I’m what some might call a late bloomer. By this, I mean it took me a little longer than most to find (and claim) the kinds of things that make me, well, me. My husband is also a bit of a late bloomer himself and so it comes as no surprise that we did not decide to get married until we were 35 years old. While this may not seem late to some, here in mid-America, it’s easy to feel as though you are bound to an eternal life of solo microwave dinners and cat toys if you aren’t attached to someone by age 30. But growing up is hard, and being an adult is harder. When Rob and I met, we were still figuring out our dreams and working hard to identify our goals. We were committed to the work of becoming better for one another and, in the end, it took just a little bit longer for us than for most. While my path has looked different from many of my friends, I know that it is not by accident. I wasn’t ready to settle down in my twenties, and, truth be told, I was barely ready in my thirties. Rob just happened to come along with a very convincing head of hair that made it almost impossible for me to say no. And I'm so very glad.
Somewhere along the way, I accrued a significant amount of school debt that sounded scary and felt heavy. While I was very honest with Rob about this from the beginning, it has always been difficult knowing that he would be taking on such a burden when we officially joined forces. Because he is wonderful, he has never, not for one moment, made me feel as though this is something that I needed to be ashamed of. Instead, he has led us down a path of financial action that has been swift, direct, and only a little bit terrifying. Our plan is to be debt-free in two years. This means that we live off of 60% of our income and that the other 40% goes towards debt. This means that we live in a very small duplex that I like to call Brady Bunch Chic and that I drive an old, ugly Toyota Corolla that only has one hubcap. This also means that we rarely buy new clothes and that we diligently meal-plan and that my latte habit has had to be substantially negotiated. We splurge on occasional meals out and gym memberships and travel. I also still get my hair highlighted because, well, I had to draw the line somewhere. I'm not an animal.
All of this is to say, sometimes it can be very easy to feel like we’ve missed the mark. There are days where I feel behind, immature, and increasingly slow in the race towards becoming a responsible adult. Most of our friends are buying their first, second, or third homes, driving nice cars, having precious, squishy babies, and building up their 401Ks. We, however, are still complaining about rental terms, doing our best to care for our two dogs, and wearing clothes circa 2006. It’s perpetually tempting to feel embarrassed about where we are in working towards our goals and to let shame outweigh our decision to do things a little differently. And It is all too easy to give in to the act of comparing our lives to those around us and to let our joy be dented and damaged. Social media doesn't help. Culture doesn't help. And HGTV can go take a running leap. What a racket.
But at the end of the day when I lie down next to Rob and listen to his chest rise and fall, I know how incredibly rich we are. And I mean that sincerely. I'm so grateful for the life that we have created and the family that we have. We are healthy and we are mobile and we have a trove of stories to share. I'm proud of our financial discipline and I know that it will ultimately allow us to pursue bigger and better and wilder dreams. I know we are not defined by what we drive or what we wear and that life goes on, even with a leaky roof and ugly carpet. We are a part of the very small minority of people in the world who do not have to worry about where our next meal will come from. We can pay our bills. We have running water. We have educations. We are unbelievably blessed.
And so, on the days that I forget, and in the moments when I let the thoughts of what I want outshine the thoughts of what I have, well, I do my best to remember. I hold on to Marlo's snuggles and to Rob's smiles and to my friends' sweet text messages and I remember that life is not measured by what we have but instead by who we love. I'm so glad it took me a while to get where I am. I'm grateful for the challenges and for the detours. And, in the end, I'm thankful for all of my forgetting. Because it is in the forgetting that I am able to do the sweet work of remembering how very wealthy I am.