Notes to My 11-Year-Old Self

This week, my littlest sister turned 11 years old. I can’t believe how fast she’s grown! I remember finding out my mom was pregnant when I was 16, shocked and a little upset that this newcomer would be throwing off the balance of our already established family (after all, we were a family of 4 and that was pretty much perfect). But oh, how wrong I was. And I’m so glad! She was born and I loved her, doted on her and had a blast watching her grow from a spunky toddler to a big-hearted young lady. I can’t wait to see what big plans she has in store for the world and what life will bring as she matures. As I reflected on her big day this week, I couldn’t help but wonder….what do I wish I had known at 11??

Hey 11-year old self,

It’s me. The grown-up version of you. You’re much older now (28 to be exact), though really not that much taller. That’s alright because after some struggles, you’ve really come to love and accept who you are. You’re even a fan of your freckles and curly hair! (Who knew that day would come??) I bet you didn’t know it at the time but Harry Potter turned out to be a pretty big deal! (They even made movies out of the 7 books J.K. Rowling wrote! Amazing times we live in.) And, in a crazy turn of events, you’re going to have a littler sister one day (she’ll show up about 6 years from now) and she’s going to be just as obsessed with Harry Potter as you are.

So, you’re in 5th grade huh? You’re probably pretty bummed because, from what I recall, that’s the year your best friend moved away. But, don’t worry! You’re going to become best friends with somebody else in your tight-knit class and you will have SO many laughs together, all the way until graduation day! Also, this is the year you end up getting glasses. I know, I know you think they’re dorky but you MUST wear them. One day, you’ll have really cute ones! You won’t even hardly want to wear contacts eventually because you’ll end up liking your new glasses so much.

Right now, you don’t think you’re pretty and that feeling is going to last for awhile. You’re going to have reservations down the road and a great deal of self-doubt as to whether you’ll EVER feel pretty. Well, little miss, I am here to assure you that yes, you are freakin’ beautiful and you’re just going to morph into this lovely young woman before you know it! (And, don’t forget, you’re going to dislike that you look so young but you’ll come to realize it’s a blessing one day.)

You don’t care much for boys because you know there will be lots of time for that one day. I can’t lie darling girl, you’re going to get your heart broken and you’ll break some hearts along the way too. After your most heart-wrenching breakup, you’ll wonder if love is even within your reach. Then, one day, somebody is going to carry you when you feel too weak, reminding you that yes, it’s real, lovely, and true. He’s going to be quite wonderful and, over time, you’re going to become an incredibly strong woman. (In large part, thanks to this amazing man and all the ways he has continuously shown you how much you are capable of.)

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You’ll really learn to love yoga….and sometimes do said yoga with dogs

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You’ll live in an adorable studio covered in ivy…and find ducks wandering around your neighborhood

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Finally, you’ll adventure to the breathtaking country of Spain for a wine class and occasionally chase after goats

In all of this, I urge you to really, really love life. Fill your cup up with experiences and adventures. With laughter and beautiful memories. Though I don’t wish to frighten you, you’ll lose somebody extremely close to you and although you have read the stories and seen the movies, you will be shaken by the reality of how this awakens you to your very core. This loss will precede that difficult breakup and you will transition into the darkest period of your life. But, never stop moving. Yes, you must heal and recover from this achingly painful time but I implore you to push through. And, as I am a witness, I know that you do. You are resilient.

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The muse that inspired this post (when she was a lot smaller!)

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Always, always smiling

So, 11-year old self, your life will be anything but a walk in the forest but just know, you’ll reach the other side. Never give up on that huge heart of yours. It is going to do incredible good during your time on this Earth. Each day you wake up, incorporate fun wherever you can. Don’t be afraid to fail at your dreams because it’s better to have tried than to have lived a life wondering, “What if?.” You are smart, talented and valued in this great, big world. Find peace with your unique design, utilize your God-given talents and love like there’s no tomorrow.

