Monday, November 27, 2006

Taking a chance on time

I've been more aware of the "growing-up" process this year than any other I can remember. I don't think it's because I've become any more adult-like this year as compared to others, rather I think a lot of growth that was cultivated in the past is simply coming to fruition, making it easier to recognize. A prime example of this is my take on investing and spending money - but the things I've learned are applicable in regards to investing on a broader level - be it with money, time, energy, creativity or even dreams.

For some reason, I've always struggled with spending money. In a lot of ways you could use my financial portfolio as an analogy of how I've lived my life. I try to diversify, take reasonable risks but until very recently have seen money as something to be held onto as much as possible, that it shouldn't be wasted - it should be guarded for whatever it might be useful for in next steps and future experiences. So while I had no problem buying paltry things - a $20 shirt here, some $6 dollar earrings there, any major purchases were to be obsessed over, ascribed a fixed amount of mandatory guilt and required at least three justifiable excuses as to why the purchase was worth it. Simply wanting something, or knowing it would enhance my life (be it yoga classes, or a digital camera) weren't enough to override the guilt of wanting stuff. Then, almost two years ago, I took a financial leap. I decided that saving prudently wasn't enough - I needed to be willing to take a risk. And so I bought a house (in a market I could afford, which means another state where I can rent it out and more or less cover my costs). That started a change in my financial outlook, which if I can get through this post will hopefully be instrumental in reflecting a change in my overall outlook.

Suddenly money wasn't something that needed to be controlled for fear of life blowing up in my face, or the idea that the unknown experiences in my future would somehow benefit from blindly saving to support them. Without being willing to invest in my now, how would I ever be able to get to that future, be it grad school, moving abroad or buying a house that I could actually live in? So I started to loosen the purse strings, started to pursue activities that would enrich my life. I started to realize that there is immense worth in valuing time, energy, creativity and activities as much as I do the security of a solid savings account.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post, and a thought that struck me as I was driving from my parents house to the Bay Area today to fly back home. As I prepare to make some major changes in the new year - to leave my job at the end of January, to take some time off, to go to Africa - I realized that while the money will more or less be flying out the door for a number of months - I am making an investment in time. I am taking a chance that the weeks and months of space to breathe, research, dream and travel will provide a solid return on investment. That somehow when I come out the other side and step into that future that I've spent the last four years hanging so many decisions on, that it will have been worth it. It's not a decision I think I could have made if I hadn't been forced to reassess my somewhat back-assed views of money and what purpose it serves over the last few years. And I have no illusion that money won't play a role - that the decisions I come to about my work and the path I hope to pursue won't somehow take money into account. But the significant thing to me is that time is now the guiding force - not dollars and cents. Time and a little, or perhaps a lot, of faith.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish that I had some of your former take on money. I have always been the type to spend what I can on what I want and just put a little away for times of need. However, when times of need last longer than you ever expected they would, the $400 shoes that you wear once every three months seems a little silly. But I still love them and wouldn't trade them for anything. I guess what I am trying to say is it seems you have found a really good balance between the two and I think it will make you happy.

11/28/2006 11:57 AM  

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