From the Other Side

I’ve started and set aside quite a few posts in the last few weeks. Life has been rather uneventful lately, introspective rather than busy. I’ve spent a lot of time on my balcony (it’s been a beautiful spring so far!), baking, being active, reading, and introspecting on life, not money. Surprisingly, this has provided little inspiration for blog posts.

A relationship ending closes a life chapter, but opens a new one. It helps one to re-think what one wants out of life, without thinking of someone else at the same time. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few weeks thinking about what I want out of life. Financial goals have always been easy for me to come by. They’re easy to define, measure, chart, and feel a sense of accomplishment. But life goals? They’re a bit more wishy washy. They’re harder to measure and to define and you often can’t really chart them, though many of them probably go in a zig zag pattern. I’m at a point now where I feel like I can do almost anything money will buy, it’s just a matter of finding the time. It’s an interesting feeling.

I’m probably missing something, but these are the six quadrants I see to my happiness:

1) Home: Many people told me that I should spend my twenties renting since I don’t really know where life will take me. But for me, my home provides a real sense of contentment that renting wasn’t really giving me. It provides a sense of stability that helps cement me while I figure out the rest of my world. I absolutely hated my temporary place last year by the time I finally moved to the condo. This condo is probably the nicest place I have ever lived in. I feel fortunate every day that I am able to easily afford this place. I love my bedding. I love my bedroom, including the painted wall I color matched to my decorative pillow cases. I love my shower. I love my closets. I love my mirrors. I love the photos I’ve put up throughout the condo of my travels. I love having an office / guest bedroom. I love the windows in all the rooms. I love my balcony. I love my pantry and my kitchen sink and how easy it is to clean my stove. I love the entryway. My patio furniture is growing on me (it’s still pretty new!). I love my neighborhood. It really does feel like a neighborhood and it is quite walk-able. I do miss being a bit closer to work, but I like this area far more than anywhere closer to work. I love that I am paying less per month to own this place than I was to rent a place almost half the size. I don’t like my electricity bill. I will conquer it some day.

2) Fitness: Being single allows me to set my own schedule. The onset of summer provides a lot more flexibility in this as well. I’m still walking to/from work every day, which gives me ~25 miles/week of walking. I also am a huge fan of combining socializing and fitness, so I picked up another sport for the next few months. I like doing more than one sport each week – more variety for the mind and body, using different muscles. There is now enough time to run in the evening, but it’s hard to convince myself to go for a run when I’ve already walked 5 miles that day. Since I’m trying to maintain a certain number of miles of activity each day, I am trying to run on the other weekend day without the extra sport. It’s a bit of a juggling game, but the routine I’ve been developing so far has been rewarding.

3) Social: This is probably the hardest one for me while single. I’m rather introverted and work exhausts a lot of my available social energy. But there isn’t quite enough social in my life right now. So I need to find the energy each week to find people to hang out with each weekend day (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) for a few hours. The extra sport satisfies one of these, but I still need to fill the other two. That should satisfy my social needs.

4) Career: This one has been a strange up and down lately. I’m still evaluating whether this new job was the right move or not. I’m making a plan for what I want to do next and what I need to do to get there. This thing I’m contemplating, I’ve been debating doing for over three years now and I haven’t actually pulled the trigger yet. If I’m going to do it at some point, now while I’m single and not super interested in traveling is the time to do it!

I’m going to stockpile a bit of extra cash over the next few months in case I need some to help figure that out. This means that I won’t make any extra mortgage payments between now and late July/August. I’ll write about this if I end up deciding to spend some of the stockpile. If I don’t spend the stockpile, I’ll just throw it at the mortgage and not much harm done! (I will be making the mortgage payment from the original loan though, so a bit extra will be going to principal each month AND it’s on auto-pay so I don’t have to worry about paying the mortgage for a few months!!)

I’ve also been debating taking a few months off before starting my next job. My employer lets you take a leave of absence, though it does make many benefits-related things a bit complicated, I think it could be worth it to help reset.

5) Financial: I’ve never really been in a position to worry about money. I enjoy fidgeting with my finances because they’re something that do actually make sense to me, unlike life many days. I only added it on this list because someone told me how fortunate I am that I am figuring life out in my twenties with a steady job and no worries about money.

