I have always worried about money. Always.
I have always felt like I'm drowning in my finances. Always.
When I was a kid, my parents weren't handing me 20's every week for the movies or new clothes at the mall. It was made very clear, very early on, if I wanted that, I'd need to work. So, I started babysitting when I was 11. I even advertised.
I didn't get a car until I was almost 20. And then it was my parents' 1988 Bonneville. I paid and borrowed my way through college. I racked up lots of debt the moment I graduated and decided to live on my own, even though I couldn't afford it. Especially when necessities like rent and power were accompanied with happy hour bills and eating lunch out every day.
But, I pulled through. I paid off that debt. I bought a new car when the Bonnie died. I paid off student loans. I paid for my wedding. I bought a house. I did all of that with zero financial help. And I'm proud of that. Financial freedom, is freedom. No one got to to tell me who was invited to my wedding, because I was paying for it. No one could yell at me for skipping an 8 am class, because I was paying for it.
However, I have always worried about money. Always.
My one wish has always been to not worry about it. I'd like to not have to think about every penny. I don't need to be rich or live in a mansion or drive a BMW, but I'd like to just go through life not worrying about everything I spend. I've spent my entire teenage and adult life working towards that goal.
Yet, I do worry. All. The. Time.
And then in the strangest of moments, your brain comes to realizations. It happened last night as I was driving home from swim lessons. It's important to note that I was driving home from swim lessons because they aren't cheap.
I sat at a light and watched a young woman walk the median holding a sign.
"Please help. I have 2 children and can't pay the rent or buy food."
This is not a new sight. I see people holding signs, asking for money at least 5 times a day.
I watched her pace and hold her head down. I watched her look up shyly and accept money, whispering "Thank You" and "God Bless You." And I remembered that I was her, and now I'm not.
It wasn't that long ago that my husband lost his job and I was pregnant with a second baby and we didn't have a year's worth of savings and we collected unemployment and bought groceries with credit cards and fell behind on mortgages.
The light changed and I held out my $10 and told her to take care and drove away.
There was a time that I worried about how I would pay for groceries when my credit card was maxed out. And there was a time that I worried we'd lose our house and where would we go. And during that time I had 2 kids that needed me to figure it out.
I don't worry about that anymore. There's not a day that goes by that I wonder how I'm going to feed my kids. Ever. Sure, I think about how we only have 9 years until Ainsley goes to college and how on earth are we going to save for it by then. And I worry about coming up with a down payment to buy a house when all of our savings seems to go to one of the rental properties we own. And I worry about how I will pay for a vacation and a 3rd birthday party and a 40th birthday party and camps all in the course of one summer. But I never worry that my kids will have a warm, dry place to sleep. I worry about luxuries.
And all of a sudden a light bulb exploded in my head. All of my wishing and working and hoping towards a worry free financial life? Really, I have that. I don't have to raid my coin purse to afford diapers. I don't have to wait until pay day to buy milk.
Let's be honest, I'm still going to worry. Apparently, that's what I do. I'm not sure where all the brain activity would go without worry. But I'm going to worry less. And I'm going to remember that all of those things I worry about are not necessary. And I'm going to hope that the young mom in the median with the sign gets to the same place one day.