Monday, August 13, 2012

My Trip Down Memory Lane

This past weekend we hit a rather fun milestone. I happily accompanied my wife to her first high school reunion. She is the first of us to have celebrated this occasion. The event itself was absolutely fantastic and we had a blast. But the lead up and aftermath of the event circled around one central concept made popular by Ferris Bueller: Life moves pretty fast.

It doesn’t feel like my high school days were all that long ago. I mean in a heartbeat it feels like I jumped straight from high school and into adulthood. But my wife’s reunion did make me reflect on the years that have passed since my high school days and where my life has taken me.

After high school I traveled over 2,500 miles to go to college. There I made strides in learning independence, but was still light years away from being a responsible adult. I earned mediocre grades in my general classes. But when I reached my upper division courses for my major I was on the Dean’s List with a 4.0 GPA just about every semester. I went to school year round: fall, winter, spring and summer while working part-time jobs that included retail, bartending and real estate management. When I hit the home stretch for the final semesters before graduation, I met my beautiful wife who would go on to change my life forever.

We completed our degrees in the same semester, my wife her graduate and I had completed my 4 year degree in 3. She had her sights set on living and working post-school in Chicago. Career wise all I “knew” was that I wanted to work for the Federal Government (I know, a complete 180 from now). My first offer came from the US State Department’s Mission to the United Nations in the big apple, New York.

My experience working in my “dream” career boiled down to this: I was disgusted with the inefficiencies, waste and bureaucracy within the Federal Government. I learned a lot about myself during that time. Included was the fact that New York, though fun and fast, was not the city for me. I also missed the love of my life and knew for certain that I wanted to live my life with her.

So I moved to Chicago. I job hunted for what felt like an eternity until I found my current employer through a temp. agency. After a few months of temping my current employer picked me up full time. I also began to take strides in healing wounds within my own life. I began to see a therapist to unravel baggage that I had been carrying my entire life, and eventually I was able to open up and share my life entirely with my wife, holding nothing back. But that was just the beginning.

In 2009 I took the first steps towards becoming a responsible adult. I remember my breaking point like it was this morning. I wanted to marry my girlfriend. I wanted us to buy a home together. I wanted to retire with dignity. I looked at the costs of each and “understood” why people use extreme forms of financing such as 0% down. From that feeling of despair I set out to find sound personal financial practices that I could put into motion that would leave me with a stronger footing. What I found was Dave Ramsey, and his Total Money Makeover program revolutionized my life, the way I handle money and gave me financial peace.

Since 2009 my wife and I have built an emergency fund, paid cash for our wedding and honeymoon, have paid off all of our debts and are debt free and steadily contribute close to 15% of our incomes every month towards retirement. We’ve just been able to start giving (albeit slowly) in bigger and better ways that make our hearts burst with love and peace.

That’s where I’ve been since high school.

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