The halls are eerily quiet. Nearly everyone is wearing exercise clothing. Coffee is being taken in intravenously. The law school reeks of exam time.
Take a deep breath. Have the extra piece of chocolate. Stop by the shelter and pet some dogs and cats. It’s ok to eat pizza for breakfast and potato chips for dinner. This too shall pass.
As the old saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” And while I don’t condone the consumption of pachyderms, I love the sentiment. If it seems impossible, break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Hang in there. You’ve got this. One bite at a time.
Sometimes you just need to reboot. We’ve all had it happen with our phones and computers. The system just gets so overwhelmed that the only way to fix it is to turn it off and turn it back on again, giving it a fresh, clean start.
I was away from the office last Friday because I needed to reboot myself. Spring is a pretty overwhelming time of year in the Financial Aid Office, and my work and personal worlds both had me feeling a bit out of control. So I took a long weekend to go to a small music festival (one of my favorite things to do) and disconnect from normal life. Today I’m back in the office with the same mounds of undone work surrounding me…but I feel better than I did last week. Because I’ve had a reboot.
Sometimes your finances will feel overwhelming and you won’t be sure how you’ll ever be able to dig out. At those times you may need to reboot your financial plans. Maybe you have a credit card balance that you could save money on by transferring to a different card. Maybe your student loan payment is uncomfortably high, but you can make life more manageable with a different payment plan. Maybe your housing cost is too high and you have to make the difficult choice to move to a less expensive situation. If your money has you feeling like you are sinking rather than swimming, you may need to look at things from a different angle and reboot your plan. You will experience this many times throughout your life. But nothing is hopeless. You just need to reboot.
When you fly on an airplane there is always a safety speech before takeoff. And the thing that has been ringing in my head since my last flight is, “Please secure your own mask before assisting others.”
That one sentence pretty much sums up this semester for me. Spring semester always seems a bit harried, and this semester is no exception. I’m not getting things done in as timely a fashion as I would like. I’m a little overextended and feel like I’m focused a lot more on caring for others than making sure I’m ok myself. But a conversation with a student last week made me revisit a tip on this theme that I wrote a couple of years ago. I need to stop and secure my own mask before I can assist others. You simply can’t effectively help others if you are in risk of not keeping yourself going.
The “secure your own mask” bit also hits close to home in a different way when it comes to charitable giving. I’m sure I’m not the only person who hears the phone ring, sees the number of their alma mater, and lets it go to voice mail. I know they are looking for a donation. Sometimes it seems like every charity I’ve ever donated to is reaching out for a contribution at the same time. And I want to assist others. But my husband and I have some medical issues that are challenging financially. So rather than stretching myself to assist others as much as I would like, I smile, politely said no (or agree to only a tiny amount) and proceed with securing my own financial mask. It won’t be this way every year. And it’s ok to say no to charities if you’re not feeling particularly financially secure yourself. It comes back around when things are steadier financially.
I am hopeful that summer will unfold differently for me. But it’s only because I’m taking steps to secure my own mask first. Then I can proceed with assisting others.
The scarcer a resource is, the more valuable it becomes. It works this way with oil and diamonds and the minerals that help to make up your smartphone. And it works this way with your time. The further we get into the spring semester the scarcer time seems to be. Exams (and commencement!) are only a few weeks away. Your schedule is likely full of papers and events and planning and bar exam applications and outlines and study groups and…..well, you get the idea. I’ve been finding the same thing in my world as both my personal and professional responsibilities seem to be more than I am able to squeeze into my waking hours. But we trudge on, we compromise, and eventually we get through it.
The compromising is the tough part. Every decision to spend your time on one thing means not spending it on something else. Your priorities become clear. When faced with the decision of spending my Saturday night seeing some favorite musicians perform or meal prepping with my Instant Pot, I chose the concert. But that left me without lunches for the week. Yet another decision. Do I buy lunch out, or buy something pre-packaged? I’m busy, but I’m not rich, so I hit the frozen food aisle at my local grocery store and bought an assortment of reduced-calorie frozen meals to eat for lunch this week. And while I was at it, I grabbed a frozen veggie lasagna for Sunday dinner. Not the most delicious food ever. But also not bad, and not outside my budget. And I didn’t have to give up the Saturday night concert. I chose to spend my time on fun rather than food, but also didn’t give up too much of my money in the process. Quality of food is less important to me than quality of life (which for me generally means live music).
Every decision has a trade-off. But it’s important not to let money be the thing you sacrifice. You can do or have anything you want. But you likely can’t do or have everything you want. What’s most important to you? What are you willing to give up in order to have it? Can you do that without blowing your budget?