Oh and neat update: I no longer have to pay for my expensive birth control! Yay for my health insurance plan year resetting!

I’ve been doing well with tracking my spending. It really doesn’t take that much effort when I’m not spending very much time spending money! I was having this need to enter some spending every day even if I hadn’t spent anything, so I added a column for “No Spend Days” and enter the date there if I didn’t spend anything or have any automatic bills go through. That helped with the need to enter something! I’m also not checking my online banking nearly as often as I was since all my spending is funneled through credit cards now. Way easier and I’m actually loving the automatic payments, though I am checking that they do go through. (Comcast forgot about it the first month??)

6) Food: I’m not really a foodie. I included this category because food solves a lot of my problems: migraines, sadness, lack of motivation, grumpiness. I’ve been meal planning somewhat. For just me, it doesn’t take a lot of effort since a meal will last me another night or two of leftovers. So I’m really only planning 1-2 meals a week. This means way less dishes, way less cooking, and more time in the evenings than I had while in a relationship. I’m most of the way through the month and have only spent $80 (!!!!) on groceries. I still can’t believe that. Disclaimer: $20 of that may be fancy chocolate. This $80 number really doesn’t make any sense… I have to be missing a receipt somewhere.

I’ve also been baking more than I was. I’m getting away from the muffin mixes, trying out new recipes. Some are flopping – I think I’ll stick with the mix for cornbread – and others have been amazingly delicious. Everyone is always surprised by some of the things I make from scratch. My parents never used mixes for anything, so that has never been my first thought. I tried them for the muffin mixes to see which muffins I even liked with less barrier to entry.

 

A good relationship would improve the social quadrant, the food quadrant (me not having to do all the cooking, meal planning, grocery shopping, and dishes), the fitness quadrant (adding more social to it), the home quadrant (more social, especially on weekends), and the financial quadrant (some expenses shared, well if I was living with the person).

Notice that travel isn’t on this list. I don’t actually value travel all that much right now. I’m taking a big trip this fall, but I’m not planning any short trips since I don’t find that they’re usually worth the planning stress. I’ve done a TON of travel in the past, in my younger days (haha), and right now, I want to settle in a bit more.

Readers, when was the last time you looked at your happiness quadrants? How are things going for you?

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30 thoughts on “From the Other Side

  1. I don’t have anything to add but I just wanted to tell you I enjoyed reading your post! I have been thinking over some of these areas recently as well. Kyle doesn’t like this sort of thing (introspection), though, so it’s difficult to get him to articulate what he wants out of life beyond kids and obviously there are many areas of our lives that I can’t unilaterally change.

    • Kyle doesn’t like introspection?! I’m not sure how I would have gotten this far in life without it! I think that’s one of the hard parts about relationships – you can’t just do what you want to do anymore. Good luck with your introspection! I’m sure it’ll help as your lives change in the next few years.

      • That’s as best as I can describe it! I am very introspective, though. This is one of those differences between us that it’s taken me 7 years to fully realize, though looking back I should have seen it earlier!

        We are in a series on marriage at our church right now and in the first small group discussion on it we were asked “What do you like about your current life stage (single or married)?” My group is nearly all singles so the first 5 answer were variations on “freedom – I do what I want!” and at first I was thinking ‘that’s a good point, that is a nice aspect’ but after the last one I was petulantly thinking ‘yeah, well, I get to have sex!!!!’ So… upsides and downsides. :) Mostly up IMO.

        • Upsides and downsides for sure, but I think that being single is far, far better than marrying the wrong person! And for some people, I think marriage provides more freedom since it provides a base family that most people don’t have while single.

          Wow, 7 years! I couldn’t imagine still being with the same person I was with 7 years ago, but I’m a few years younger than you guys.

        • Again from our current series on marriage – “You ALWAYS marry the wrong person!” Basically the point is that you are going to feel like that from time to time no matter who you marry, but your marriage can still serve its purpose if you stick with it (for us, not happiness but 1) making us more like Jesus and 2) giving the world a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church).

          I go back and forth on the compatibility vs. commitment debate because compatibility was very important to me and Kyle before we got married and at the beginning of our marriage. I’m seeing now as we we both continue to grow and have hit a rough patch the relative importance of commitment. But I am glad to say I have not yet thought, “I married the wrong person!”

