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Affording a life you love

There is something to be said for getting everything taken away from you, that allows you to refocus and reset on truly what’s most important.

When I first learned that my ex husband had been cheating on me, I called my mom and said a phrase I will never forget: “I couldn’t leave if I wanted to-- I can’t afford to be on my own.”

Y'all, in order to truly grasp this statement, I need to fill you in on my family a bit more.

My mom was one of 7 kids, and her dad passed away suddenly, when her youngest sister was six years old. My grandmother was a single female business owner and the mother of seven kids. My dad left us when I was 11, and my mom continued to raise a know-it-all pre-teen while running a business of her own.

I went to college on a full scholarship, and each time I wanted to study abroad or apply for a new opportunity, the answer my mom gave was always yes-- provided I could obtain the scholarships and funding to do so.

All of that to say, I don’t come from a fragile stock of women who shied away from challenging times.

And then I married a man who told me I needed to spend more time at home, and couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t stop “my little business”, because he could afford to support us both. For five years I was told that my dreams and aspirations were ‘too much’, so I worked to make myself smaller. And after a while, I started to believe that it was true.

After he initially told me that he cheated, I spent a few months trying to get my bearings, but it wasn’t until I had a conversation with my former college roommate, that truly made me take action.

I’m paraphrasing here, but basically what she said was, “Meagan, when we were in college, you worked 4 jobs and did whatever it took to pay for school-- what makes you think that now would be any different? You’re still in there.”

I was an RA in college, and although our room and board was paid for and we had a meal plan-- our take home pay was something like $150 a month. A MONTH.

Her point was, when I was a poor college kid who had to work 4 jobs to have any semblance of spending money, I made it work. When I married a man that allowed for me to re-invest all of my earnings back into my company, I did that. But that didn’t mean that I couldn’t re-adjust my life and my spending habits again.

If you saw the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, you may remember the Occamy, which was the snake-bird creature that would grow or shrink to fill available space.

When I didn’t have any money to eat out-- I didn’t eat out. When I was able to afford something different, my daily routine included manicures and spa appointments. But that’s not to say that I couldn’t re-adjust to a new normal if I needed to.

If the last few months dealing with COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that our reality change in an instant. Sometimes that’s a conscious choice to save money or cut additional spending. Other times, it’s a choice that was made for us-- resulting in cleared calendars and unprecedented stretches of time spent at home.

But while the last few months have been stressful for so many reasons, they have also provided a unique opportunity to start over.

When I was preparing to move out of our house, I started going through my clothes. Now if you know me at all, you know I’m a shopper. And for five years, I was afforded numerous opportunities to do so. Not one, but three closets needed to be sorted through in the moving process, and I felt like it was a pretty accurate representation of downsizing my life.

Initially, I got rid of any clothes that I hadn’t worn in more than 2 years. Then, I went back through and specifically pulled out items that I thought other people would get more use out of than me.

A few weeks later, I returned to the project, and began packing clothes that I didn’t expect to wear for the next few months-- so that they could get moved into the moving trailers. Lastly, I went through and pulled out only the clothes I thought I would wear in the last 2-3 weeks before the move, and boxed everything else up.

It was pretty powerful to look at the boxes upon boxes of clothes, shoes, hats, and accessories-- and the few remaining pieces that hung in my closet, and see what things remained that were truly most important to me. (I expect that this is as close as I will EVER get to a capsule wardrobe).

Seeing the physical representation of my belongings getting packed into a smaller space reminded me that while I would be moving to a new place, I would adjust to fit it accordingly. We all will. Sometimes we just need to be reminded where we came from, and that the valleys are just as important as the peaks in the story of our lives.

Looking back, some of the happiest times were when I had the least-- and when the world assumed I had the most, was actually when my life was the most empty. I'll forever be grateful for the highs and lows that have brought me to where I am, and I look forward to seeing where I'm going next.

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