The stuff that matters

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 Permalink

I sometimes struggle with the notion of compromise. Now I know that’s not unusual… but the ‘wants vs needs’ thing has been playing on my mind of late and is particularly annoying because I thought I’d evolved more than that!

I left my old life because – although I wasn’t horribly depressed – I was far from happy. I spent my days and nights dreaming of something ‘more’ (or ‘else’) while waiting for life to start.

live not exist

I’d put happiness and fulfillment ahead of ambition and financial security in my late 20s… spending about 3yrs out of the workforce and on a volunteer abroad program. I’d cashed in my superannuation and sold a car to help finance my quest for some ‘meaning’ to my existence. And while I have no regrets on that front, it essentially meant I returned to Australia (more enlightened. Or not!?!) and started afresh at 30.

I eventually recovered from my non-materialistic ways and bought my own apartment, then a better one and so forth. Of course I still assumed I’d meet the man of my dreams, imagining we’d move into something bigger and better to house our family and live a comfortable, financially secure and happy life.

When I realised that wasn’t an option I found myself a bit directionless. Suddenly I realised that the life I was living, was (in fact) going to be ‘it’. I was in my early 40s and I tried to imagine another 20yrs of ‘the same’. And couldn’t.

Like I said, I wasn’t desperately unhappy, but I’d had enough. Other than the three years of volunteer placements I’d been working since I finished Uni. More recently I’d worked in a heap of different jobs across government departments. Sometimes I enjoyed them and loved my colleagues; other times the stress gnawed away at me and I hated workmates sufficiently to pray they’d get hit by a bus.

In the end, leaving was a no-brainer.

Sums done, I sold up, downsized and moved to a seaside apartment near my original hometown. My plans were a bit vague. I had dreams of earning money from my writing, but told myself I’d be happy in some mindless part-time job which gave me enough money to pay the bills and live a leisurely but more authentic and fulfilling life.


Over the past year I’ve earned some money from my writing, but am a bit disappointed in my lack of confidence / motivation when it comes to pitching for work / selling myself. I see local opportunities but struggle to pursue them.

So, while I’m (kinda) earning enough to pay my bills, I have to be cognisant of my spending. It’s something I’ve had to do when budgeting in the past, but what occurs to me now is that… (unless I return to ‘real’ work or seriously pursue business) IT WILL NEVER CHANGE. Although I’m okay with the notion of ‘making do’, the idea of struggling with big expenses or never be able to afford a big holiday or another car (eventually) is scarier than I imagined.

Of course now I can’t rid myself of those thoughts and I’ve found myself becoming increasingly frustrated about my situation. There’s a whiney voice in my head reminding me I once earned a good salary. I had the money to do stuff I wanted. I could eat out whenever; buy stuff for my place; have holidays and now that’s not the case.

However… WITHOUT A DOUBT, this past year has been the best of my life. NOT really working, having time for me, living on the beach, spending time with family and friends and writing when I want: it’s all made me surprisingly contented. The notion of full time work (even here without the commute to deal with) still makes me feel physically ill.

I know there are gazillions of people out there who go to work day after day to jobs they hate. “No one likes their job,” my dad used to tell me. For most, a job is just a necessary evil. A grown-up thing everyone has to do to pay bills to live the life they desire for themselves and their families.


So, I realise… THAT is what I need to decide. It’s not really about work/life balance. It’s not even about the more esoteric ambition vs contentment. It’s about me deciding what I need (or want) to live with and what I’m prepared to compromise on.

It feels like I’m (again) at some existential crossroads… I’m just trying to work out what’s written on the signposts!

Have you made life changes that require a lot of compromise?
Where do you sit on the wants vs needs scale?

  • Lee-Anne
    February 11, 2014

    Great post, Deb – introspective, philosophical and focusing on the real issues in life.
    Love the pics and quotes – an eclectic range of poignant/meaningful and LOL!

    • Debbish
      February 11, 2014

      Oh yes… I don’t really ‘do’ Pinterest (have an account but forget about it) and I have a ‘Wanky Motivational Quotes’ folder there…

      But I always love a good Someecard!

  • Jo Tracey
    February 11, 2014

    Oh I hear you (you knew I would…) I have the same battles with myself. Constantly.

    • Debbish
      February 11, 2014

      Didn’t think it could just be me…. (In fact, I hoped it wasn’t!)

  • Char
    February 11, 2014

    It’s really all about your priorities. What do you definitely need in your life? What can you live without?

    I had to make a lot of big decisions really early on in my marriage. I had a degree but wanted more than anything to be a mother. I’d married a man 10 years older than myself so waiting until I’d established myself in a career wasn’t really an option. So I basically threw away 5 years of hard study. But I still think that it wasn’t a waste – babies are basically animals which aren’t able to communicate so I was fairly comfortable looking after them when they were little.

    My husband had a lot lower earning capacity but we both agreed that I would be the one to have limited work because he can’t breast-feed. It meant a lot lower family income, tight budgeting and very few holidays but life is all about compromise and you don’t get to have everything.

    • Debbish
      February 11, 2014

      Oh, so very true and I realise I’m lucky (well… sort of) that I have no dependents (or debts). I really have all of the control of my life.