          It’s surprising to me too that we have been together since we were 20 since we were not at all looking for a spouse at that time. It wasn’t until we were 23-ish that our relationship got really serious and we started evaluating whether we should get married. I really lucked out that Kyle is so wonderful because we were really not intentional!

        • I definitely think that the most important part of a relationship really is how you work with the other person and adapt to life’s changes. If you can’t adapt to life’s changes together, it’s really not going to work long-term. Or at least that’s my philosophy, coming from an unmarried person who hasn’t had very long lasting relationships. My perspective has definitely changed a lot in the last few years, on what a relationship should look like.

          I’m glad you lucked out with Kyle!

  2. If there are six of them, shouldn’t they be sextants?

    Seriously, though, reading through this entry reminded me of my own life situation about a decade ago, when I was in my mid 20s. I also bought a condo at that age and never regretted it. I like having a place that is all mine. Your description of all the things you love about your house reminds me of the way I feel waking up in my own home.

    Of everything you listed, the relationship part of it is probably the trickiest. I had been in two long-term relationships during my 20s which included living with another person. Ending each of them was emotionally draining, and after the second one ended I was feeling pretty pessimistic about the chance of finding someone I could be compatible with for the rest of my life. Fortunately for me, as it seems to work out, just when I was feeling least interested in starting a serious relationship, I managed to meet my future wife. And I have to say that the struggle through the other relationships was worthwhile in the end, because it became clear to me when I had met the right person just how right she was for me. And definitely — as you stated — being in a good relationship makes the social, financial, home, and food categories that much easier.

    I would say you have a lot to be thankful for, and a lot going for you. I’m optimistic the relationship aspect of your life will work itself out when the time is right. Stay positive.

    • Ah yes, but originally there were only four when I first started the list, oops :) I added finances and food as an afterthought.

      Thanks for sharing a bit of your story! Did you accelerate paying off the mortgage on the condo you had by yourself? I have no qualms about selling this place after getting married, though hopefully I’ll have a few years in the place before selling it. Did you ever live with someone in the condo you owned?

      I was pretty pessimistic after a relationship ended about a year and a half ago – I’d thought that was a strong marriage potential. Apparently not and life goes on. I’m not as pessimistic this time around, but one’s social circles sure do shift a lot as everyone around us partners up. There are some aspects of my life I’m re-evaluating right now which could very well affect my choice of life partner. I believe it will work out too, thanks :)

      • I did live with someone in my first condo, but I had bought it on my own before she moved in, so it was always “mine” and not “ours”. I didn’t accelerate payments on that mortgage, though I wanted to. Back then I had fewer financial resources at my disposal. But I did come out ahead on it, and was able to roll that equity into our current house when I sold it after my wife and I got married, so it was essentially our down payment.

        • That’s about my plan, though I do hope I’ll have enough equity in my condo that it’ll be a pretty significant down payment on a house. Or maybe me and my future spouse will simply choose to stay here. Who knows!

  3. I am getting to the point where graduate school is starting to drag me down. (I think it will go away soon- I finish in December and I think the rush of being “almost done” will set in after this semester’s exams) For me, school has affected each of your quadrants- I don’t really love the area we’re in, it’s expensive, I have little time for a social/active life, and it is hard to make food any kind of priority. Plus I feel very strange about being out of the workforce for so long. I may have mentioned it before, but the hardest parts are the social aspects, especially now that I am the last one left in school.

    But there are things that are going really well, too. I have an awesome family that is very close and I get to travel somewhat often because we live apart from both my family and Liam’s.

    • Ah yes, the wonders of school. Undergrad was definitely a pretty negative experience in so many ways. It really just takes over your life in entirety. You do have Liam though, and family, those are good things :) Good luck!!

  4. Great post. This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, especially with everything bad that has happened with my family as of recently. There are many changes that I plan on making, but I just need to START.

    • The key I found is to make a list of the ways in which you are happy/unhappy and order them in terms of most/least happy and then fix the worst offender, the thing that is using up the most of your energy. Often times, that makes the other “issues” seem not quite as bad or at least somewhat bearable :) So yeah. My life rule is to only try to solve one problem at a time. Good luck! Baby steps make it way easier.

