20something profile: Amber
College graduation occurred May 7th, 2011. I was drunk. I’d started taking shots of Canadian Hardwood at 8am that morning. I just wanted to get the damn thing over with. Musical theatre — that was my major. At one time, I was 100% sure about that choice. Two years in, I was crying in the bathroom to my father, who attempted to will me towards the date of May 7th, 2011 with his motto: “Just get the damn degree.”
So I got it, and I have three years of life and work experience under my belt since then. What else? Monthly loan payments, but not much else because I’m back living at home. No regrets, because I could easily be living on my own in Chicago right now, financially independent with a 9 to 5 job, but I forewent that option the day I boarded a plane to Europe and decided to stay five months. Self-knowledge? Yes, I have a better sense of what I want and who I want to share it with.
However, along with my greater sense of self, I also seem to have garnered a smaller support system. It seems the closer I get to being fully honest with myself about what I want, the more judgment and unsolicited opinions I get from those around me. I have a few people in my life who get it and support me unwaveringly in following my own agenda. The rest seem to become more fearful with every day that I become more fearless in recognizing my dream of a life with travel, love, family, friends, a creative career, AND personal time. I’m unconventional. I challenge the status quo. It scares them. It’s a good thing.
My greatest piece of “identity capital,” as things stand in my current situation, is my outlook. I am positive. I am self-aware and keep perspective by constantly reminding myself of my own privilege. I don’t believe in worrying. I believe in the effectiveness of not worrying. I am solution-oriented. I pride myself on my moxy to go after what I want and believe that I can “have it all,” no matter what people may say to the contrary.
And as for my financial status, the greatest thing I’ve learned about money is that it translates to independence, which is something I want in endless quantities. What it doesn’t translate to is self-worth. When I was in Chicago with a salaried job and a savings account in a beautiful Lincoln Park apartment, I was miserable. Because I was ignoring my dream of boarding a plane and seeing the world. My deepest, strongest passion was to do just that, the same as someone might dream of starting a business or having a family or moving to a new city. My dream just happened to be travel and continues to be.
Once I did it, that savings was gone, and I was happier than ever, not because I was broke, but because I’d started living life in the direction I wanted to. Coming back to the States, there were realities to face: loan payments, real jobs, rent costs, an ongoing list…but with the honest pursuit of my true destiny came a new financial mindset as well. Financing my wanderlust is a priority, and when it comes to work, I write — because I love it — and because it is aligned with the liberated lifestyle I desire.
In general, everything seems more attainable since I took that first step towards doing what I want. I am also constantly afraid I’m not trying hard enough or not taking the right steps or going to get stuck…and then I remember how far I’ve already come. That I went from five years of angsty soul searching to five months that changed my life. And I have no choice but to keep heading in the right direction — my direction.