Life Lessons From A Small-Sized Adult: Part Two

Look at me, getting to Part Two in a timely fashion! Let’s get right to it.

DATING & RELATIONSHIPS

Trust Your Gut. You ever get a pang of “This isn’t good” when you’re involved with someone? I have, too many times to count. And for the longest, I ignored that gut feeling because I liked a guy, or at least liked what I thought he was or could be. Guess what happened every time I ignored my intuition? Up in flames, baby. I was the master ignorer of gut feelings and red flags in my 20s. The red flags were often so obvious that my friends could spot them, sometimes from several states away. But I would make excuses for some dude’s bad behavior, analyzing his life and coming up with a hypothesis on how he got like that (born an asshole, as some people are) and why it was okay (it wasn’t). I sometimes put up with things for a month or two more than I should–which I’m working on cutting down to “not a minute longer than I should”–but I don’t drag things out for several month or longer because my intuition bells ring too loudly if I try. I say intuition because while sometimes the red flags are obvious, other times it’s hard to tell if it’s red flags or just normal human flaws, but my gut always knows which side they fall on. I’m betting your’s does too.

Speak Up. In my 20s, I was afraid to say how I really felt or talk about where things were going with guys I dated. Not only did I not want to put pressure on someone, but I think I wanted to be that chill girl who is cool with whatever and didn’t need to make plans. But that kind of attitude or failure to communicate caused a lot of confusion and sometimes heartbreak. Now when I start to date someone, I’m very up front about my schedule and how I don’t stand for constant bailing and consistently pushing plans back by several hours for no reason. I figure if a guy doesn’t like that, he can go find someone else. I don’t have the kind of traditional timeline that a lot of people have that involves moving in together, getting engaged, getting married and starting a family, but if those things are important to you, I say let ’em know. Maybe not on the first date, but also maybe not before you get too far in. I’m not a relationship expert, but I’ve noticed a big difference in the relationships I’ve been in where I wasn’t shy to say how I feel or what my non-negotiables were as opposed to those where I didn’t say a peep about anything that was important to me. It can be scary to be so open with communication, but I’ve learned that it’s definitely worth it.

Actually, I’d rather they communicate with me, but I did find this funny enough to make my Facebook profile picture for a minute in 2016.

Let It Go, Let It Go. To me, the worst part of dating isn’t the near constant disappointment or the analysis/translation of texts that often needs to be done. It’s how much mental time and energy I sometimes expend, particularly when things aren’t going well. I’ve gotten a lot better with this over the years and my tendency to cut things off by the three month mark is helpful, but I could still improve. When I catch myself in the midst of dating overthinking, I try to force myself to snap out of it and let those thoughts go. I’ve learned that overthinking and worrying does nothing to change the past, has no affect on what could happen in the future and makes me feel like shit in the present. So I do my best to pull away from those useless thoughts (which usually also means avoiding going to my friends for input) and focus on more important things like my business, redecorating my apartment and taking Buzzfeed quizzes.

OWNING A BUSINESS

Get Thee A Support Group. Girllllll, running a business is a wild ride. But if you’re a solopreneur, it can be mad lonely. I’ve learned that surrounding myself with other entrepreneurs who I can turn to for support and advice is essential. I’m lucky enough to have found my people through Hatch Tribe. And, well, I’ll just let you read this.

Save Yourself. Unless someone else is funding your business, you need money. And probably more than you think. As a business owner, I wasn’t in the position to put away much in savings for the first five years. But once I could, I did, and now I can’t stop, won’t stop. You never know when a law or tax code is going to change and cost you. Or when something is going to change/break/flood at your office or storefront. I’ve found that having a good cushion of savings helps me weather those unexpected storms without putting me in a bad position or causing anxiety.

Give Me a Break. I’m the first to admit that I’m not great at taking time off. But, I am improving! I’ve learned that giving myself permission to take the afternoon and sometimes evening off (I’m not quite at a full day yet) is not only important but imperative to my personal well-being and my aptitude as a business owner. Batteries need a recharge, you know? Entrepreneur burnout is real and it is rough, but it can be avoided by taking some time off. I’ve found that scheduling in hangouts with friends on my calendar like I schedule in meetings and client appointments makes me take those breaks (which I always love) so I don’t work all day, every day.

Sometimes you have to take a break, throw on a blue wig and go out with a friend on Fourth of July Eve.

MONEY

You Ain’t Rich. Or I don’t know, maybe you are. If you’ve got a yacht, six houses and a personal assistant for your dog, skip to the next section. But if you sometimes look at something and think “I wish I could afford that,” stay right here. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life is to live within your means. If I’m being honest, I’ve personally been pretty good at this for my whole life, I think because I’ve always had people around who weren’t, and I saw the struggle they went through. Some of the lessons I’ve learned have come more from watching others than experiencing it myself. I saw people who could barely pay their rent or mortgage spend money on nice cars, trips, clothes, concert tickets, etc. then feel major stress when their bills were due. Even from a young age, I remember thinking Why don’t they just buy the stuff they can afford? I don’t mean this in a judgmental way, and maybe the things people buy that they don’t have the money for bring them so much joy that it’s worth it. As an observer of life and a Psych minor who is fascinated by people’s behavior and choices though, I wonder why some people buy things that they can’t afford but also constantly feel stressed about money.