 

Sincerely,

28-year old Heather10426876_10152240749293763_5916045892170636038_n

Financially Free Friday: Six(ish) Month Update

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” – John A. Shedd

When you make the decision to become debt free, it can feel monumental. This HUGE burden that you’ve been carrying around (albeit, quietly ignoring) is suddenly greeting you, face-to-face, in all of its glory. These are the things you will want to do in that initial, transitional period:

  1. Run away
  2. Cry
  3. Keep pretending your debt isn’t growing larger and larger every.single.day
  4. Cry again
  5. Call your friend, in tears, because your lenders are mean, stupid heads and won’t listen to anything you have to say

Eventually, you’ll put on your big kid pants and realize that even though this seems pretty sucky, the one thing keeping you going is reaching the day when you are DEBT FREE. Sounds pretty sweet, doesn’t it? Though I feel I’ve hit a temporary road block and am not gaining as much momentum as I would like, I know I will get back on track soon. That is one of the secrets here friends. You will run into obstacles that slow or halt your progress. You will give in at times and buy that pair of shoes you really, really want. You might even go over your budget one or two months. But, oh the places you’ll go!! You will grow in this and learn to say no. You’ll distinguish the difference between wants and needs. You’ll learn how to save and the purchases you DO make will have immense value to you.

We are going to get down to the nitty, gritty here. I’m talking actual numbers. (Eeek!!) I’ve been debating whether or not to share my debt with the Internet world but like most decisions in my life, I’ve found that I’m taking the leap because I feel it’s right in my heart. If others, who felt hopeless like me, can find some solace and strength in order to take those next steps, then I’ll have done the work I needed to. Here goes nothing!

I made the decision in June of 2016 to get serious about tackling my debt. I had a small amount of credit card debt, a car loan, and two (refinanced) student loans that were engulfing me in interest. I made all my payments on time and paid over the minimum wherever I could. Yet, I never felt as if I was making any forward progress. (Most likely because I would keep charging larger purchases on my credit card, hoping to pay them off later (travel, etc.), along with buying things I didn’t need.)

Here is what it looked like:

Credit Card:                                                                                                      $2,324.16

Car Loan:                                                                                                           $13,241.45

ECSI (Refinanced all my private loans through a credit union):              $26,384.02

Navient (formerly Sallie Mae – refinanced my federal loans):                $29, 523.74

Grand Total                                                                                                        $71,473.37

 

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Two of my favorite stress relievers: Yoga & wine

466773_10150859961823763_1052281420_oAs you can tell, one would get easily frustrated and overwhelmed when looking at such large numbers. Which, is precisely what happened to me. I thought of all the things I could do with $70,000. Travel. Put a down payment towards a house. Feel an overall peace for the simple fact that my money is actually mine. Once the initial shock wore off, I set my budget, saw myself making positive progress and finally began to feel like this was possible. It might not seem like it at first, it certainly didn’t for me. And while I am not yet anywhere close to where I’d like to be, it feels great to know that one day I’ll make my debt-free dream a reality.

Let’s look at where I’m at now:

Credit Card:                            $0 (Paid off in September!)

Car Loan:                                      $11,638.60

ECSI:                                               $24,634.48

Navient:                                            $29,257.07

Total                                                   $65,530.15

 

In 7 months I’ve paid off $5,943.22! Which doesn’t sound like a whole lot when it averages out to $849 per month. Haha. But, my personal, minimum monthly budget for payments each month is $841 so I’m comfortable with the progress I’m making right now. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to pay more towards my debt because I most certainly do and plan on bringing in a side income this year.

Here are a few more details:

  • All amounts include interest, which is as follows:
    • Car: 2.74%
    • ECSI: 6.14% (This one changes based on the LIBOR rate I believe, so that sucks a little bit. It’s a headache to understand it all at times.)
    • Navient: 5.5%
  • I’ve had to make adjustments after taking a new job this August.
  • December was a bit rough for me since I ended up going over my Christmas budget and was gone from work for a week.
  • I’m paying off my loans according to highest interest rate first, which is why there is not much headway being made on my Navient loan. I’m also using the snowball method (shoutout to Dave Ramsey!), which means that the $100 minimum I was previously putting towards my credit card is now added to the monthly loan payment for ECSI. When that gets paid off, the payment for ECSI will get put towards Navient plus what I’m already paying on it monthly.
  • Your debt-free plan will probably look different from mine. Some people sell their car, pay off the loan, purchase a used vehicle and put that money towards their debt. That just isn’t where I’m at right now.
  • I don’t have a high monthly budget of spending money (gas, groceries, entertainment, etc. is set at $400) but quality of life is very important to me. Therefore, I also tithe each month and make sure I save for both small and large goals along the way. (Yoga classes, hobbies, sinking travel fund, etc.)

