Real Adult Life

a diligent over-analysis of "adultolescence"

The Realities of Money January 22, 2011

Filed under: Musings — jamiej527 @ 11:57 AM
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True story: As a  high school student, my money habits drove my parents crazy.  I may have been the only teenager in history with parents who wished she saved less and spent more.  I remember hurting my mom’s feelings because I hadn’t spent my $200 Christmas gift card by March because I was saving it for prom expenses.

I’m still obsessed with saving money.  I couldn’t sleep for a week after my bank’s IRA training because I was terrified that I’d never be able to retire.  My significant other knows I’d rather go without food for a week than be late with rent; I’ll pass up entertainment for a month rather than miss a loan payment.  My 401k is maxed, student loans paid off, car loan 4 months ahead, and I haven’t paid for clothes in three months.  I trust that these choices will pay large dividends in my future.

Luckily, one of the blessings of my job is that it guarantees that I will never, ever become self-righteous about money.

While a Latte Factor way of life works for me, I also understand its pitfalls.

I won’t pretend I don’t get frustrated when friends who make several thousand a year more than me complain about being broke after buying fancy cars or insisting on apartments with granite-topped everything. But I understand the incessant pull of the lifestyle one step fancier than one’s own.

I understand why some people judge women who sport acrylic nails while their home is in foreclosure. Personally, though, I’ve come to understand the importance of little daily indulgences that keep us happy.

In my first weeks at the bank, I jokingly noted an inverse relationship between customer sanity and savings account balance. As a relatively high-balance customer for my age, I still am a lighthearted adherent to that claim.

Financial gurus are constantly ranting about Americans poor savings habits. I don’t disagree–many times I’ve helped customers manage financial crises that could’ve been avoided with even a few hundred dollars in a savings account. Saving $10 a week to spend on gifts would make the holidays much happier for most of us.

But so would a weekend roadtrip. Or a flat-screen TV. Or a car that starts reliably even during the coldest Minnesota winters.

One of the reasons I love banking is that it isn’t about math at all. Money is about emotion. We save because we hope for a better life, or because we’re fearful of the future. We spend not only because we need to eat, but because we need to fit in, to keep up, to have fun, to indulge.

A nutritionist who worships at the shrine of Omega Fatty Acids will never convince me to completely eschew McDonalds. Likewise, who am I to expect everyone around me to pinch pennies? I’m blessed to have learned this lesson early in life.


A Labor of Love November 29, 2010

Filed under: Musings — jamiej527 @ 6:29 PM
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I grew up being told that I should pursue a “dream job.”  Don’t stop, I was told, until you find a workplace you can’t wait to arrive at each morning.  Don’t settle.  Find a job that stimulates, fulfills, and enriches your life.  One that makes you want to hop out of bed and run to the office each morning.  This ideal was painted in contrast to a created evil: taking the best job you could get, punching the clock, and biding time.  Laboring for years without much reward or satisfaction.

Now, however, I think the paradigm is a bunch of hooey.

The best job, in my opinion, is the one that adds the most value to life.  But the Dream Job paradigm fails when it ignores how a job affects the rest of a person’s life.

My mom worked 34 years at a regional drugstore chain until the company folded earlier this year.  The work didn’t have her skipping through the store doors with an eager, bursting heart each morning, but it was still her dream job.  It allowed her to coach and manage her children’s sports teams, to volunteer in our classrooms, to take extended vacations each summer.  It wasn’t mentally challenging, but it left her mentally fresh enough to give our family her attention.

I know plenty of people who stick out jobs they hate, and are miserable because of it.  But I know a greater number of people who agonize over achieving a Dream Job and are missing out on life in the process.

Loving your life is a better goal than loving your job.  I’ll take a job I tolerate with a life I love over the converse any day.


discerning priorities April 25, 2010

Filed under: Life,Musings — jamiej527 @ 11:05 PM
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I recently blindsided myself with the realization that my life is up to me to control.

Revolutionary, right?  Hardly. Yet the concept struck me straight in the gut.  As I watched my friends careen into suburban motherhood, I recognized that I’m not cut out for The Mommy Track.  This isn’t to say I never want to be a mom, nor do I judge my friends for their decisions.  I merely recognized that I’ve always lived my life with a different sense of balance than they do.

So I pictured my life in every circumstance, letting myself feel the weight and freedom of possibility.  Graduate school out East, chasing an MBA in finance.  Setting up new roots with my current job in Arizona.  Rooming with a grad-school bound friend in Nebraska and figuring things out from there.  Testing the strength of my network in California, New York, or Massachusetts.

I took stock of what I valued.  What I was hoping to find, what I didn’t want to lose.  And I ended up deciding that I don’t want to go anywhere.

My world is here in Minnesota.  Yes, for the right adventure I’d uproot and fly.  But not only do I love what I have here, I’m proud of it.  Not every 23 year old woman is close friends with her grandparents.  I may only have a few decades-long friendships, but some people have none at all.

I’ve been told that my life is at a point of change and growth, which is it is.  And I know moving wouldn’t mean losing touch with loved ones.  But I’ve worked hard at the relationships in my life, I simply don’t want to leave them.  And I AM at a great period of growth and change.  For example, I’m establishing independent adult relationships with relatives that I love and feel blessed to experience.

Sure, I don’t know what it feels like to Chinese takeout in New York at 3 a.m..  But I do know what it’s like to drink wine coolers by firelight with my Grandma.  Fair trade.


Professional Identity December 21, 2009

Filed under: Musings,Work — jamiej527 @ 1:01 AM
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I bought a new cell phone yesterday, and found myself putting deep thought into which protective cover to select.  I’m drawn to bright colors, and instinctively grabbed one with a bright blue design.  After a few moments I began to trade my spunky cover with a grown-up clear one.  My boyfriend blocked my hand and grinned at me: “C’mon, Jamie, get the one you want.  You don’t need to be professional all the time.  And if you do, just take the cover off.

In my year-and-a-half at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder, my self-image has changed.  I no longer feel like I’m dressing up to go play banker.  I’m no longer surprised by the level of authority my customers and coworkers grant to me.  Somewhere along the way I grew to see myself as a professional; I came to believe the myth I’ve worked so hard to weave.

But, as my moment in the Verizon store revealed, part of me is in no hurry be a Real Adult.

There’s a natural dissonance with any major change, and these little moments make me smile.  But they also make me realize that I never want to lose the piece of myself that loves brightly colored accessories.  The fact is, I’m going to have to fight to keep her.  That piece of myself is also the piece who, while interviewing someone who we hope will become a new employee, gets completely distracted by a man in a Santa suit and exclaims “Hey, look!  St. Nick!”

After the interview, my Buzzkill Coworker made it clear that she disapproved of my “unprofessional action.”  She also doesn’t like that I wear a Northface fleece jacket above my pink Ann Claiborne heels or use the word “bummer” when working with customers.

I’ll grant that my professional identity isn’t flawless.  The secret?  I don’t want flawless.