I was a little put off the other day by a co-worker who had indicated he would stop by to talk to me about my project before leaving for a two-week vacation. I had hung around in spite of the worsening traffic to speak with him and when 5PM came and went, I walked down to his office to find it dark and the door closed. He had obviously left, forgetting about his promise to swing by. Admittedly I proceeded to stew over it for a bit, as in my mind my project was a priority and how dare he leave me hanging...
When I got home that night, after sitting in traffic for an hour which left me more pissed off, I logged onto my Facebook account and saw a timely post written by a friend who was apparently also having a bad day. She stated (and I am paraphrasing here): You know you are not a priority when you become an afterthought.
Some may think this to be a self-defeating statement, but it did drive home that even though my project was a priority to me, it did not trump the priorities of my co-worker; a single-dad who likely had to run out at 5PM to pick up his child from day camp. It actually made me feel somewhat ashamed for thinking my #1 priority at the time should have also been a priority to him.
Mentally apologizing to my co-worker for the undeserved cursing out, I started to think about what my own priorities should be in life. Since graduating from college 16 years ago, I've not always chosen the right path...in fact, many of the routes I have opted for have been bumpy, windy and oftentimes led to a dead end. As I inch closer and closer to 40, I feel the need to re-evaluate the direction my life is headed. When I think through the places screaming for improvement, I find I can categorize these into three classifications: Health, Money and Family.
Let's face it: I'm not getting any younger. What I could get away with at 30 I can barely get away with now. When I turned 34, I decided to make a change in the way I ate and exercised...taking away the bad stuff, adding in the good stuff. No fancy diet programs, no gimmicks, just good ol' common sense: a healthy diet and consistent workout routine. And it worked: I lost 50 lbs in less than a year. I was looking good and feeling great! Unfortunately, difficult events that happened subsequently threw me off my game and I allowed myself to fall off the proverbial wagon. Fifty pounds and a little more later I'm not feeling as good about myself as I should. In fact, I'm pretty miserable. But as any miserable person will tell you, there is morbid pleasure in languishing in your own misery and I realize that I am trapped in a comfort zone I have thus far been reluctant to step out of.
My doctor was cutting me slack for awhile, knowing the difficulty I was facing, but on this last visit she told me in no uncertain terms I needed to think about where I was and what I needed to do to change my outlook. It is with that in mind that I decided I needed a goal to reach for...simply losing weight to look and feel better isn't enough for me. I need something that will propel me forward and force me to be accountable. With this in mind I decided that next year I will participate in The Big Climb. At this point, I have about 7 months to prepare and get over my loathing of stairs. Whether or not I make it up 69 flights of stairs remains to be seen but honestly I have nothing to lose by trying, except a few (dozen) pounds. It is a tangible goal that is well within my reach, if I want it. Which I do.
People are often uncomfortable when it comes to discussing money. I typically bury my head in the sand when someone tries to broach the topic with me. I laugh it off and pretend like it's no big deal. However, money IS a big deal! It really does make the world go 'round and unless I want to be 65 and homeless, unable to care for myself in my old age, I'm going to need to pull my head out of the ground and face facts. Nearly halfway through my career, my 401K plan is a lark. My savings are pretty bleak and I am STILL making payments on a seven-year old, banged up Sebring that has most definitely seen better days. Turns out that when you are young and foolish and simply act on a whim to purchase a new vehicle every two years, regardless of how underwater you are on the previous loan, you have to pay the Piper eventually. I'm stuck with my car for the long haul as my trade-in is worth approximately $5K less than what I owe. I either have to come up with a $5K down payment or I just need to stick it out. Ten years ago, I would have plunked down the money and bought a shiny new car. Rent could wait. Now, I need to be responsible and if the car dies, I will just have to take the bus.
Barring my vehicular woes, my overall long-term outlook is looking pretty murky right about now. The good news is I have the power within me to turn it around. I am in a good position to do so, and a few small changes in how I approach my finances should right the situation. I have job security and a good paycheck. There really is no reason for me to keep going down this frost heave ridden road. Time to turn on the GPS and find the fastest route possible to financial stability!
Of course if I had my druthers, I would quit my corporate job and go work on my many philanthropic causes. *Oh - to be independently wealthy!* I started a non-profit organization awhile ago, with the intent to further awareness of the Arts and Philanthropy and to aid in the continuation of Art Education for the Masses. My challenge at this point is how do I balance my need for a full-time job and paycheck with a desire to make the world a better place? Thus far, the right answer has not presented itself to me, but things happen in their own time and I am confident I will eventually find the way.
Family has always been an interesting challenge for me. In my immediate family, we all love each other and would go to the ends of the earth to support our kinfolk. We may not always LIKE what our relatives do, but we still respect each other...most of the time. When I think about family as a priority in my life, it's how can I be the best daughter/sister/aunt/ granddaughter/niece/cousin I can be without compromising my own sanity. Likewise, how do I reconcile for feelings about not having a husband and children now, at a time in my life that many of my peers have that which I seem to be naturally repellent, and not end up a bitter and jaded spinster. As I said before - things do happen for a reason and everything will fall into its proper place. As the theme song of a very popular 70s sitcom put far more eloquently than I ever could: "This is it. This is Life. The one you get, so go and have a ball!"
As I read over this post, I realize how my priorities have shifted over time. If you had asked me to list my top three life priorities when I was 29, #1 would surely have been to Fall In Love; Good Health may not even have appeared on the list. It would have landed somewhere around #8 and Financial Stability would likely have been flailing around on the floor somewhere, begging for attention.
As time moves on what seemed of paramount importance to one yesterday is quickly replaced with other things. And although being in love is important, loving oneself is even more so...