Every day of 2012 presented opportunities to learn something new. When I reflect on the days of 2012 collectively, several of the lessons I’ve learned stand out.
- Make keeping in touch with friends from your past a priority. With so many obligations vying for my time and effort, it is tough to maintain contact with friends from my past. In early 2012, a very dear friend of mine passed away unexpectedly. It had been a couple of years since we had lived in the same town, yet we managed to speak to one another over the phone every few weeks. I will never regret the effort I put into staying in contact with her. My memory of the conversation I had with her just one week before her death is priceless.
- The borrower is slave to the lender. The veracity of Proverbs 22:7 became incredibly clear when my husband and I began budgeting. We both have student loan debt from our years in college. Looking at the breakdown of our monthly budget, one can see that indeed we are slaves to our lender, the U.S. government.
- Etiquette is culture-bound. I, a White female who was raised in Colorado, am married to a Black male who was raised in the Deep South. Through our interactions, I’ve come to the realization that what is considered traditional, respectful, or normal can vary widely from one culture to another. The etiquette of Emily Post may be well-known, but it reflects only one culture.
- Frugal does not equal deprived. On occasion, I slip into the mindset that I’m going without because I’m not able to eat out often, I wear old clothes, or I’m cold because our thermostat is set low in the winter. I forget that though I can’t eat out I have food at home, though I don’t have new clothes to wear I have lots of old clothes, and though the house is cold I have nice blankets to use to stay warm. In reality, I have in abundance.
- There’s no place like home…ownership. Once you finally make it through all the paperwork, inspections, and other minutia, home ownership is a great responsibility and a great joy.
- Take pictures. You know that one person in group photos whose eyes are always closed? Or the one who isn’t even looking at the camera or has some bizarre expression on her face? Yeah…well, that’s me. I have a knack for consistently looking ridiculous in photos. Thus, I tend to avoid cameras. The realization that I have exactly one photo of us from the 9 months during which my husband and I dated has helped me realize that looking ridiculous is a poor reason to avoid cameras. I’d rather have pictures of my husband and me where I look silly than not have pictures of us at all.
- The U.S. electorate consists of far too many one-issue voters. As I listened to dialogue leading up to the election, I realized that many Americans are concerned with one issue and one issue only. Maybe it’s abortion or foreign policy. Maybe it’s gay marriage or entitlement programs. Whatever it is, so many Americans vote based on how candidates stand on that one issue, paying little heed to the candidates’ positions on other topics. I fear this means voters may elect ignorant, nearsighted officials.
- TV ownership is not inherently evil. After a decade of choosing to live without a TV, one now sits in my living room. I didn’t have a TV in order to avoid the distraction it might bring, as well as to avoid getting wrapped up in following any TV shows (especially given how much tasteless stuff there is on TV today). My husband had a TV when we got married, so we’ve kept it…and even used it. As with so many other things in life, the TV itself is not a problem. The problem lies in how it is used.
- Reading product reviews can be an excellent use of time. Before making significant purchases, such as a vacuum, cutlery, or lawnmower, my husband and I poured over purchaser reviews on the websites of various retailers. I’m so glad we did! The reviews provided insight into the ease of use, quality, and longevity of the products. I’ve been very pleased with our purchases and have found the reviews to be quite accurate. I recommend checking the online sites of several retailers that sell the product you’re interested in so you’ll get reviews from various perspectives.
- I’m getting too old for long, long drives. Several times each year during our years as undergrads, my best friend and I would drive 18 hours straight, which was what it took to make it from Central Texas to our homes in Northeastern Colorado. We didn’t think twice about it. (Perhaps it was the post-final exam adrenaline rush…) Apparently those days are gone. I became acutely aware of this as my husband and I, accompanied by my parents, made a cross country drive in early September. Hindered by rainbands from Hurricane Isaac, we crawled on the interstate highways. A soft bed, albeit in a hotel, now wins out over an earlier arrival at my destination.
- You either pay with money or pay with time and energy. Whether it’s baked goods, curtains, or invitations, I often save money by making something by hand instead of purchasing it in a store. While this is an excellent way to save money, it still costs. The price is time and energy.
- “Stuff” multiples exponentially. As I packed up to move across the country, I realized just how many odds and ends I’d accumulated over the years. In fact, it seemed as though every knickknack, accoutrement, document, and memento had somehow reproduced. After getting rid of most of the items that were unneeded, I’ve moved forward with a more selective approach on what stuff I keep.
What lessons have you learned in 2012?