Photo By Julian O.
Right now I can hear the dishwasher running on the floor above me. My office is never this quiet. It’s the morning after Thanksgiving, and most places of business are unstaffed for a long weekend, but I’m still here. I still have work to do and goals to reach and bills to pay. Of course I’d love to be home with my family, but that wasn’t in the books for me this year. See, I’m flying home for Christmas, and adding the flight for Thanksgiving too just wasn’t in my budget.
I’m not writing this as a plea for sympathy or as a call for appreciation - I’m writing this because I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way, and when we live in a world of perfect curation, a little bit of real talk can make a big difference.
Budgets are a particularly hard thing for me to talk (or write) about. It feels dirty - wrong - problematic. Nobody wants to see the journey there, they just want to see the end results. Particularly considering that I chose to start a new career, when my life before was already as glamorous as they come. If you didn’t follow me back then, I spent my days modeling and vlogging travels around the world, getting paid just to exist and chase adventure. Companies sent me free samples and paychecks to incorporate them into my life. Parties would pay me just to be there. I cashed in on being pretty. Why in the hell would anyone cash out?
My answer is fulfillment.
I looked around and saw the people I grew up with, admired, and respected working their asses off and building substantial careers. I would brush it off and say to myself “work smarter, not harder,” and go about my day taking my next best Instagram photo. I was lying to myself, and the worst part is that I knew it. Every day there was a little voice in the back of my head saying “this isn’t forever.” That voice knew that there were two paths ahead of me: I could continue and burn out, or I could let go of my ego and start from scratch.
It wasn’t easy. It sucked. It was the hardest thing I had done since UT Business School. I started taking classes again, getting certifications, and building knowledge about an entire new career from scratch. I started making budgets I hadn’t had to worry about in years. My once impeccable work-ethic had been worn weak by beach breezes and free flights. I was training a muscle that hadn’t been used in ages, all while watching my peers flex.
Mornings like this, when I find myself working twice as hard as everyone around me, seeing half the results - I ask myself, “was it worth it?”
My answer is still, undoubtably yes.
My ego struggles with keeping up this insanely successful image. I have this inherent need to prove myself and become the most financially successful 25 year old this city has ever seen. I hold myself to the same standards of people around me who have old family connections, 30 years in the business, and entire teams of support.
I am inpatient and unkind to myself - and that stops today.
I have come so far from Raman noodles in my dorm room while working three jobs, but rarely do I ever take a minute to appreciate that. I may not have the same wealth I had a few years ago, but the difference is that I’m proud of this new reality. I’m building a new life and bank account that mean more to me - a life I can be proud of when I lay my head down at night. No longer is my world just handed to me, my value is earned. I’ll take that option any day.
I know in my gut that in time, this path will take me higher than my old direction would have ever gotten me. When it’s easy to remember the the days of that easy route, it’s also easy to forget the empty feeling I carried around. This is the season to be thankful, to reflect on your blessings and the choices you’ve made. I (and I’m sure many of you) need a reminder to be kinder to myself, and that even in this modern world of instant results, the long, hard road is still the proper one - and theres no reason I can’t enjoy the journey down that path too.
Happy Holidays, y’all.