‘Tis the Gift to Be Simple
Today is my birthday — I am officially 45 years young.
In honor of this “monumental” occasion, we’re going to dig deep into the cavernous chronicles of the past. And explore history as you’ve never experienced it.
What does this mean exactly?
I’ll be reaching back into my memories, which may or may not be 100% accurate — but at least they’re crystal clear in my recollection. And that’s all that matters. (Ha!)
But kidding aside, I will attempt to recount and present a few nuggets of wisdom. Things I’ve learned over the past 25 years or so. These are things I wish I knew back when I was in my early 20’s, and maybe I’m still learning about today.
Because life sure is one whirlwind of a process. And boy, when you talk about lessons learned — I could Kaizen the heck out of many decisions I made back in the day.
But first — we will backtrack just a few days ago. When all of the festivities were just getting started. It stems from several different discussions, all about gift-giving, wants, and needs. And what it means to give a Simple Gift.
To any non-musicians out there, this folk song is pretty much a staple in American Music History. A popular Shaker hymn, which many probably learned in elementary school. And it just seemed appropriate to tie into this particular post. Since lately, I’ve been trying to focus more on the simple things in life.
Coming of Age
Several days ago, my sister asked me how I felt about turning 45. Honestly, I hadn’t thought much about it. I said it’ll probably feel the same way turning 40 felt — like just another day, just another year.
Luckily for me, I’ve always felt that age is just a number.
I mean, am I sometimes shocked when I sit back and realize I’m a middle-aged woman with two adult sons?
Sure, it is kinda crazy when you think about it. Because for the most part, I still feel like a 16-year-old.
Wide-eyed amazement at all the world has to offer. Slightly insecure, at times too trusting, and overall having an adamant belief that everything will turn out exactly the way it’s supposed to in the end.
Call it optimism, call it naivete — or call it Faith. I’m more of a “glass half full” kind of gal, rather than a negative Nellie.
Which also creates an interesting dynamic in my personal relationship, since my SO is known to be a “glass is totally empty and we are all suffering from dehydration” type of person.
One might say a pessimist, but he’d say more of a realist. Although he has definitely lightened up over the years. But we are basically the yin and yang of couples. I used to say we’re the opposite ends of a battery that need each other in order to make things work.
We balance each other out. And we also *almost* share the same birthday. Mine is two days after his. So for many years, we declined to buy gifts for each other — since what was really the point? He’d spend on me, I’d spend on him, and we’d basically cancel each other out.
A Birdie for a Birdie
This year, he was dropping hints to our sons for what he might want as a gift from them (a putter). And while I love them to the moon and back, they sometimes don’t pick up on not-so-subtle suggestions of that nature.
Their thinking is more like: whatever they’d personally want would be a PERFECT gift for someone else. For example, a new pair of kicks, or expensive tickets to a sporting event.
So once their dad’s big day passed, I told him he should just go buy the putter himself. It’s not something we were planning to spend money on, but would be considered a birthday present.
Especially since we’ve been so diligent over the past few months in paying off our large amount of debt. I acknowledge you can only deprive yourself for so long, before something blows and you go on an all-out Amazon spending spree. (Yes, it’s happened).
So after a few minutes of “Did you mean that? Are you really sure? Can we afford it?”, he is happily scrolling through whatever golf website offers such magical devices. And I’m happily being happy that he is happy.
The Follow-Up Question
Then sometime later, he suggests the same proposition to me. Which incidentally, is the same question posed several days ago, when my youngest asked him what he should get me for my birthday.
Because “I can only buy her so many Amazon gift cards. It starts to get old”.
Yes, that is my typical fallback answer. Just get me an Amazon gift card, because you can buy literally anything and everything on Amazon.
At that time, I tried to offer a compromise by sending him a link to an item on Amazon I wanted. It was a handcrafted cedar wood bird feeder to put on our back deck.
Of course, the response to that was “Why in the world would you want a bird feeder for your birthday?”
To which I responded:
1) Because I’d never pay that much money ($27.99) to buy it for myself, and
2) Because bird watching makes me happy.
Sheesh. Talk about a tough crowd.
But the main reason for contriving that answer was this: I had NO IDEA what I wanted for my birthday.
I didn’t need anything, didn’t want anything, and certainly wasn’t expecting any sort of tangible gift. Also, I really did try to come up with something.
The Rejected Gift Ideas
A gift card to buy clothing? Nope. I work from home, so have more clothing than I actually need. My actual work clothes are gathering dust in my closet. And I have so many t-shirts, I have four full garbage bags in the back of my car, waiting to be transported to Goodwill.
The same goes for makeup and hair products. The last time I got all “made up” was probably for a Zoom meeting for a blogging group I belong to. So receiving the gift of a mani/pedi or hair appointment would not really be worth the money spent.