So, in all of this, I want you to know that YES, you can get out of debt. I hear people making excuses for why they can’t (blaming the economy, politics, etc.) but what if you actually sat down and made a plan for how you CAN. Lord knows there isn’t a person on this Earth that is gonna change your life except you. You can push your little ship away from the harbor and tackle your debt goals or you can just watch the other ships passing merrily by you each day. The second takeaway is for those heading off to college. Listen to your parents and get those scholarships. Or, if it isn’t the right time then work for awhile and wait until you’ve saved a bit more. Take the advice of somebody who wishes she had done it right the first time.

I’m more than happy to answer any questions about my debt-free plan and to hear what’s worked for you. Next Financially Free post I will review some financial apps, as well as the site that I’ve used to track my progress. (Click this link to read up on my other financial posts, including student loan terms and how I set my budget—–>Finances) Enjoy your weekend!

Side-View Mirrors & Reaching Goals

Sometime this summer(ish), my adorable car (Felix) had a little run-in with a pole. Obviously, this was the fault of the driver (that’s me) of said car. I was backing out of my parking space in the carport and in that time, I didn’t realize just how close I was to the pole that was located directly to my right. In what seemed like a rather brief moment, there was a loud noise and the side-view mirror on the right side of my car was suddenly gone. As I was in a hurry, I jumped out of my car, laid the pieces gently in my backseat, and drove off. (Seeing as how I run late pretty much all of the time, I’m not surprised I was in a hurry.) I was completely irritated with myself because what had happened to my car was owed to the simple fact that I was not paying attention at that moment in time. I was distracted by most everything else I was thinking of, instead of focusing on backing out properly.

 

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Felix and I have had some pretty great times together

 

Isn’t that how we find ourselves journeying through life at times? Aren’t we often so wrapped up in everything else going on that we lose sight of the seemly small, yet significantly important, details around us? For instance, in my case, I tell myself I can’t accomplish a goal (let’s say….becoming a writer), procrastinate by filling my life with meaningless distractions (more work, Netflix, drinks, you name it) and then never land the dream job or write that book. Sure, the distractions are ok for a bit but where does that leave me in the long run? Yeah, I could drive around without a side-view mirror for awhile but that’s going to make my life exceedingly difficult and in the end, possibly cause an accident. I lost focus and failed to align my lifestyle with my goals.

I didn’t believe that being in a hurry and hitting a pole would make me come to these realizations that day. But, I found that I am often rushing to get out the door because I will sometimes fill my time with those useless distractions. However, I would rather learn to focus my attention on what I want to accomplish in this life and if what I am doing is giving my life meaning.

To quote the great Tim Ferriss:

“Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”

When we pour our energy into everything but what we are building our lives towards accomplishing–whether it be hitting career goals, budgeting and saving to buy that dream home, or creating something of lasting beauty–then we have completely lost sight of what we set out to do. Your side-view mirror falls off and eventually, you’ll crash. You’ll crash when you look back and realize what you COULD have done. When you are wishing for more time. When you get burned out devoting yourself to all the distractions and possibly take those stresses out on yourself or people you love.

It’s easy to get caught up in the distractions and miss what we were aiming for in the first place. For us to be in a hurry and not do it right. To stay busy with 1,000 other non-essential items on our to-do list in order to “feel better” about ourselves, although not entirely fulfilled. The distractions and busyness can momentarily bring us relief, but will you actually be happy? Prioritize your time. Make a list of your goals, the things that you could do if nobody (including yourself), told you no. Find time each day to etch away at making those dreams become a reality. And, if you hit a pole along the way, try not to get too worked up. It’s just a reminder to get back on track.

Featured Image Photo Credit:
<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/68076636@N00/14359111031/”>Pedestrian Photographer</a> Flickr via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a&gt; <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/help/general/#147″>cc</a&gt;

 

Feeling Deeply & Loving Fiercely

To the girl crying in the airport terminal, I see you because you are me. The one who misses her family or significant other with an aching so badly, you fear it could leave a hurt permanently etched deep into your heart. I feel you, sister. You are not judged for the snot running down your face and the enormous tears dripping down your cheeks. Or the fact that you would really like a beer and good conversation to make you momentarily forget the pain that comes with leaving. And maybe a quiet spot to send a quick text, reminding those you love of just how much they mean. Yes, you probably have a pretty neat outlook on the world. You love mighty fiercely and continuously, like a fire whose embers continually burn, despite the conditions surrounding it.
As a young girl, you might have felt you didn’t fit in. You cared (and still do) so deeply for those you love that any harm that came to them instantly created intense emotional turmoil within. You cried during the sappy movies, or when you felt you weren’t good enough, when that boy broke your heart, and when you fought with your best friend. I’m telling you that’s OK. Don’t fight that compassionate, sensitive side of you. I think the word sensitive has gotten a bad rep lately, especially in regards to how we raise our young boys to be men. Sensitivity is not equal to weakness and certainly doesn’t mean you can’t handle the situations life throws you. It means the way you input information and emotion is different from those around you. That you believe in encouragement, kindness, and love. That your heart is a well of unending goodness and you’d love nothing more than to share it with others.

