The first step is to start paying more attention to your life
A little over a month ago, I turned 29.
Along with all the love and celebration and well wishes of starting a new year also came an unwelcome (at the time) confrontation with the life I’m currently living.
Don’t get me wrong — I am happy.
It’s just that there’s a whole lot more that I’ve set my sights on.
I’ve been living small and uninspired, and I know it.
This small, safe life has worked for me in the past, but I’ve reached the point where it just isn’t working so well anymore.
Something about being thrown, kicking and screaming, into the final year of my 20s has made this abundantly clear.
Something else that’s made it clear is my recent decision to start getting a financial clue.
Looking at my relationship with money, tracking my income and what I spend, and reading/listening to books about money and building wealth have all contributed to the following realizations.
Regardless of how many zeros are at the end of your salary, let’s face it: that number is also the cap on your life.
In a way, your dreams end where your salary does. (Or at least mine have…so far, anyway).
You may have a very high salary, and it may very well afford you the kind of lifestyle you’re comfortable with. But the very fact of having a salary means you are, in the grand picture of things, limited. You have constraints. If you don’t stay within your means, you can still wind up in deep trouble, even if you started out a millionaire.
“Waiting” to Live
For me, this is perhaps a large part of why my 20s have been so painful.
I’m a dreamer. All kinds of ideas and plans and dreams swirl around in my head all the time, and even more so when somebody else (my boyfriend is my favourite co-dreamer) is around to bounce ideas off.
But all throughout my 20s, I’ve never earned more than a minimum wage salary. Many years, it’s been even less. My main source of income throughout this period has been a full-time seasonal job, meaning I’m generally working more than full-time hours for the spring and summer, but laid off for the other half of the year. I’ve also had year-long contracts abroad, worked for myself, done remote freelance gigs, and had more than my fair share of temporary soul-crushing jobs over the years.
In today’s world, at least where I live, a minimum wage salary is barely enough to live on, let alone do anything spectacular with, which is why it’s no surprise that I’m still “waiting” to live my dream life — the one free of limitations, constraints, strict budgets, and jobs that don’t mean anything to me.
These countless jobs and the salaries that have accompanied them have never afforded me the grand plans and big visions of my dreams.
In fact, with those wages, I consider myself lucky if I manage to stay out of overdraft every month.
To me, this is not living. This is surviving at best, and drowning at worst.
Really living and just merely surviving are two very different things — and I now know I’m ready to start living.
But First…We Listen
So what do we do when our dreams are bigger than our paycheques?
For a long time (at least a decade now), I didn’t know. And to be honest, I still don’t know with absolute certainty.
But this is why I’ve started to take a closer look at myself, and one of the best ways I’ve done this is by simply listening to myself more.
If you’re like me, chances are there’s a little voice that lives inside you that you’ve probably been ignoring and even smothering for quite some time now. It persistently and lovingly speaks to you, prompting you to do something.
What is that thing it repeatedly tells you to do?
This may take some time, and will require you to get still and start paying more attention.
For me, the little voice has always told me to write.
The problem was, admitting this was hard enough, thanks to the long-standing sentiment that you can’t make any money writing and how so few people ever actually “make it” as a writer). Actually making myself take action on the prompting was even harder.
I’ve spent years writing and then not writing, sharing my work and then hoarding it away, being pumped up and inspired and believing I can really do this, and then shrinking back and letting fear and doubt envelope me for months or years at a time.
But I realized something recently.
Nobody but me cares if I do this.
I’m the only one who’s going to be hurt by not going for my dream of being a writer, not publishing my work, and not trying to pursue this as a career. If I don’t go for it, all in, it’s only me that will regret it.
I don’t know for sure where it will lead, or what kind of changes it will bring to my life. But I do know that if I don’t pursue it, then I’ll stay exactly where I am now.
And that’s why I must do it.
It’s also why you must pursue the thing that speaks to you.