I have no right to be writing this right now. Not with all the deadlines I have. I’m supposed to be working. I’m much too busy. I’m tired. My body literally aches from sheer fatigue. I’m battling a cold and under the influence of piriton and ibuprofen. I need a vacation very badly. I don’t have time to take one, though. My children are out of school right now and if I don’t go on vacation during this period, there will almost be no point until December when they’re out of school again. I can’t imagine how I can possibly squeeze in 1-2 weeks off when everything is due yesterday and has been since the beginning of the year. It is humanly impossible.
But last night, I firmly decided that I’ll have to make a way. I have to stop this cycle of not paying enough attention to my non-work-related affairs – to myself. I’m grateful to have a job and I don’t take it for granted. I’m appreciative of the fact that because I work, I can take care of my children and other things. But I’m realizing that a lack of attention to one’s self (brought about by being too distracted by work, for example) comes with a price.
Several months ago, I picked up a new friend of mine on my way to see a mutual friend of ours. She needed to put something in the trunk of my car. I opened it confidently only to find it was too full of junk, and so we put her stuff in the back seat instead. ‘I’ve been carrying this junk around for the last two or three years,’ I mused.
‘Sometimes, the state of your car is a reflection of the state of your life,’ she remarked casually. I stared at her in astonishment, holding on to what she had said.
‘Gosh, you’re so right,’ I replied slowly. There were actually two boxes of junk in my trunk: old parts from my car that I had since replaced, but for whatever reason, I never took the time to throw out the boxes. I had always meant to. And then I just got used to carrying them around. It got to the point that I no longer really noticed them. I rarely opened the trunk of my car, anyway, so they ceased to be a real bother – or so I thought initially. But when I thought about it some more, I recalled the many times I would experience a few seconds of irritation when I went grocery shopping and had to put everything in the back seat instead of in the trunk, simply because I hadn’t taken the time to discard these two boxes.
I threw the two, huge, rectangular boxes full of old car parts out of the trunk and into the trash the next morning. It felt good. I still rarely open the trunk of my car, but I feel better knowing that if I ever need to, I will find space in there for useful things.
And then, yesterday, I was talking to a good friend about my student loan. I had actually intended to pay it off two years ago. I had a solid plan for doing so, but then somehow forgot about it and instead fell into the comfortable routine of paying more than the minimum, yet not enough to knock it off in a few months like I had originally planned. ‘Just pay the thing off,’ my friend advised. ‘You don’t want to be carrying baggage around.’
I thought about it and asked myself why on earth I hadn’t paid the loan off by now. I realized that the only reason under the sun was that I didn’t make the time to look into my finances. I stopped paying attention and just went with the flow, without a plan. My student loan had become like a familiar friend, a buddy that I was used to having around. It was a relationship I could manage, one that didn’t bother me too much. I was making my monthly payments, after all, and paying substantially more than the minimum. So I had every reason to feel righteous. But I wasn’t doing the best I could do. I knew I could pay it off in 8 months or less without a struggle. So why hadn’t I done so? I was just too busy to sit and to plan and to do.
After this conversation, I resolved to pay more attention to my life. All the good intentions in the world won’t help me achieve what I want to achieve. I have to do something to get where I want to go and stop using busyness (though I really am busy) as an excuse to not confront my life and sort out my affairs. As I thought about the student loan, I realized just how doable it was to get it over with and felt a bit ashamed that I had somehow slacked off from paying it down sooner. Again, there was no good reason. Without a plan and without action, your life will pass you by right before your very eyes. As we say in Nigeria: If you don’t plan for your money (or anything else, for that matter), other people will plan for it.
Today, as I lie in bed fighting off a cold and toying with the idea of working (rather than just working, like I should be), I have resolved to start finishing up my unfinished business. I’ll start with my finances, and then move on to other areas of my life. I’ve listed four financial issues that I have to look into in order to improve my present and my future. I could ignore these areas and still get by quite alright in the short-term. But that would be pretty dumb. With just a little attention, I can make a big difference in my life.
Yesterday, I went to the bank and transferred the first batch of funds toward my eight-month goal. One month down, seven more to go.
It felt good.