I will never be remembered as a person who could keep a budget.
And that’s okay, I think. At least I had a great weekend because of it.
At almost the last possible minute, I booked a flight to D.C. last weekend so I could be in town for my friend’s surprise engagement party. My attendance was a surprise for everyone—myself included. Even though I had known about the party for months, I hadn’t planned to be there.
It was too expensive to travel, I told myself, and I’m moving there in a few weeks anyway. I should save the money, I rationalized; I could buy a mattress (or part of one, at any rate) with that money!
Yet last weekend crept closer and closer, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wanted needed to be there. And as I agonized over the rising ticket cost, I came to a valuable realization: I’d rather be known as the friend who was there—who lived generously and spontaneously enough to be present in friends’ lives—than the one who managed an impeccable bank account.
I resolved not to feel the way I feel looking back on high school after graduation, asking myself if achieving that near-perfect GPA was worth memories I never made with friends. I resolved not to feel the way I feel when I look back on college, wondering if I missed too many good experiences because insecurity and fear held me back. I resolved not to feel the way I feel when I look back on this year, realizing that a fog of depression kept me from investing myself here.
I bought the ticket, of course.
It pained me a bit. Okay: It actually pained me a lot when I saw that charge on my credit card statement. I had just charted out a new budget at the beginning of the week—and here I was, days later, flagrantly flaunting it. And in spite of all my positive self-talk about the importance of spontaneity and being present, the truth is that I desperately want to keep that budget and be able to say that I “have it all together,” even in unseen ways like finances.
But maybe that’s irrational, because life isn’t about saving the most money—even though it’s easy to trick myself into believing that. I’ve been blessed with a job that pays my bills and student loans with money to spare. Although saving money is an important priority, I don’t want to hoard that money for the sake of having it, the fleeting personal satisfaction of a few extra dollars in the bank. That just perverts the blessing.
Spending the money on a flight to D.C. (for myself, no less) doesn’t exactly qualify as “charity.” But if I had saved that money and come out $300 richer in the end, what would I have gained?
Certainly not the joy of seeing my sweet friend’s surprise and happiness.
Certainly not the joy of worshiping for an extra Sunday at the church I love.
Certainly not the joy of meeting one of my new roommates and seeing the house where I’ll be living in just three short weeks.
Certainly not the joy of waking up in my favorite city on my 23rd birthday.
Certainly not the joy of a birthday run to the Capitol.
And certainly not the peace of praying outside one of my favorite D.C. coffee shops that morning, thanking God that year 22, a very rough season in my life, finally seems to be ending.
I may not have a mattress yet, but I do have a measure of contentment that I didn’t have before my whirlwind weekend in D.C.
That said, there’s still a part of me (most of me, let’s be real) that is experiencing mild panic right now. I move in less than 3 weeks, and this weekend made it finally feel real—but it also made it feel so hard. After a great-but-untraditional birthday, stress crashed down on me yesterday. It’s stress caused by things both big and small, work and personal life, traveling home next week and packing to move, affording life in D.C. (that town be expeeeensive!) and just finishing well in Illinois. To be honest, I can’t think about it too much because that allows the truth to come flooding in: I am completely overwhelmed and not at all in control. That’s uncomfortable for me, because my list of tasks—both real and imagined—keeps growing and I am paralyzed by the thought of tackling it.
I need to update the mailing address for all of my magazine subscriptions and I don’t know where to start. I need to sleep more. I need to arrange a car rental for the drive to D.C. I need to eat less cake. I need to finish an impossible-to-finish story for work before the end of the week. I need to pack. I need to make this stress-induced tick in my right eye go away.
In other words, I need to cling more fiercely to joy, to not let it slip away so easily. And of course: I still need to buy a mattress.