As we approach the wedding season, it dawned on me that whom you marry determines a plethora of things that someone in love or lust may overlook. When I was in my late twenties, it occurred to me or as Oprah would say “I had an AHA” moment that this thing called marriage was a commitment not to be taken lightly. I used to rationalize that women, and now as the mother of sons, I realize it applies to men too, are not marrying just a partner, they are marrying a lifestyle. Now that may sound opportunistic or maybe even narcissistic to some, as it did to me, when I was younger. My immediate thought back then upon hearing someone say “It’s just as easy to marry a rich man as a poor man!” was “How shallow! How superficial!”
Coming of age at the dawn of the women’s movement, the thought for many women of my generation was “I want to make my own money, I can take care of myself, I don’t need a man to define me OR take care of me”. As a result, most of my friends are at a minimum, college educated and have enjoyed full productive and diverse careers such as nursing, teaching, social work, medicine, sales, real estate and psychology; in other words my friends’ careers ran the gamut. Their husbands have and had equally diverse occupations ranging from medicine, social work, the US Postal Service, trucking, stay at home dads, civil servants, entrepreneurs among others,
The majority of my friends have worked most of their adult lives. A few have worked part-time per-diem or were stay at home moms until their children grew past their formative years. The primary difference among most of my friends, since most of us worked in some capacity, was the mental attitude that comes from working by choice or not. Knowing that you have the choice if and when to work, brings a certain freedom, clarity and peace of mind that working to put food on the table does not. The ability to take risks when you “have to work” such as applying for that reach position, or to “Lean In”, as described in Sheryl Sandburg’s popular tome to working women, is often an unrealized dream because the “what ifs” play a larger role than they should. Taking chances is unfathomable, when working is a necessity, because the consequences of finding out that the job is not a good fit would spell disaster. In sharp contrast, if working by choice, that reach position, although it might be fraught with anxiety, can become a reality even it you do it afraid. When working by choice “do it afraid” becomes your personal mantra as you embark on this new opportunity with a leap of faith. Choice gives you the luxury to realize that if it isn’t a good fit, you can always look for something else, after all that’s why they have erasers on pencils.
A popular radio personality, Michael Baisden, calls these situations and even the people who contribute to them “dream thieves”: Dream thieves are those circumstances or people that prevent you from realizing your dreams. Whether we admit it or not, we all have dreams. Regardless of your age or stage in life, in those quiet moments alone, you might think to yourself, “If I could only turn my hobby into a business, move to that Caribbean Island, ski, scuba dive, play Mah Jong, take that long overdue exotic vacation, or whatever else tickles your
imagination. Understand that those thoughts are the genesis of your dreams. Many of us negate even the mere possibility of fulfilling our dreams because we cannot see past the “if only” aspect of the dream in order to develop a plan that would transition it into a reality. Excuses come in a variety of forms ranging from the lack of money, energy, desire, attitude, or just plain inertia, Having the “choice” to pursue your dreams, for some, comes down to sheer dollars and cents.
Besides the ability to pursue your dreams, whom you marry or surround yourself with, whether in your twenties, thirties, forties or later in life, establishes the trajectory for your life as well as your retirement goals and desires. The perceived inability to fund your retirement because of the lack of sufficient income, unforeseen expenses, poor impulse control, or lack of discipline leading to over spending, is a problem that many people face. In a blink of an eye, the retirement years come barreling toward you, no questions asked. It’s hard to reconcile that the lack of planning is a choice whether conscious or unconscious that will become your reality.
The choices we make, often when we are too young to understand the ramifications of our actions, may determine the road our life takes. The good news is that life presents us with a pause button, no matter what age or stage we find ourselves in. Never make decisions in the dark or alone. Seek the consul of people you trust, and who, by their deeds and actions, embody the values and principles you respect or strive for. Seeking the consul of someone who is an over spender, non-saver, job hopper, and never has two nickels to rub together is not the best idea. If you can seek the consul of people who have demonstrated a commitment to family, career, work life balance and the core principles you admire, go for it. The ability to choose and choose from a position of strength and not lack should be your guiding principles. The quality and fabric of your life is up to you! The choice is yours.