Beach Dreams – A Decade Later.

Jeff and I honeymooned in Fiji. Which was, in a word, ah-FREAKING-mazing. (And yes, that’s a word. I just made it up. But it’s TOTALLY a word.:))

Every night, after a day of snorkeling or or rafting or kayaking or scuba diving or whatever, we’d take a walk on the beach and watch the sun set over the water before we’d head to dinner.

The sunsets were pretty, of course. But what I remember from those beach walks was our discussion. We were newly married. We had dreams and hopes and talked about what we wanted out of our marriage: two kids (preferably three years apart, of course), a big house with land, careers that afforded us balance and family and vacation time with opportunities for advancement. And travel, lots of travel.

Both of our families didn’t have a lot of money when we were growing up. And the one thing we talked about was this idea of never having to WORRY about money. We wanted to live within our means and keep a savings account balance. We wanted to pay off our credit card every month so our debt was limited to mortgage and student loans. But we also wanted to be able to splurge here and there without too much worry: vacations, tee ball, dinners out, weekends away, etc.

It’s no secret that I don’t love being an accountant. I picked it because it was recession-proof and I figured it would be intellectually challenging. Which is was. Is. But it’s hard to separate what I COULD do with what I actually have time to do, and it can be stressful when I find an issue I don’t have time to find, and my clients often don’t love me, especially when it’s Sarbanes-Oxley work.

And I loathe, utterly LOATHE, the commute. Driving into Boston every day sucks the soul right out of me.

So this weekend I ran actual monthly numbers to see if we could afford for me to stay home. And discovered very quickly that, while it’s DOABLE, it would require us to significantly change our lifestyle. For the first time, we’d have to WORRY about money.

There’s plenty we COULD do, mind you, to save money. We could get rid of our gym memberships, and I could stop doing my running clinics. No more budget for a running coach, or deep sea fishing or golf for Jeff. No tee ball, no Museum of Science membership.

We could make it work.

But then I remembered our discussion on the beach in Fiji. So many of those beach dreams didn’t work out the way we wanted them to. We don’t have the two kids three years apart like we had hoped: we are SO fortunate to have our son, but there will likely never be a sibling. Balance with family and work does not come easily for either one of us. We do have the big house with land and great neighbors, but it means a long commute into Boston – for both of us.

I am fully aware of how fortunate I am to have choices, this day and age. I’m only a few generations removed from a woman who didn’t have the right to vote, work, or do ANYTHING with her mind.

And even, right now, I know so many people where both parents HAVE to work – there’s no choice in the matter. I also know people who have been looking for work for a long time and would LOVE to have the flexibility I do with my career.

At the end of the day, I have a choice.

And right now, I will choose to continue to do what I’m doing. Which means the suck of a three hour commute, but hopefully some time off here and there – and flexibility to work from home when I need to. It means I continue to work as an accountant, even though I don’t love it (on the good days) and hate it (on the bad days). It means Owen goes to aftercare at school three times a week. It means I continue to juggle and feel like supermom (on the good days) and an utter failure (on the bad days).

What we didn’t see on that beach in Fiji nearly a decade ago was the full picture; in our honeymoon haze, we saw our dreams through rose-colored glasses and imagined the perfect life without the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

The reality is that life is kind of hard, and it’s impossible to do it all without sacrificing something. My sacrifice, right now, for the flexibility to do the things we enjoy outside of work is a long commute and time at a job that I don’t love.

Really, at the end of the day, that’s not so bad.

And yes, remind me of this when I’m complaining about how I loathe it sometime soon, please. 🙂

What are some of the choices you’ve made to live the life you want? Are they sacrifices you’d make willingly if you could do it again?

5 comments on “Beach Dreams – A Decade Later.

  1. Deborah says:

    That dream you had on your honeymoon – nobody achieves that! It does sound like a very nice life, but at this point in my life I can say that’s totally unrealistic. I think as a kid, I had no idea that life would be hard. My mom wanted me to have that kind of childhood, but it left me really unprepared for the real world. Now, it seems to me like anybody can achieve *most* of the things they want in life, but at least one thing has got to give. For me, I have the career satisfaction you are missing, but I definitely DON’T have the financial freedom. It’s always a tradeoff.

    If I had to do it over again would I do things differently? That’s a good question. I never thought about it that way. And you know what? Probably not. 🙂

  2. Emily says:

    My feelings about work are similar to yours. I haven’t actually crunched the income numbers. But I know that, even if the balance sheet would work out, I would feel guilty spending money on non-necessities if I wasn’t working. And I’ve come to the realization that I like not worrying about money. It’s nice to have that ease in a life that often feels hard in so many other ways. I would love to have a more fulfilling career, but I really don’t know what that would be (especially if I want the kind of flexibility I currently have), and in the grand scheme of things I know I have a good life. So I guess I wouldn’t do things differently, because I know that no matter what there would be tradeoffs.

  3. Larisa says:

    I choose, every day, to walk forward. I choose to work – I don’t *have* to, but it makes worry less, and things like travel or private school, should we choose it, possible. I choose happiness – every, single day – and it’s work some days. And it’s not what I dreamt of on our honeymoon, but it’s still a sweet life. Harder than I wish it was, but mine. Ours. ❤

  4. Turia says:

    Just catching up after being away for a week or so. I think this has been hard for me to realize as well- that we can’t really have it all. That the dreams mask the reality- the concessions, the compromises, the sacrifices.

    I think you are making the right decision. You can keep your options open. But I think having to curtail your lifestyle so dramatically, and adding the issue of fretting about money (because even if you have “enough” if it’s tight it will still be a source of stress) would lead to a lot of tension in your marriage, and for yourself. And O. is getting to an age where he will have more school activities and field trips, more birthday parties, more friends going to summer camp, etc. etc.

    It’s not a final decision, just a “for now” one. 🙂

  5. There’s not much I could or would change. I had a lucrative, successful career that unknowingly would delay my getting married until I was 37.

    If I could do anything over, I would SAVE way more than I did. I had no idea that ART and a failed domestic adoption pursuit would BLEED our savings. I will have to return to work so that we can repay ourselves but given what I have I wouldn’t change it.

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