Monday, January 10, 2011

Mmmm, Freebies!

In honor of Monday, the first day of the work week, I will begin a weekly blog entry labeled "Money Monday." I am very interested in financial literacy. I believe that the more you know about money and the earlier you know it, the better off you'll be in the long run.

That being said, one of the most important things to me as a newcomer to financial literacy is saving money and finding relevant and helpful ways to curb my spending. Now that I have become open to the idea of saving, it has become easier. More and more ways to save money appear all the time. The library has always been a great resource when looking to save money but did you know that here in New York City, you can check out magazines from the library for up to 7 days? What an asset! I am a person that will "splurge" on a good magazine while in the check out line in a store. If you're like me, I encourage you to save that $5 and get your periodicals from the library instead of the newsstand. Think of where else that $5 could be spent in the future -- like on that margarita you plan you drink during your next vacation! Your money is a tool that works in your favor to help you obtain what you want out of life's big picture. So pay attention to the little dollars you spend and if you can supplement your habits with free resources (like magazines from the library), find ways to make that a normal practice in your life. Even the smallest amount of discipline with spending goes a long way!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

By and By

"Keep on living."

That's what my mother says my great-grandmother would often offer as advice. These words could be understood in modern terms as words of encouragement, emphasizing that life must be lived to the fullest. But these words from my great-grandmother had a hint of admonition in their encouragement. In our family these strict words mean, "You've still got some growing to do. Be patient and life will teach you many more lessons."

I remind myself of this life lesson often. I don't know about you, but sometimes I realize, "Hey, what do I know? I'm still pretty young...." Some of the things I feel most confident one month about are subject to change years, months or even weeks later. My opinions, thoughts and ideals are subject to change. Furthermore, what's good today might be bad tomorrow; what's easy today might be hard tomorrow and so on. How are we, the young adults of the world, to know about life except that we continue to live in the present moment - to keep being open, present and aware and to keep learning from life?

Sometimes in life our friends and relatives will hold a mirror to our faces and teach us something difficult about ourselves. This happened to me today. I told a friend of mine my wishes for his happiness and luck in love and he questioned why I was more concerned with his happiness and well-being than my own. I admitted that I struggle with love and intimacy and that I can be pessimistic about whether or not love will appear in my life. After the discussion I felt down and started to cry. But then it occurred to me, "Hey, I'm young. Who knows?" There isn't a need to feel too down about anything. Tomorrow is another day. Maybe that day will bring us laughter and joy, or maybe it'll bring difficulty. All we can do is slow down and be patient, observe our environment and ourselves, and use our moral and principled judgment to understand the world. And what better advice to teach us to relax and let life unfold than the easy, breezy words, "Keep on living"?

So, I say be cheery, my friends. As they say in the old hymn, "We'll understand it better by and by."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Every Life Needs Play

Around my 26th birthday in 2010 I happened to read a book that changed my life. It was a cookbook. The author was Maya Angelou. In between her southern recipes, she told stories of her life. From her life stories I realized two things. The first thing I realized was every life needs play. When I say play I don't mean running outside, though that's healthy. I mean taking up activities that are joyous, fun, challenging and rejuvenating. Ms. Angelou tells a story of how cooking helped her get through writer's block and overcome self-doubt, long after she was a successful author. No matter how old or young, it is important to have hobbies and diversions to balance out work life. At no stage in life should it be acceptable to work and sleep only. We are not machines. So, it is important to develop a range of skills that promote our well-being in a variety of ways.

The second thing I realized is that many successful people are multi-talented. In my earlier adulthood, I felt very confused about my life's direction because there were so many things I wanted to do all at once. I couldn't choose one career, so I created a million different narratives for my life to pretend I had some solitary direction. I wish that I could tell my younger self that it is normal to need numerous forms of self-expression. But I learned the lesson after a while. Ms. Angelou helped. To read that a renown poet was also a talented cook, a dancer, and a singer (and so many other things too, I'm guessing) helped me acknowledge a pattern about people: people who are good at one thing are often good at other things too. Jack Johnson was not only heavyweight champion of the "world" in 1910, he was also a bass guitarist who earned money by performing across the country between fights.

So, we are led back to point number one: Play. Play is good, both in the short-term and in the long-run. When we play, we honor our brains and our capacity for continuous growth. We expand our skill sets. We become clever, sharp, and experienced. And we are happier. So I encourage everyone to find time to play in 2011. Pick up a hobby you always dreamed about. Practice a skill you stopped years ago. Be well-rounded and go forth in life with an adventurous and curious spirit.

Many blessings to you in 2011. Happy New Year.