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Why It’s Essential To Make Smart Choices For Your Future Self

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One of our readers, Leslie Rowen, recently wrote in with a response to an article we published, “How Your Inability To Trust Yourself Is Keeping You From Getting Shit Done.” Check out her response below.

“Chelsea recently reflected on the undefined transition to adulthood in, “How Your Inability To Trust Yourself Is Keeping You From Getting Shit Done,” where she described how much we underestimate ourselves as new adults. Although we are only six years apart, Chelsea and I are sort of on either side of adulthood—me approaching it, and her well into it with much more experience. I thought it would be worthwhile to look at that same topic she wrote about from my twenty-year-old perspective.

It is hard, when you leave home, to choose how seriously you should take your life and the choices you make. I arrived at college as an 18-year-old who had been aching for her independence all throughout high school. I felt like I was done with ~growing up~ and that this was it—my life was beginning! I thought the transition into this new adult life would be a breeze, but it wasn’t. I remember it first hitting me when I was out on a drive coming back from my older brother’s college that was a few hours away from mine. My dad dropped me off at school, and I realized that I would never make the complete return trip home again. I was surprised to feel this strange hollow feeling in my stomach upon realizing that. I expected that I would only feel good things after moving away, like the freedom to be on my own and the joy of getting some distance, but I never considered that I might feel disconnected and displaced. As time passed, I had to learn how to set roots down in this new place, get to know different people, frequent different haunts, and make new places feel like home. I was able to acclimate myself, and now I feel less like a ship lost at sea and more like a boat with two harbors.

I’ve found that these fuzzy years of shifting from being a new college girl to a grown ass woman, to be full of awkward contradictions. I find myself trying to reconcile my desire to cling to my dependency on my parents for as long as possible, while simultaneously trying to prove to my parents that I’m responsible for myself. Consequently, I seem to have struck a weird balance between the two. This contradiction manifests itself in situations like the one I had this past semester — one night I was with my roommates getting dressed up for a “White Trash” themed frat party, and the next day I was solemnly ending a serious relationship because it wasn’t compatible with my adult future goals. These experiences make life feel messy and nonsensical.

I’ve talked to a few friends about this feeling, and it seems like the restlessness of our early twenties boils down to one thing — we don’t know when to start being that person we plan on being in our adult life. We wonder, “am I already her?” I ask myself, “will I be her when I have my own apartment and am purchasing groceries, paying rent, AND saving money?” I wonder if I will finally feel like an adult when I can buy my first plane ticket home without having to move meager amounts of money between bank accounts. There doesn’t seem to be any defining moment (surprise), but rather, a decision that one makes — you just sort of decide to grow up.

I found that it’s difficult to decide when we are at a point in our lives where we should make decisions with our future selves in mind. Speaking from my own experience, I stayed in a relationship with someone who had a different lifestyle, different financial habits, and a completely different outlook on their financial future, because I was in love. I kept telling myself that things would work themselves out (lol) as long as we loved each other. I felt silly for giving my decision for the relationship too much weight because I knew I was only 20 and I thought, “why should I be stressing out about something that won’t really affect me until years from now when I get married?” I thought that I didn’t need to worry about decisions that were really far off —  or that is at least what I wanted to believe.

However, in reality, the thought of making that tough decision to end the relationship I knew was bad for me did weigh on me. I lost sleep, gained weight, and cried way too much. It wasn’t until we had been broken up for two months that I was able to see how much I was underestimating how the degree to which the relationship was negatively effecting me. I realize now that I was feeding the needs of my present self, who just wanted to be in a relationship, at the expense of my future self, who wouldn’t want the debt and lifestyle of my then boyfriend. Although I kept going back and forth between deciding if I should let the future matter more than the present, in the end, I decided that I needed to make the hard decision now to benefit my future self. Going through that experience helped me identify what I think is the difference between being a girl and being an adult woman. An adult woman is one who makes decisions that will benefit her future and acts on them in the present.

If there is one thing that TFD has stressed, it has been the importance of saving money and making responsible choices for your future self. This blog has helped me learn financial responsibility and the importance of saving. Now, I’m able to see why my future self will be thankful for all the manicures and craft cocktails I didn’t buy, because one day I might find myself in real need of cash to cover something like a car transmission or an emergency room stay. It takes dedication and diligence to put the needs of our future self ahead of what we want now, because it requires forgoing immediate desires for the sake of long-term peace of mind — but it’s worth it. The process of saving goes beyond our bank accounts, and it encompasses every experience you choose to forgo. For example, me choosing to leave the relationship that I knew was emotionally draining helped me preserve some sanity for my future self, and provided me with an opportunity to pursue a healthier relationship.

I’ve found that it’s helpful to ask these questions when making decisions for my future — is this choice benefitting my future self or not? Is it building me up? Am I gaining a meaningful experience? I have to weed out the things that aren’t achieving those basic goals. However, while I do think it’s important to make responsible decisions, I want to be clear and say that I don’t think it’s healthy to only live for the future. I simply feel that our choices in the present should not be at odds with our desires for our future. Maybe this sounds like a no-brainer (and as I write this I feel like what I’m stating is obvious), but for me, it’s one of those things that is much harder in practice. It is easy to just hope that things will change, whether it be your relationship, job, bank account, etc., but it’s another to actively change them.

Although it’s instantly gratifying to live in the moment, you have to realize that those material things only last as long as you remember them. Instead, the majority of our choices should be meaningful (and I’m not trying to deny all my fellow twenty-year olds their fun, so I’ll say majority), and contribute to some greater end goal of #whoyouwanttobe. This means that decisions about everything from finances to dating should be aligned with the person you want to be, say, five years from now. It means deciding today that you can start being the person you imagine yourself being in your head. Although I still find myself coming up short of the woman I want to be, I know that I can be her, and all I can do is try my hardest to do her proud right now.”

Leslie is studying English and Spanish in Louisville, KY. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

  • Katrina

    What a wonderful response – thank you for sharing this! I’m your age, Leslie, and have been in a similar situation so this was great to read. Love it when I come across things like this on TFD!

    • Leslie

      Thanks, Katrina! 🙂

  • Very eloquently put! I can remember taking long walks and thinking about this stuff when I was in your same position. And I distinctly remember friends telling me to lighten up and not worry so much about figuring everything out. I think it’s a very delicate balance between enjoying life NOW and making choices that will have positive repercussions in the future. Thanks for sharing! <3

  • Amber-Dawn Schiff

    I remember thinking about if I had reached adulthood yet while living in my parents house on and off up until past the age of 30. Some would say I should have tried to remain living on my own as an adult. I read various articles about living on one’s own early on teaches one about responsibility. At the same time, if you live at your parents while refraining from blowing your paychecks on superfluous items, you build up savings that make that transition into a self-supporting independent adult much easier. I also invested my money in companies like facebook (which is up for than 300% from the time I bought it.) At this point, I am married relatively financially independent adult who pays for my car, owns an apartment in Queens, and holds down a job. Finances is something to think about early on after college particularly if you live in NYC where the cost of living is astronomical. While living at my parents wasn’t easy this was a decision that paid off when I moved out. This was my way of planning for my financial future.