  5. Congrats on the successes and the happiness you’ve found! $80 is pretty stinkin’ good. My wife and I are spending very little money these days. It’s turned into quite the little challenge.

  6. Since Jan 1st I’ve been tracking my spending. On the one hand I have benefited by learning how and where I spend but on the other it has given me more stress over finances than I ever had before. I’m thinking about doing the opposite and setting everything to autopay for one month like you did and then think about how to strike a good balance going forward.

    • I’ve been tracking my spending in a new way than I was doing before and I’m finding it to be far more helpful. I’m using a really simple Google spreadsheet for each month and the Visa merchant categories to track my spending. I just enter transactions after they happen (I’m usually not too far away from a computer) and it only takes a few seconds. This has been quite helpful since I can access it anywhere, it’s super simple, and lets me see the numbers throughout the month. Then, I can just set all the bills and credit card payments on auto-pay! I also only log in and check statements for stuff once a month. This has been working out quite well, much less stress for me :)

      Resetting and then re-evaluating a new method with better balance going forward sounds like a good plan for you! The balance is super key here.

  7. I’ve got exactly the same quadrants except for home, but maybe I should add that… except I don’t call the quadrants, because you can’t really have 6 quadrants…
    Anyway, I really identified with how you’ve been feeling. For a while after I moves to chicago, I was having trouble with the social quadrant even though everything else was going just fine. Now ive figured out the social piece and im trying to figure out what’s next for my career. Its going well but my future could go so many different directions!

    • Haha, Executioner already pointed that out! :) I definitely find that social comes and goes in phases. Relationships ending and starting definitely affect social. I’m not very good at keeping up with lots of friends. Good luck with figuring out what’s next for your career!

  8. I really enjoyed this post Leigh, probably because I’m a very intrspective person myself and it’s nice to see others who take the time to reflect on what it menas to live well. I’ll go out on a limb and say that most of us writing and reading these types of blogs are doing fine on the financial side of things. This is a huge blessing as not having to worry about money frees up time to think about the things in life that are deeply meaningful to us as well as devoting time to just “be” and being is an art form that deserves to be nurtured. I like to see that you are embracing the other areas of your life as I feel that you have the finacial thing figured out.

    Wishing you the best…
    The Stoic

    • Thanks Stoic! :) I’ve definitely started to not really worry about money as my net worth has grown. Not that I really worried about money before, but I definitely feel like I have more of a safe net now. Being is definitely an art and I’ve never really contemplated it very well until now, oops.

  9. I noticed you didn’t have charitable giving/volunteering listed. Have you given that some thought? The social aspect can be very satisfying, not just from getting feedback from the beneficiaries but also from the community that usually musters in support of the cause. Altruism also has some very selfish benefits, which is not a bad thing. I’m not sure there is anyone who would say they felt bad after helping someone.

  10. 80 on groceries. Amazing and would love to hear more!

    I’ve been thinking about a lot of this stuff lately- especially job and fitness. Although ‘fitness’ is very tied to food in my mind, perhaps a more general ‘health’ category for me. And it’s hard to think about these things and not think about finances. It’s amazing to me how time consuming and all consuming making changes in the health and career areas can be. It’s been really hard for me to focus on them and not have a lot of other things take a back burner for a little while. Especially with career stuff.

    Glad to hear you are doing well!

    • I think that feeding one person is just a lot cheaper than I thought it was!

      I like your categorization of it as ‘health’ better! I’m really bad at only being able to focus on one thing at a time. It makes balancing career and life really difficult sometimes, like during all the moves last year. Let me know if you find some tricks for that balance!

      Hope you’re doing well.

  11. I think community is probably the missing item. Beyond the social aspects, it’s support, companionship and culture all wrapped up together. In Spain, nearly everyone will head out for a walk in the early evening. They chat with each other, enjoy the sunshine and all feel they belong together. We largely just don’t have that in America and it leaves us feeling somewhat isolated.

    • I think your ‘community’ is what I meant by ‘social’. And I agree, it’s definitely missing. I’m trying to work on that, but it’s a slow process. I feel like I have more of a community during the winter months, but not so much during the summer and I’m trying to fix that. I do like living in a condo building in that it is a community within itself. I may not socialize with the other owners, but I do at least know many of them by name and face and have people to turn to if something goes wrong in my place!

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