it’s still there. Still lingering around in the back of our head waiting to be triggered. For many of us, parenting also holds a similar type of background stress. Even when we try to relax, we still think about little things in our mind. However, I’ve had a few strange moments in the last few weeks. I have a few different times where I’ve been about to sit back and let the chatter in the back of the brain slow down. For the first time in almost 30 years I’m not concerned about school or have outstanding papers or projects. Although I still have those for work, I no longer have them for something that has been a huge part of my life for at least the last twelve years. I haven’t decided yet if I like it or not, but I certainly feel a weight or pressure lifted off. It feels like releasing a really large commitment.
On a secondary note, our debt free lifestyle is changing up a bit. We’ve taken out a home loan to purchase a fancy house and do some major renovations. The stress-free aspects of having absolutely no payments of the last few years will be gone, but I’m not sure how differently life will feel. We were certainly saving huge chunks of money without a mortgage or rent but we always knew we would probably switch homes in the coming few years. We may pay the new house off early once we get it fully renovated to our liking. But I’m also leery of the background stress that debt holds and the bust of consumption that accompanies a new home and moving.
2016 has been a fun year. A lot of change. A lot of excitement. And several big projects checked on the list. I’ll be working over the next month or two to really think through the ways life will change in 2017.