09 March 2010

Welcome to the real world...

It isn't that bad!!!! Granted, once again I have seemed to find the golden pear in the enormous mound of dog shit, due to the fact that I'm a recent college grad not having to figure out their independence on minimum wage. I also am not being trailed by daunting student loans, which is a lot more than many of my fellow Gen-Y can say. Anyhoodle, the point of this post is not to wax on about the good fortune that I have had in my upbringing. The point is to discuss my mentality in facing the real world.

Today, as I sat contemplating my 401k after a chat with my new friend Judge McKee at Merrill Lynch (brother of Colonel McKee), I decided to complete a full-fledged mock-up of my monthly expenses. I started at the top of my page in my notebook with my post-tax montly salary and kept subtracting. The idea was to keep subtracting until I couldn't come up with any more expenses, take that last number, shrink it a bit for any unforseen situation, and use that for my monthly contribution to my retirement fund. What I found out is that on top of my bills, I can afford monthly pedicures, professional haircuts every few months, a little discount shopping for retail therapy, nights out with friends, and eating out for lunch during the work week.

This got me extremely excited, because it set aside one fear that has been nagging me for quite some time. Namely, that I couldn't afford myself. Sure, I've changed my habits a bit over the past 6 months in preparation for this life change. I've discovered the beauty of ebay, TJ Maxx, Target, and Goodwill for the shopping cravings. I've stopped highlighting my hair, learned to keep my fingernails super short, and been teaching myself a little bit more about cooking. I've also started scowering grocery stores and pharmacies, comparing unit prices as part of my purchasing decisions. But all-in-all, I'm still a big fan of a little luxury... So, it was a concern.

Anyway, this realization immediately made me jump online to spread the news to my friends. I, Katie, lover of all things expensive, can afford myself!!! It's a miracle!!! It was then that someone decided they wanted to rain on my parade.

"The real world sucks," Kris told me.
"Why? And why in the world would you tell me that?" I responded.
"It's better you heard it from me, than have to figure it out yourself," was his explanation.

Kris then went on to tell me the disappointment you feel every time you see money has been taken out of your account to pay for this or that. An electric bill here, rent there - the list goes on and on. Of course, I was unappreciative of his Debbie Downer attitude, but I quickly realized that it was also unnecessary. Here's my thought process in question-and-answer form:

Q: Why do I make money?
A: I make money in order to live my life comfortably.

Q: Is having a roof over my head, food, warm water, electricity, cable, internet, phone, gym membership, health insurance, and the like part of what you need to live comfortably?
A: Why yes, in fact, they're essential to my comfort. (Obviously gym/cable/etc. a little less so.)

Q: Did you know before you started working that you would start having to paying for your expenses, and that the world wouldn't pay for you?
A: I did, indeed.

Q: Do you account for all of your expenses before going for a spending spree?
A: Certainly.

Q: Do you have some money left over for life's little pleasures?
A: Sure, at least for a treat every now and again.

Q: Will you be able to set aside some money for the future?
A: Yes. A little every month.

Q: Then, is there any reason that you should be surprised, depressed, or angered by the money leaving your account - seeing as you deemed the services as necessary or valuable? That you gained something of equal or greater intangible value from each expense?
A: No. It's how the world works. It's basic economics. (The only thing I can be mad about is taxes, due to the fact that I would much rather charitably allocate that money than have the government take it and waste most of it.)

So, what this means to me is that the real world doesn't really suck. You have to be cognizant of your expenses, plan ahead, make some compromises, and work hard, but there's nothing about the process that is inherently unfair. Nor is it really that different from any other "world" I've been in before. Books have been read, papers written, texts analyzed, exercises done, practices attended - all done in exchange for something that I deemed important. If I didn't resent it then, why would I resent it now?


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