I’ve had my share of the bank account blues, and I’m no financial wizard, so I’m sure there are things I could be doing better. But I try to be very aware of what my expenses are, what my income is and what that leaves me for spending money. Once my business took off and I made enough to have spending money, I figured out what kind of lifestyle I could afford and went from there. Having little or no money is crazy stressful, so why put yourself in that position? I realize it can’t always be avoided, and I’m not talking about people who are born into poverty or experience unexpected major financial problems. I’m just saying I’ve learned that I had to say no to fun trips, new clothes, dinners out, etc. at certain points in my life because doing those things would put me behind with my bills. The point of this very long section is that if you’re struggling financially, it may be worth it to take a hard look at your lifestyle and see if you can really afford it. If you can’t, you can either minimize your expenses, increase your income, or both, which will in turn likely reduce your stress. And isn’t life better when you have less stress?

By all means, take a vacation if you can afford it. But if it means you won’t be able to pay your rent that month, I’d advise you to think twice.

Sweat The Small Stuff. I’ve never been shy about saying that my first five years in business were a struggle. I was making just enough to get by, and it was tough. I reduced as many of my expenses as possible, and I also learned to pay attention to the small stuff. Gone were the days of buying coffee, which could easily cost me $500 a year if I did it five days a week. At the time I lived in Struggle City, that $500 a year would pay for two months of rent at my shared office space, and now I look at $500 as two round trip flights to Charleston. Also during those years, I learned to check for coupons and promo codes before I bought/ordered anything. Even if I only saved $25 a month, that was half my electric bill or Internet bill at the time. I set alarms on my phone so I would never go over my parking meter time and get a ticket, I sold clothes I didn’t wear on consignment instead of leaving them to collect dust in my closet, I printed business documents double sided so I didn’t have to buy as much paper, etc. I found that these small savings added up, and I still do all of those things today.

Give It Up. Even in my broke-est (not a word) days, I still knew I had it better than a lot of people. Not just financially, but because of my quality of life. I was safe in my own home, healthy, had food and access to clean water and had shelter. There are a lot of people who don’t have all of those things, and money can help improve their lives. So seven years ago, I decided my New Year’s Resolution would be to make a different charitable donation each month that year. I kept that up after 2012, and now I’m able to give more money and do it more frequently. It’s not a humble brag, but I’m mentioning it because it’s one of the financial lessons I’ve learned. I feel like part of my responsibility as someone who is lucky enough to have a good life and have my basic needs meet is to help out those who are struggling and haven’t been so lucky. I know I talk a lot about saving and buying what you can afford, but I seriously doubt anyone was ever met with financial ruin because they made too many donations.

MISCELLANEOUS

Move, Get Out The Way. You ever try to get by someone when they have plenty of space and they somehow don’t see you so they don’t budge? Or walk up to a bar with two friends and know that if the oblivious guy sitting there moved down to the empty seat next to him there would be three open seats for you and your friends? Isn’t that maddening? I’m assuming someone taught me this when I was young, but I am always very aware of where I am in relation to other people and if I am taking up more space than I need. I want to be comfortable, but I also want other people to be comfortable (unless they like Tupac better than Biggie). I think part of being a good human is being aware that other people exist, and acknowledging that it’s not just you and the people you are with in when you are out in the world.

Timed Out. I’ve been late a few times in my life (not for clients), and it always makes me feel frazzled. I also find it very rude to the person I am meeting up with/have an appointment with, as I believe it gives one of two messages (often both): “Your time is not as important as mine” and “I’m bad at time management.” I don’t think my time is more important than anyone else’s and I’d like to think I’m good at time management, so those aren’t messages I want to give. Being on time (usually early) has served me well in my professional life, as it’s part of what proves to clients that I am responsible and reliable, and in personal life, I think it’s made me viewed as a reliable friend. Like Ashanti, I’m not always there when you call, but I’m always on time.

Late? Not me. I was born early (literally).

Forget The Shoulds. At my age, some people would say I should be married. I should have kids by now. I should own a home, not rent an apartment. But I don’t give a shit about how other people think I should live my life. My life is dope. I’m not a conventional person, and I have no desire to do things that way some others think I should. I didn’t learn this lesson until my mid 20s, but I’m glad I did because it’s a big one. If you know a decision you have to make is smart, won’t hurt others and will make you happy, I say do it to it, even if you face disapproval. I’ve learned to make my decisions that way, and that is part of what’s allowed me create the life I want. I realize some people have very strong-opinioned people in their lives who put pressure on them, and I’m sure that’s tough. No one who I love has tried to blatantly should me into something, so I’m lucky. But I have encountered some people–even some who I care about–who have implied that I’m doing something weird or living life the wrong way, and some who’s disapproval I can sense. And to them, I (silently) say Your opinion about that means nothing to me. Let’s break down your life and see if the shoulds you caved into worked out for you. I’ve learned to live my life the way I want to, and it’s working out great.

 

I’m now over a week into my late 30s, gaining so much wisdom it hurts (everything hurts after 35) 😉 If even one thing I said helps you or makes you feel better about something, I’ll consider this two part series a success. Thanks for reading!

Have a beautiful day 🙂

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