Use your powers for good Supergirl and don’t ever, for even one second, let the insanity of life jade you. You were meant to feel with all the beautifully sewn together pieces that God gave you. Sometimes that means the tears don’t stop for a bit but just know that, eventually, you will have figured out the best possible way to channel all of that emotion. Even if that might mean going to a room on your own to collect your thoughts or simply just accepting the fact that bawling in your seat on the plane is what works in that moment. You will decompress, pull yourself together, and keep loving today, tomorrow, and the day after. One day you’ll even know yourself so well that, despite the hurt, you know exactly what you need to bring yourself back up from that down. And finally, you will find somebody who loves that sensitive side of you, even if they are the complete opposite. They will wrap you in their love when you hurt, reminding you that the pain will subside in time. With tears comes renewal and a reminder of what it means to be human, that there are still things worth fighting for in this madness. You are a wildly brilliant canvas and those tears just blend those colors together a bit, creating something incredibly gorgeous and new in the process. Feel every single bit of it.

Missing all of these beautiful people!

What I’m NOT Doing in the New Year

I’m not the resolutiony type and I make no apologies for that. Anybody who is setting a goal with the idea of changing themselves for the better has my utmost respect. But, as I am already a professional procrastinator, I truly try to work on becoming the best version of myself year round. (Otherwise, I would just put it off for another year.) As I was going about my daily life the other day, I came to the realization that there are many things I wish NOT to do as 2017 swiftly approaches. Compiled neatly in list form (because who doesn’t like a good list), here they are:

My List of Resolution Will-Not’s:

  • I will NOT compare myself to the woman standing next to me. Yes, she probably has more curves. Yes, she is probably more well endowed where I am lacking. But, she has her own insecurities, flaws, and problems in life. What I have been handed in this life, including my body and all that comes with it, is specifically designed for me. I can continually strive to make it a healthier, stronger body for me. I feel best when I remember I’m blessed.
  • I will NOT try to fit the mold. I am not crafty, punctual, a morning person, organized and 100 other things. The moment I owned up to that, I felt like a whole new person. Just the other day I was taught the correct way to wrap Christmas presents. I have been wrapping presents incorrectly for a large part of my life!! And for pretty much all of my adult life! (P.S….Thank you gift-wrapping angel.) I can’t whip together a recipe on the spot. Mornings make me crabby. And I feel like trying to be organized takes some level of organization? I live my life much like I wrap presents. Bits and pieces fly about while I’m in the process and I sometimes misplace things, but in the end, it all comes together and looks quite nice. Summary: Your life is much simpler when you admit who you are, instead of stressing yourself out by being something you are not.
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Photo Credit: latestthoughts Flickr via Compfight cc

  • I will NOT be afraid of failure. How many times have we started a project or had a brilliant idea but never pursued either of them out of fear? Failure is a key component in this ever-changing masterpiece of life. How do you make it to the finish line if your feet never leave the ground? I’m guilty of this and all of us probably are at sometime in our lives. Take off running and don’t worry what the future holds.
  • I will NOT stop giving. I am 100% thrilled about the volunteer opportunities that have presented themselves for the new year. Never did I dream that immersing myself within my community in such a way would have the impact it has. I have seen changes come in leaps and bounds, not only in me, but also in those I’ve had the chance to work with. As I notice more connections being made, I am overwhelmed by the incredible amount of love that keeps on flowing. I plan to fill 2017 with even more giving than this past year.
  • I will NOT regret making myself a priority. More often than not, I will keep going and going, without taking a day during the week to recharge, even though I know I absolutely NEED that alone time to hit the reset button. I’ve already begun taking up hobbies (including hot yoga!) and finding what sets my soul on fire so I can continue being my best self, not only for me, but for those around me as well.
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Photo Credit: cgvector Flickr via Compfight cc

 

Happy New Year friends. Be sure to make it a good one.