Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On a serious note

Our little family is in a phase of transition.  Craig is bearing the brunt of supporting us while I finish school, so times are lean.  We've both prayed on, talked about, mulled over, and debated where we want to be and how we want to get there.  Sometimes this has been productive and other times it hasn't.  The result is one that I think will help us meet our family goals and Craig's professional goals.  Craig's decided to move back to finance and pursue is career there.  He's very excited about it and has made a lot of great contacts in the last month.  It's been a difficult decision for him leave the non-profit world.  He graduated with a 4.0 in his master's program and set out to help the world, but has been disappointed by what he's been able to provide for himself.  The good news is, the opportunity for helping the poor and disenfranchised is never closed to him or to us.  We've committed to continue in that effort and hope that this career move will better enable us to support those needs.

I know it's taboo to talk about money and other personal struggles, but I think it shouldn't be.  These are the things that every single person deals with at some point, although each in his own way.  As a couple we've had our good and not so good moments tackling this.  For his part, Craig is angry at himself, angry that he didn't stay the course originally in finance, angry that he's worked so hard and doesn't have as much as he'd like to show for it, and angry that he can't provide more for me.  I have anger too, although mine is baser as it comes from comparisons to other people.  In my weaker moments I'm angry that people I know have had things handed to them, some of them houses, etc. (I should note that I have had a privileged life as well and been given many opportunities. I'm only sharing my weaker moments.)  I'm angry that I've put in so much work towards a law degree and will walk out with more debt and possibly less income than people who never went past undergrad.  I often wonder if it will be worth it.  It's so easy to dwell in the negative, but I try to count each and every blessing I have and always find that  there are so many more than I deserve.  It's humbling and I'm ashamed that sometimes I can't see the forest for the trees. 

What we do have is ambition and it  rivals the best in our resolve to reach our own definition of success.  That success has nothing to do with cars we may drive or the square footage of our house.  We want to not have anxiety about money and the arresting fear that we won't stay above water.  We want to  live in comfort.  We want to live in a way that's pleasing to God.  We want to be able to send our children where they choose to go to college.  We want to have a nice retirement.  We want to own a home.  We want to provide charitably.

Once we decided what it is that we define as success and came to a plan on how to achieve it, we let go of a lot of anger and envy.  Craig said it like this, "One day when I'm sitting in my leather chair I will look around my house and at our family and know that I worked hard for whatever we have and I'll be proud.  Not everyone can do that."  We'll see about the leather, but I think that's a respectable sentiment.  You pay on the front end so you can enjoy it later.  We have both worked hard and will have to continue to do so, but we can always know we tried hard at something.

I know this is the longest post ever, but I want to end by pointing out some of the positive things we've learned during this time.  The first is the difference between a want and a need.  There is definitely grey area if you don't take a hard look at yourself and your goals.  We've made an effort to delineate between the two and I hope that we always do, no matter what we might one day be able to afford.  Perspective is priceless.  Second, we both never wanted for anything and were blessed by parents who provided fully for us as children.  We are no longer children, though, and have not been for some time.  As appealling as it might look when others are dependent, we could never and would never choose that.  Hand-me-down furniture, however, has been much appreciated : ) Lastly, time with people you love is by far the greatest thing you can have.  We have that in abundance and feel very, very fortunate.

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