Books? While I do love reading, this whole blogging thing has pretty much taken over all of my free time. Plus I very rarely pick up a physical book, as it’s much easier to read on my Kindle.
Also, I currently have a backlog of roughly 100 unread books on said Kindle. Yup, I’m an ebook hoarder.
Something for the dogs? While they would definitely enjoy some new toys, treats or other accessories, that’s more of a gift for them than for me. Plus the puppers are way spoiled, and have more than enough toys and accessories to last a lifetime.
That leaves me with what I honestly and truly desire for my birthday.
First and foremost, of course, would be for our debt to magically disappear. Impossible, so not an option.
And next on that list would be increased traffic to my blog. Also not something that can be received as a gift.
But a girl can dream, can’t she??
The Gift of Knowledge
If I only knew then what I know now … Well, hindsight is certainly always 20/20, isn’t it?
But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’d make better decisions the second time around. We just like to think that’s the case.
Here are some little nuggets of information I’d like to tell myself, if I had the chance to go back 25 years:
- College isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But if you must go, then go to a nearby state school. It’ll save you a lot of grief and insecurity in the long run. (I know, this was in the 90’s, when going to college was pretty much non-negotiable).
- Just because someone comes from a wealthy family, doesn’t mean they are better than you. Or smarter. Or prettier, or funnier.
- Stand up for yourself. Bullies absolutely revel in your discomfort. Don’t let them enjoy the process. Give it back to them, even if you wind up getting your ass kicked.
- Money won’t buy you happiness. And having a credit card won’t make people like you. Those people just want you to buy them drinks at the bar.
- Stop trying to be just like everyone else. You’re unique for a reason. It’s because you’re Badass.
- You don’t always need to have a boyfriend. Sometimes it’s just better to hang out with your puppy and your dad. Playing Atari in the living room. While eating ice cream.
- When things get rough, lean on your true friends.
- Life is not a dress rehearsal. Play the part like you really mean it.
And to go even deeper, I’d tell myself to take the time to enjoy the simple things. The every day interactions with family and loved ones. The ho-hum, normal conversations while waiting around for the next after school pep rally, or football game, or sleepover party.
Because it’s those day-to-day connections that you will remember the most fondly and miss the most fervently.
The Gift of Time
Something I really wish I had more of right now — the gift of time.
Time to build a relationship with my mother, before she passed when I was 17.
Time to spend with my father, since he’s now retired and lives 6 states away.
The time to grow up with my sister, since we spent many years apart and are just in recent years learning more about each other.
And time to go back and be a better mother to my boys. Since at 23 years old, I sure as heck had no clue how to be the mother of two young toddlers I’d just met.
I fear their childhood was not full of joy and laughter, it was full of worry and stress — where did my mother go, and who is this strange little woman who keeps trying to tell us what to do?
Which makes me sad. Seeing the great young men they’ve grown into, I wish we could’ve provided a more stable and joyful environment. Instead, we led them into a future of debt. But whatever we can do to educate them now, will hopefully help them build a better financial outlook going forward.
And yes, I also wish for time to spend on activities that are meaningful to me, instead of dedicating time to a job that is necessary to pay the bills.
Short of having access to Hermione’s Time-Turner necklace from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we need to make do with the time that is allotted to us.
When True Simplicity is Gain’d
To turn, turn will be our delight / Till by turning, turning we come round right.
One last thing — I found this mashup by ThePianoGuys on YouTube. It’s a combination of Simple Gifts and Somewhere Over the Rainbow (another classic song from childhood).
And I’ve decided THIS is everything. This song right here, is my happiness. Bottle it up, and give it to me as a gift — and I will be set for the rest of my life. (Y’all, I’ve watched this
3 8 times and have cried every single time…)
Listen and enjoy:
That’s it — that’s all I’ve got. It literally took me all day to write this. (So much for batch processing!)
I hope you liked this somewhat lengthy, at times tangential birthday post.
I’m allowed to go off on tangents, since I’m 45 now.
Because sometimes the brain likes to wander, LOL.
Let me know if you related to any part of this post.
For those of you already in your 40’s, maybe this meant something to you.
And for those of you still in your 20’s or 30’s, I hope this has provided some food for thought.
Related Posts about Gift Giving:
A Simple Gift and Life Lessons from Someone in Mid-Life
Robin is a full-time business professional who has worked in the insurance industry for over 20 years. She is also a personal finance blogger who shares her first hand experience with the struggles of money and debt. On Mastering the Side Jam, she focuses on ways to maximize efficiencies to make & save money, pay off debt, and live your best life.
She has been been featured on The Money Mix, Rockstar Finance, The Financial Diet and Women’s Money Talk, and has been quoted in various online publications.