I was 17 when my mother came to me and told me that she had been talking with my brother for a few months now. She informed me that he had been going to the doctor and getting tests performed on him due to symptoms that he was exhibiting. The results had come back and he had a cancerous tumor growing off of his liver. The doctors were discussing what would be the best possible course of action, but the outcome looked grim.
I was a senior in high school during this time. I worked an average of about 35 hours a week at my job and was barely passing the 4 classes I had. Most of my money went towards food, clothes, gas, and car insurance.
The job was interfering with my school work. I never did any of the homework and I even stopped showing up for my English class, which was my morning class and who wants to get up that early for English. As the end of school was upon me I came to the realization that I was not going to be passing senior English, I mean if I wasn’t showing up it makes sense, right.
I was going to have to go to summer school to complete my high school education. On top of that my mom was laid off from her job so money was going to become tight.
After school ended I went to summer school, I started working more hours at my job, and I decided to get a weekend job to help with the finances.
This new job sent me for a drug screening. While waiting for my turn I had this overwhelming feeling of all this pressure on my shoulders and it was just pushing down on me.
Like, oh man what are we going to do. I am going to have to work 7 days a week till my mom gets another job. She is talking about leaving to go be with my brother back east. I still need to get my high school diploma. Money is going to be tight. One thought that keep going through my mind was, “I need to step up and take care of this.”
All this pressure made it very hard for me to take my drug screening. I pushed and pushed and nothing happened. Well something happened I ended up with a hernia from baring down too hard, ha. Just one more thing to add to the pile.
I went and had the surgery. As I recovered from the surgery my mom left to go back east to be with my brother. She had made the decision to move back there and I had made the decision to stay where I was. She had been traveling back and forth from west coast to east coast for some time now.
Things were tough. I existed by working, paying bills, and partying more than I needed to. I had to survive. I had to figure out things that I had never been taught. I had to do this with very little guidance on how to live on my own.
I learned through trial and error about paying bills, buying food, learning how to cook more than just basics (cause eating out all the time was expensive), and taking on new responsibilities that I had never had before. I did it, not without some failure but I did it.
As I was going through this process, which was one of my many rites of passage. Which can be described as periods in my life that forced me to face great challenges and overcome them. The spirit of my family motto “luctor” was strong in me. It is Gaelic for “I struggle, but am not overwhelmed”.
It was not the first time I had to venture into new territory alone, but it was the largest undertaken up to that moment.
As I do with everything in my life I pulled all the life lessons that I could out of those moments of struggle. I learned as I failed and I pushed forward every day with new knowledge to apply to my life.
I want to share some of those nuggets of knowledge with you now.
- Just because people want to hang out at your place does not make them your friends.
With my new found freedom I also acquired some new “friends”.
I would hang out with them and we would do things together, but they were never really friends. I say this because ultimately I saw that I was being used by them so they had a place to hang out at and crash for the night. Also because I had a functioning car and they did not.
I would be invited places so that I could drive them. If they had another ride I was not invited, go figure that one.
It is my belief now that friends are very important and the quality of that friendship is also very important at any age. It is beneficial that you have some solid close friends that can encourage you and support you to better yourself.
If you think that your friends that you have now are taking advantage of you or using you to benefit themselves, it is time to reevaluate those friendships.
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” -Jim Rohn
- Understanding what a budget is and how to make one is a great gift to yourself.
This was before high speed internet and google. This was a time of AOL and dial up, so there was no “just google it.”
No one showed or instructed me on how to budget my money. Or what a budget was. No one explained about the process of income, expenses, and savings.
I understood the basics like do not write checks when you have no money in your account, money comes in and money goes out. The biggest thing I did not know enough about though was savings.
In my head after bills were paid the remaining money was for me to spend how I saw fit. It was not much, but I spent it.
Then I was introduced to credit cards, also something that I did not understand. I understood credit cards as a way to pay and then I can make monthly payments later.
Well, as you can imagine things got tough financially and I had some serious hardships.
