An Open Letter to My Children
Dear C, N, S:
Mom here. You know I love you and all that, but let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? I know you’ve got things to do, but this is important and I want to make sure that you take away the important things I write here. Wordy lectures are not the most effective way to communicate with you, therefore I will try to be brief.
This is about your future, but it’s also about the choices you make now and how those choices will help you in the future. Your father and I discuss this often and we’ve reached certain conclusions that I must share with you now.
Your father and I want you to consider carefully what it is that you like to do and figure out how to do that for a living. Look, you’re going to spend a lot of your lives at work, you may as well enjoy what you do. It took Dad several years in jobs that didn’t suit him before he decided that he wanted to be a teacher. Once he achieved that, look how little time it took him to become Department Chair and Teacher of the Year.
Loving what you do helps you to be successful.
I am the opposite example. I hate my job. It’s a living and that’s all. I don’t know what I want to do. Well, actually, I do know what I want to do, but I don’t know how to turn it into something that makes enough money so that I can do my share to support this family.
There’s a lot you won’t understand and I won’t snow you under with details, but know this…..with three kids, a mortgage, college loans, credit cards, car payments, groceries and high fuel and energy costs, it takes every penny plus some to support this family.
Dad and I do okay together, but if one of us were to lose our job or get really sick, it would be impossible to pay all of our bills. If you don’t pay your bills on time, things become more expensive. When you have unstable credit, you get charged more for everything. Remember that.
The best advice I can offer you is to not have credit cards. Ever. They are poison. Sure, it’s pretty much a given that you can’t book a room or rent a car, for example, without a credit card, but most places will now take check cards. Remember, though, that check card is like cash. You’ve got to have the cash in the bank to use the card.
I didn’t mean to veer off into a letter about money, but this all ties together.
The most important part of this letter is this: Be sure to know what kind of lifestyle you can support on the money your chosen field will pay. If you’re going to be in the arts, for instance, as each of you seem to be drawn toward, be prepared to lead a relatively frugal, simple lifestyle.
Follow your dreams and desires, but do it with your eyes wide open. Know that it might be a hard, competitive and often frustrating world that you enter, but the price is small compared to the personal reward of looking back at your life and knowing that you did what you wanted and you squeezed every drop out of life.
How do you achieve this? Well, for starters, don’t buy the American Dream lie. You do not have to marry and have children and buy the McMansion in the suburbs with two cars and a dog.
An apartment in a city where you can use public transportation might suit you better than the house in the country you grew up in. The best lifestyle I can imagine these days would be to not own a car, to rarely need one, in fact. I’ve lived both lifestyles. Both have their pros and cons. But if you think having your own car will make your life easier and happier, let me invite you to join me for my one hour commute to the office in heavy I75 traffic. The only good thing about it is that I have plenty of radio listening time.
As for owning stuff, well, it’s just not necessary. Sure, you can never own too many books and there’s always another song to purchase, but don’t get caught in the trap of buying lots of crap that just needs a place to sit, requires an occasional dusting and doesn’t serve any purpose other than to add clutter to your life.
Learn to cook. Nearly anything you prepare will be vastly better than anything processed that you can buy. Your wallet and your health will be better for this choice. Choose to conserve in every way you can. Conservation and recycling offer savings that accumulate over time. The reverse is true. Wasteful living adds up in dollars and damage to the environment.
Key to all of this will be the debt you accumulate before you get out of college, assuming you’ll attend college. The best advice I can give you is to choose wisely and not go into debt at all. Don’t choose schools that you can’t afford. You know that your father and I will not be able to help you financially, but we’ll do whatever we can to help you find scholarships and grants and work to help you finance your education. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and learn to take it when it’s offered.
Our nation’s culture tells you to spend, spend, spend. Don’t do it. And don’t set yourselves up for financial failure. Live within your means. Don’t create situations where you can’t afford your lifestyle. Do what you love and know that if you’re in a field that doesn’t pay a lot of money, then you’re going to need to supplement your income doing things you don’t necessarily want to do (I don’t recommend this).
Better yet, have a general idea of what you can expect to earn and don’t mortgage your future by creating a mountain of debt before you ever begin earning. And once you get out there, remember that you are not defined by your dwelling, your mode of transportation or your clothing. Doing things is far more satisfying than having things.
A life well lived. Now that’s the way to be defined. Go for it, my beautiful babies.
My deepest love and affection to each of you,