19 June 2012

NOW! or patience and restraint

Afternoon winter sun in the bedroom.

This is part of a recent email I received from a young reader here called Stacey. She is asking about having what you want NOW:

The only thing I wrestle with is something I think may be a new trend in my generation - wanting something NOW and the feeling of urgency around it. My husband (mid-thirties) and I have envisioned that we would buy a house on an acre, add water tanks and chooks and solar etc. And currently we are saving a deposit for this imagined house. We would like to save a large chunk to ensure we have a smaller mortgage and change to be able to commence our ideas on the property. 
It is slow going with one income, but since leaving my job we are actually saving more money than we did when I was working (because we are mindful and respectful of our income now, rather than spending on frivolous things). I have one more year to go after this before I am a teacher and we are back to two incomes. 
However, I can't help feeling the sense of urgency all the time. Why can't we save faster? What if I deferred uni so we could have two incomes again? Why are my friends always ahead of me? So what if we have a higher mortgage, we can still afford it…. At times it honestly feels uncomfortable how much I want it to happen RIGHT THIS SECOND and I have laughed at myself many times thinking this is what a two year old feels when they want candy. 

I know I am not alone. I think the difference is that I do not act upon this impulse. 

Do you think this is a generation specific thing? Has my generation becomes a bunch of two year olds who want the candy NOW!?

I have many friends and family who seem to 'have it all' but I see on closer inspection that they are so far in debt, unable to take more than the paid maternity leave, can't afford things without a credit card etc. 
It is these moments that I realise how grateful I am to have no debt and be able to pay cash for everything. That impulse to "have" may be there, but I think it is the ability to say no to yourself that will end up leading to the reward in the end, right?

Thanks for your question, Stacey, I think it's something a lot of us struggle with.

The first thing I want to say, Stacey, is that your spending friends aren't ahead of you. They're behind. They might have more stuff, they might have a house and mortgage already, but you are ahead of them now, you'll be ahead of them when you get your mortgage and I have no doubt you'll be ahead of them when you pay off your mortgage. Being in debt to get what you want doesn't put you ahead of anyone.

I don't think it's generation specific. I think many of the younger generation certainly do seem want everything immediately, and maybe my generation fostered that in their children, wanting them to have the best of everything, but many of my generation want NOW too.  I think it comes from an attitude that is fostered by advertising, wanting us to be dependent on what we can buy. It is all about DE-skilling us so we're reliant on buying everything we need. It's a very childish attitude. Prudence and patience is something we learn as we grow up. Advertising is hoping to short circuit that tendency towards a more mature attitude, they want us to want everything now and they want us to have it now, even if we go into debt to have it.

I think it's also been helped along by mobile phones and the crazy ability to reach anyone at any time, regardless. People are slaves to their phones now, they can't wait. I've had a mobile phone for the past 22 years and I use it mainly to make contact if I'm going to be late or I want to check if there is anything needed at home before I come home. It is not a device for people to phone me while I'm out. In fact, that is one of the pleasures of being out. I don't have to answer the phone. Often I have the phone in my purse, not switched on, and if it is and it rings, I only answer it if it's my family. If I don't recognise a number or I don't feel like talking, I don't answer it. For most of us, most of the time there is no reason for anyone to be contactable every minute of the day. Wait. Wait for the person to call you. Wait until you get home to call. Wait until you feel like talking. Wait for tomorrow or the next day to call back. Your life doesn't have to be interrupted by someone who wants to chat.

Stacey, I think it's admirable that you and your husband have thought about your goals and are putting measures in place to achieve your dreams. One of the important aspects of simplifying is that part that encourages us to slow down, be more reflective and mindful. I find that very easy now but I know it's difficult to be slower and patient when all those around you aren't. It is a skill, it is something you learn, just like budgeting and gardening, so I can only suggest that you remain confident in your actions, remember you're on target and doing well, and understand that most things take their own time. Not everything needs to be fast and stress-filled. It's okay to be slower and to wait.

The beginnings of baked vegetables.

When I look back on a long life with Hanno, I realise that most of the things I cherish now are those that took their own time - having babies, paying off our debt, waiting for just-sown seeds to mature and start producing food for our table and being a grandma. One of the things I love doing now is to start a new knitting project. I take my time finding a pattern, sorting through my wool and cotton, thinking about what I'm making and then when colours and ply have been chosen, sitting down to start that long process of knitting. One stitch by one stitch, I sit and click. It's put down, picked up, put in on old flour bag to take with me to knit when I'm out, and it seems at the beginning that it will be too much for Australia's most impatient grandma to endure the endless thousands of stitches knitted one . by . one ... But it isn't. It is actually the process that taught that same queen of impatience how to wait.

You'll be okay Stacey. I know that because you're mature enough to ask this question, you know it is a weakness and therefore you can do something about it. All intelligent people do that. They recognise their vulnerabilities and they work on them. I'm not sure what your strategy will be to strengthen your resolve towards patience and restraint, but I do know that you and your husband will be rewarded for waiting, and you know that too.

This question will resonate with many readers so expect to read some great comments. So now readers, it's over to you - what advice do you have for Stacey?

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