Life is a compilation of experiences

Life is made up of experiences, good and bad. They’re what shape us and make us who we are. Everyone’s journey is unique. It’s easy to get caught up in work, or life in general, that you forget to take the time for the experiences you work so hard for. For some people, they don’t learn this lesson until much later.

I started working shortly after I turned 16 and even at that age, I had a hard time taking time off for family vacations and often missed out on some really amazing experiences. To this day, I have no idea why I acted like that; I didn’t need the money. I balanced two jobs from age 16, the summer after my sophomore year, until I started bartending at 21. Sometimes I’ll be at dinner with my family and they’ll be telling stories about trips or events that I have no recollection of. When I state this, they’ll respond with something along the lines of “you didn’t come because of work.”

During the time in my life in which I had the least amount of responsibility, I opted to create an unnecessary one. It wasn’t until recently that I learned the importance of being able to step away and enjoy life. Since then, whenever I see an event or trip that interests me, I’ve made a point to opt in if I can afford it. Unfortunately some people don’t learn this lesson until they’re much older and the ability to take full advantage of some experiences is limited.

My anxiety will sometimes kick into overload when I make these decisions because it takes money away from my plans. What are my plans though? To buy a house, get married, have a family. The usual. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about these plans and whether owning a nice home (since that’s really the only thing I can control) is more important than these experiences. It’s just me and the pup so we don’t need much to be comfortable. My current apartment is a whopping 600sqft and it’s more than enough for us, I was able to clean the whole thing in less than an hour today. A deep clean will take about 2-3 hours. If I had a place much bigger than this, I’d probably hate cleaning it and would spend the money I’m saving from paying a mortgage instead of rent on a housekeeper.

You may hear people say things like “I’ll do those things when I’m older” or “when I retire” and before switching my mindset about experiencing life now, I would sometimes say it. I’ve heard a few good arguments to this like “your body won’t be able to do the things it can now when you’re older” or “what if you die before you get to do it.” Neither of these ever convinced me to change my mindset but when I realized the impact it had on my mental health in the long run, I knew I had to change.

Yes, I’ll have short-term anxiety over the money but, since making an effort to fill my time with more experiences, I’ve become significantly happier overall. It gives me immediate satisfaction that all my hard work is paying off and motivates me to continue to work hard so I can have more experiences like it.

One way to make stepping away from work easier is to set things up so your taking time off around a holiday or weekend so that as few days actually away are as limited as possible. And if you’re in the middle of a big project, remember there will always be a big project and it’s important to find a time in which leaving has as little disruption to the project as possible.

You can’t live life for the future. That’s what anxiety stems from.

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