being THANKFUL for the good and bad

They say negative experiences make a bigger impact than the positive ones, or something like that. It supports that idea that it takes a company 10 times as long to recover from the bad publicity of a negative review than the potential good publicity cultivated from a positive review. This got me thinking. Perhaps we take the positive experiences for granted. We think things should be good, all the time, and of course I agree. This leaves little room for negative things to occur in our lives. When they inevitably come along anyway,  we have a couple of choices. We can halt everything to throw a pity party, a party that can go on for sometimes years. Or, we can have a slightly smaller pity party and then use that negative thing that happened as a tool to fuel personal growth. In light of Thanksgiving, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on some of the major good and also bad things that have happened in my life in an effort to give thanks for both. After all, if any one of these experiences were missing, my path would be different. Let’s be real, despite all the good and the hard, I’m so utterly thankful to be exactly where I am now.

Growing up in a modest home, or lack thereof from time to time, taught me not to take the small things for granted; things like a balanced dinner with vegetables and protein, a neatly made bed, a birthday party with balloons that were color coordinated, tradition, new shoes, security. You get the idea. Most of these things are not typical things for a child to pay any mind to. After all, they are just a part of how life is. Well, for some, that’s true. Life was different for me. From a young age, I developed an idea of things I wished I could have. Even though I didn’t have them then, I knew that some people had them, making them attainable. While there are memories of extraordinary difficulty, embarrassment and constant trial, I learned the value of working hard and appreciating everything everything everything. I got a job as young as I could, working and saving to buy the things I wanted to have in my life. Things that would make me feel normal, like a fruit bowl. A fruit bowl was never something I saw in my household growing up. Silly, I know, but I loved my red and white cherry fruit bowl that decorated my very first apartment. As the years go by and the hurt continues to melt away, I feel more and more thankful that many of my childhood experiences, both good and bad, played a big part in the values I hold today. Hard work is the biggest. I know things don’t come easy. I also know that once you earn something, you have to try like hell to hold on to it.

Becoming a parent at a young age sort of put me in a volatile group, the group that makes everyone around nervous wondering if you will be able to teach, care for, pay for, love unconditionally, and morally guide a child when you are only one yourself. As nervous as I was to be eighteen and pregnant, void of a college education and barely making ends meet, I knew that I had the maturity to make sound decisions; at least from my eighteen year old perspective. I also knew I had so much love to give. I wasn’t sure what I was in for, but I knew I would give it my all. It’s hard to call this situation a negative one, given the light of it, but it was certainly unplanned. I can safely say that many women who have children at this stage have a rough time with mothering in so many ways. If nothing else, financially it’s very tough. For me, becoming a mother grounded me like nothing else had. I buckled down and planned every minute, every penny, and every ounce of care around my baby. I would not fail. I’m not sure how different things would have been had I grown up differently. I certainly wouldn’t have taken responsibility or committment as serious as I did. Fast forwarding ten years later, I continue to thank my lucky stars for my beautiful girls who have helped me to grow in my role as a mother. Not just any mother, a really good one.

Oh money. Because money is such a constant thing we worry about, I thought it worth bringing up, especially with Christmas right around the corner. We all have different ways of handling money, and also portraying how much of it we have. In reading, “The Millionaire Next Door“, I learned to see through slightly different eyes. The book exemplified how many folks who appear to have tons of money may be dangerously in debt and stressed beyond capacity. Conversely, the guy next door with a 15-year-old car and a bad haircut could be socking away millions. How? By driving his cars into the ground and getting $17 dollar haircuts. Of course, there are many varieties of financial situations in between. Point is this. We all have financial choices and will likely learn many financial lessons in life. Hopefully, we grow. For me, learning how to balance taxes, unplanned expenses, and the hope of vacationing, has been interesting. Recently I realized that we will have a sizable payment to send Uncle Sam come tax time. While it certainly threw my planning self into a frenzy for a moment (or maybe several days), it ended up causing wonderful things to happen. Planning how to handle this wrench that got thrown our way prompted a review of where all the money goes.

While I thought we behaved pretty well, I knew there were places that could use tightening up. What did I do? Kate Spade emails be gone. I love you Kate, but even buying earrings on sale are going to cost me $30-$40 dollars, if I’m lucky. We can re-kindle our relationship later but not now. Target trip? What do I need. Q-Tips. OK, that’s it. I will either go in with tunnel vision or buy them on Amazon. Gotta love that free shipping. No meandering because all of a sudden I NEED new tights. The tights I have will do just fine for now. Love going out to eat at a good sushi place but the cost is astronomical in comparison to dining in. Dynamite rolls will have to wait a while. Cash. Taking cash to the grocery store is fantastic. Of course I have my credit card available in case I go over but the goal is not to. If you are conscious about what you are buying, you are less likely to buy overpriced or unnecessary items. Also, it makes you think about how much you actually need. This brings me to food waste. I have been trying so hard not to throw away food. If I notice the veggies need to be eaten, I cook them up and eat them in salads, as side dishes, or as a snack. By planning your meals around what you have and making a goal to not waste, you maximize your grocery money like crazy. Starting to see the savings that I now have is so inspiring to keep good habits even after our goal is reached. Whatever lavish look you crave is great, as long as it’s not at your sanity’s expense. If you’re spending too much to maintain an image, perhaps think about why. Balancing out spending can have so many positive results. More money in the bank, a thankfulness for the small things, an even bigger thankfulness for the big things you get to buy when you save accordingly, and peace of mind that things aren’t spiraling downward. Debt is a terrible burden to bear. Sometimes it’s inevitable. Recovery from it will take hard work, but it’s worth it. I’m thankful for my upcoming expense because it’s taught me valuable lessons while figuring it out.

When you’re feeling down about any old thing, give it the time it deserves. Allow yourself to feel the natural way you do. When you are done, be thankful that you are now a different version of you, a stronger and more capable kick ass you with a brand new perspective.

XO

Jessie

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