When I was little, maybe 3 or 4 – my dad’s father would take the liberty of filling my head with silly puns and hilariously awful jokes. You know the kind: instantly invoke eye rolls, knee slaps, and sighs . One of his favorites to tell was about a man, roughly my dad’s age.
There was a young businessman that worked day in and day out; he didn’t have many friends so he decided to adopt a dog for companionship. One day, he took his dog to the dog park to get some playtime in and a young girl ran up to them.
Oh, he’s adorable! she squealed. Thanks, he replied getting back to his newspaper. What’s his name? His name is Tax. She laughed, Tax?? You’re weird, why’d you pick that name?
His reply – Because when I call him, in-come-Tax!
At the time, I just thought gramps was being silly – what the hell does tax mean?! My grandfather, bless his mathematically inclined heart, passed away shortly after this and my dad became the punny one in the family. So I would hear it every other year – it would grace the table at Thanksgiving, maybe make an appearance at a birthday party or four, and then come around for the holidays when the family was all around.
Between my academics and athletic endeavors, I basically had little to no free time – but when I did, I did what most teenage girls do: stimulate the economy. I’ve always had an urge to buy glitzy makeup, upgrade my wardrobe and collect high tech toys. Unfortunately, there was one minor issue: money. My parents detested the idea of holding down a job during the school year because according to them – school was my job. Everything changed the summer between my Sophomore and Junior years of high school. For the first time, I wasn’t on swim team, I wasn’t playing basketball and I wasn’t taking summer school for shits or giggles – I was free! So, I decided it was time to be a bigger kid and earn my keep and my parents, in concurrent fashion, thought it was time to teach me about bills, paychecks and taxes.
At the end of the conversation, my dad turned to me to tell me a joke. “It’s an old one from your grandpa Harry.” He mused excitedly, “I don’t think you’ll remember it. Okay, so – a businessman decides he wants to buy a dog….” For the first time, I got it. By the end of the joke I’d managed to simultaneously roll my eyes, cackle and slap my knee at the same time. It’s one of those horrible kind of jokes that the masses groan at; but do you want know what’s worse? Doing your expenses for the first time.
First things first, let’s get some facts out of the way. Yes: I am (almost) 28, my parents are smart and taught me how to balance a checkbook, I can add and subtract without using my fingers and I’m fairly organized; the keyword there being fairly. The problem with most of my generation, including myself, is that we’re in no mood or rush to get up, get out and get ours; we care more about things that fall into our laps and less about things we truly need to work for. Don’t get me wrong, putting in a valiant effort and then reaping in the rewards – whether it’s self-confidence, admiration, respect or a raise – is amazing. But so is doing absolutely jack shit to get the same result. Meet my generation.
Yes, yes – this is a grotesque, overreaching, insidious generalization; unfortunately, for you the technical term for this condition has been around for roughly 2000 years. The original term coined by Ovid was “Puer Aeternus” – which translates into eternal boy. Psychiatrist Carl Jung took this idea and ran with it, developing it as an innate behavior model, or archetype, in the then newly founded field of analytical psychology. Out of these, what’s now known as Peter Pan Syndrome, developed. Granted, Peter Pan Syndrome is something ascribed mainly to men in their 20’s through 50’s – but I’m a firm believer in gender equality and am fairly positive Women have their own equally common ‘Wendy complex‘.
For a good number of people, the idea of economic and emotional autonomy is nerve wracking. The financial climate of this country is currently, well, horrendous – unemployment rates are up, graduating classes are large and there’s a fierce amount of competition in the work place; the unfortunate fact of the matter is that it’s driving many people to move back home. The problem with being back home, is psychologically it is easier to revert back to older, younger and more immature ways of both thinking and behaving. On the flip side, are the people who have moved out, gotten a job but because of monetary instability are still somewhat reliant on their family. So almost either way you spin it, we still haven’t been forced to grow up – yet.
Lately I’ve been hounding myself into it – thankfully, maturity doesn’t have to happen right away and it certainly doesn’t have to be all at once. But little by little, piece by piece – I’m finally generating these proactive urges to get my life together and get on with all of it.
The first step for independence was figuring out my expenses. Each time I’d sit down and try to do my expenses these three thoughts would cross my mind: (1) This is so important, I can’t believe I’ve never done this before and I can’t wait to see what happens; (2) I spend a lot of money on things that aren’t part of my long term, bigger picture – what the hell?; (3) Oh my god, I’m a hot mess and my brain hurts – this experiment is over! Right around that time I pound a beer, go on my porch and lament about forcing myself to become older and wiser.
I don’t know what got into me last night, but I printed off my last banking statements and started highlighting, sifting and sorting through the wreckage. Then I had a few unsettling epiphanies…
- The price of one lunch at the Whole Foods deli is about the same as I pay for most of my fruits, vegetables and herbs for the week from Cochran Produce.
- For every two nice beers I buy out on the town, I could buy a six-pack for my kitchen.
- Each meal that I’ve had delivered from Nakkara (and let me tell you, they make the best Peking Duck Rolls ever) is equivalent in price to my juices, meats and dairy products for the week from Trader Joes
- My lunches when I go into work are actually cheaper than my lunches when I work from home.
- Last, least and most unfortunately: concerts, DJ sets and shows are expensive.
Like most people I know, I’m learning the hard way: I’m learning how to make smarter, economically conservative decisions; I’m figuring out sooner than later that I can’t exactly afford to maintain this seemingly lush life that I’ve been living; and finally, I’m learning to be conservative with my time, money and energy.
My college friends and I have been lamenting lately that we can’t party like we used to; but I think it’s more than that – we’re not willing to sacrifice our current stability for things that were fun once upon a time. We’ve lived, we’ve learned, and we’re not trying to backtrack. We have 9-5 jobs that pay the rent and our bills; we have a firm understanding of our position within society and aren’t willing to sacrifice it to remake mistakes, regardless of how fun they were.