By all accounts, I have lived a cushy life. Growing up, I had every advantage: loving parents, fun siblings, great friends, and a strong faith. A few months after graduating from college, I got an interesting job, and I met the man that I would marry in just a few short years.
Life hummed along just as I planned (or rather as I hadn’t planned since I have an undying sense that I owe the present everything I have) when just a few months into our marriage, my husband started talking about grad school. Despite a recent move to a job which promised future growth potential, my husband, the mad scientist, felt he would be trapped without a graduate degree. I encouraged him to apply to schools near and far- including schools on both coasts (far away from our Midwest home).
Our Wedding Day
“What an adventure we were going to have,” I thought to myself. “I’ll find a new job in a new city, and maybe I’ll start that food truck that I’ve been thinking about.”
A few months later, I found out that I was unexpectedly pregnant, and that my husband had only gotten into one school- it was across the country.
With the ever rational pregnancy hormones coursing through my veins, I pushed my husband to accept the spot in graduate school. After all, how hard can it be to move across the country, find and start a new job, and become a first time mom all within a few weeks of each other?
So that’s what we did. In June we bought a town home that I had seen exactly once, in July my son was born, in August we moved to Raleigh, NC and got two renters into our Minneapolis condo, and in September I started my “new job”, and by October I was lonely, stressed and suffering from postpartum depression.
Kenny at about 5 months old- much cuter than those newborn pictures.
I felt deceived. I never knew that working, or a baby, or supporting my husband’s dreams were going to make me feel horrible. It was what I wanted, but now that I had it, I just wanted to turn back the clock and undo every decision I had ever made. But I couldn’t turn the clock back, and I felt that contentment wasn’t an option: I needed to change my circumstances.
Out of the recesses of postpartum depression and a lack of clarity and purpose I had desires simmering beneath the surface, about to explode in an eruption of marital strife and pain for all who ventured closely. I vaguely wanted to stay home with my baby, and I wanted to weep, and I wanted to make baked goods and friends, and go for runs in the cool morning and breast feed instead of pump. These desires, though good, turned into selfish discontentment, which quickly became a central obsession in my mind. I specifically became obsessed with lowering expenses so that we could live on my husband’s student stipend.
Instead of pouring out my heart before God; instead of asking him for the desires of my heart and to satisfy me with the truly satisfying bread and water of life- I felt certain I could find a way. I would build wealth and budget and squeeze every penny until it cried until I was the captain of my life.
A few short weeks after the obsession was born, I tuned into Dave Ramsey on the radio. This was intentional. I knew he was a personal finance guy, and I wanted to learn the tricks of the trade. That, and I had seen a billboard advertising his show so I knew it was on 106.1FM, and that it ran from 6-9PM.
My first few attempts to listen were thwarted by Tarheels basketball, but eventually that bald-headed finance guru came through my airwaves. I don’t remember much of what I heard except that he signed off the show saying, “The only way to true financial peace is to walk daily with the prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.” No net worth or income would give me financial peace. Only God could give me true and lasting peace.
This was my personal finance moment. The moment that I realized that my desire for financial freedom and financial peace wasn’t the ultimate goal and wouldn’t bring me ultimate happiness. I could allow my husband to buy new cleats, and I could seek to be content in my job and with our outrageously awesome nanny. Learning to manage money would only be a tool in my life not a god. I could be excited about future possibilities without demanding them now, and I could be sad, but not devastated when my plans don’t pan out.