Things changed after a friend gave me the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. I read that thing cover to cover learning all kinds of new knowledge about finances I had never known.
I needed more so I went to the thrift store and bought someone’s old finance textbook. With that book I learned about budgeting for expenses and income. I also learned about different bank accounts, retirement accounts, and mutual funds.
I began to gain a better understanding of saving and spending.
I sat down formed my first ever budget and did everything I could to stick to it. I still stumbled a lot along the way. Even had a car repossessed after I lost a job.
With every one of my stumbles a learned a life lesson.
- Key points:
- Make sure you lay out a monthly budget of your income, expenses, and savings. I have found that averaging the last 3 months is a great way to get an idea of what you are spending and making and then adjust to maintain spending under a certain set amount while setting aside a percentage of savings. My recommendation is an 80/20; 80 spending 20 savings.
- Use a cash allowance each month for your personal spending of eating out, entertainment, and such. Once that cash is done you are done going out for the month. This will help cut down on overspending through credit cards.
- Savings is a must. Setting aside 20 percent of your monthly income to prepare for your future (car breaks down, operation needs to be done, retirement), needs to be a priority. So, make it a priority.
- If you cannot afford something at that moment and are thinking of using a credit card, don’t. Instead tell yourself it will be a goal and save up for it. Then when you have the cash go buy it, if you still want it that is.
- Ultimately, live within the amount of money you make (minus your savings of 20%). Try your hardest to not spend over your income.
- Do things that aid in making you a better person.
What do I mean by this? I mean learn, experience, explore, encounter, read, and write.
Being as young as I was and surviving my childhood (which was not walk in the park), I had two main thoughts at this age they were, “There has to be more to life than to work, pay bills, and just exist.” and “I do not believe what people tell me “we are who we are and that will not change”.
I did not understand how there was this idea that the only thing in life is death and taxes. Being in the work force and living on my own at my age I still wanted to get out there and do things in life. I wanted to change the world somehow. I was not sure at that time how. I did jump into a start-up for a clothing line of my own hoping that through this business I could express my thoughts on life through my shirts.
I still firmly believe that there is more to life than just working, pay bills, and existing. I challenge you to take up a discipline (learn a skill and own it till you master it), to start that business you have always wanted to, to travel to new foreign places, read a book that expands your mind making you want to be a better you, take that course at school or return to school for a degree, and immerse yourself into a culture different from your own.
I refuse to believe that people are who they are and there is no changing them.
As I see it, with each new challenge I face, I have a choice. I can either face this challenge head on or I can avoid at all costs and go on my merry way. Both choices will create something new that becomes part of who I am.
Avoiding the challenge creates within me a pattern of behavior where I avoid hard times in my life, so that I can continue to have a what I think is a problem free life.
Heading straight on into those challenges and then gaining all the knowledge and skills I can from the challenge will change me and my mindset. I will become smarter, faster in my processing, and be more aware of things situations I face.
This is how I have lived the majority of my life. I learn from my challenges by facing them head on. I take what I learn and I apply it to my life. Thus, bringing about changes within myself.
Now, what I am talking about is not the idea that I need to change until I am perfect. Screw perfection! That is a concept that is difficult to define. No one has ever seen perfection, so how do we even know what it is when we see it.
Some would say that Michelangelo’s statue of David is perfect. Now, I have seen this statute and it is something to marvel at, but perfection “No” it has flaws just like we all have flaws.
The idea I am talking about here is working at becoming the best version of yourself you have ever been.
Ultimately never stop learning because to learn is to live, to not is to die. Figuratively of course, but you get the idea. Keep striving to level-up.
Those are 3 things that I learned during early young adult years. They have been valuable lessons that I carry with me everywhere I go.
To recap: make and maintain quality friends that build you up as you do them, gain a greater understanding of your finances so that you can have better discipline with your income, with the hope that one day you will retire at a great age to enjoy more of life, and lastly strive to be a better you through experiencing, taking risks, and learn all you can.
There are more things I learned, but honestly that is for another post.
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