      It’s weird that I’m continuing to struggle with the money vs happiness question (essentially) as I thought I’d resolved it. *sigh*

  • Rhianna
    February 11, 2014

    Great post. Sounds like you have had some very interesting times in your life. Balancing it all is so tricky isn’t it? We are in the process of working out what it is we need and want from life. Sometimes I feel life is an eternal search for happiness

    Leaving some fairy wishes and butterfly kisses from #teamIBOT

    • Debbish
      February 11, 2014

      Thank you Rhianna. Fairy wishes and butterfly kissed greatly appreciated.

  • Psych Babbler
    February 11, 2014

    New to your blog and it was enlightening to read somewhat of an existential dilemma. I think it’s so bloody hard to decide what we are willing to live with and what we are willing to give up sometimes. Especially when you get used to something. I am fortunate I love my job but lately I have been contemplating about travelling more. Having a mortgage on a single person’s income though makes it a bit hard and I am currently weighing up a lot of stuff and budgeting to see what I can give up in order to travel and well, live life!

    • Debbish
      February 11, 2014

      Hi there and thanks for dropping by. I’ve always been single so know the sole salary mortgage-payer dilemma.

      I have to admit I wish I’d made my seachange earlier, but the problem is that I couldn’t have afforded it earlier. I sometimes think I had to go through the crap of the jobs and mortgage payments for years to be where I am now.

      Though having said that, I’m hardly set for life – obviously. *Sigh*


  • Kerstin
    February 11, 2014

    Do you ever still wonder what you want to be when you grow up? I know I do. I am in a similar position in that I am not working right now and trying to figure out what I really need and want from my life. In my case my husband supports us and even though he earns a good salary we are having to make quite a few compromises to accommodate my taking a break from working. I have never had any all consuming passions that I could pursue now that I have more time, and I also miss the structure that a job gave my day-to-day life, although I do not miss the job itself. When I worked full-time I spent a lot of money on retail therapy and things to ease the effects of a stressful job. Now I don’t have this kind of stress I don’t need those things anymore. I think it’s good to still have goals (not so easy for this wanderer) and we are planing to return to the US eventually and would love to build a home in the Pacific Northwest. With that in mind I am contemplating a job or another way of earning some money so that we can save enough towards this dream. Mind you, don’t want to just live for tomorrow and perhaps that is the biggest lesson, and challenge, of all: to live and enjoy the now, and to use the time to live healthier because that will also help us towards the dream. In your case I think you are indeed arriving at a cross-roads of sorts and while it might not be so easy to decide what to do next doesn’t it nonetheless feel good to have choices? And to not have to rush back to a stressful professional environment? It looks to me like you are quite sensitive with your finances and enjoying more of the things that money can’t buy: sunshine and time for friends and family. It will be interesting to see which road you will take next 🙂

    • Debbish
      February 11, 2014

      Thanks Kerstin. And like you… I still do wonder what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve had a lot of careers already so am quite lucky in that respect, but (again like you) I’ve struggled to find my passion.

      I love reading and writing and suspect they’re my passion but struggle to use them to make money – or even WANT to use them to make money.

      I also understand what you mean about the retail therapy and spending aspects. I’m going to the city soon and told friends I’d only be there briefly. “I won’t be going shopping or anything,” I said… which is weird as after 16mths away from big shopping centres many people would be craving them. However, I can’t afford anything and – quite frankly – there’s nothing I need and want. Sure new shoes or stuff for my place would be nice. But I don’t NEED it. Bizarrely they’re not the things that worry me.

      I recently had to buy a new fridge and it’s the bigger purchases (and the car etc) that probably worry me more.

      Although… like I said, I do sometimes remember that old life and my ability to just eat out whenever I wanted. Spend whatever I wanted (all within reason), knowing I’d still be able to pay my bills.


      Hope you can live in the now and enjoy life – as it is.

  • EssentiallyJess
    February 11, 2014

    We have just made a huge decision that requires lots of sacrifice and compromise. It’s hard and I’m struggling a little bit, but I keep reminding myself that life is an adventure. Not something to play safe, but something to live fully.

    • Debbish
      February 11, 2014

      Oh absolutely Jess! (And I’m intrigued… perhaps you’re moving after all?)

  • Carica
    February 12, 2014

    Excellent post. So heartfelt and true. I’ve made many compromises and now I need to make some right (well, at least what I think is right) decisions. I’m a grown woman, with a kid, college degree, and still am trying to figure this life out and what all I want from it.

    • Debbish
      February 12, 2014

      Yes… it’s like a balance between following your heart and head – as well as the needs / wants thing isn’t it!

  • Jess
    February 12, 2014

    I struggle with this, not seachange/work life balance obviously, but with my choices and whether they are or will make me happy. Sacrifice s and compromise are a part of every big decision, but it is really annoying that they are. Maybe you can find a middle ground, like somr extra work when you want to save for travel or adventure without signing yourself up for full time work.

    • Debbish
      February 12, 2014

      Jess, I realise the ideal would be me doing more work from home (for myself). I just can’t work out how to get over my own lack of confidence or inability to promote myself etc. (It’s like taking that final step is just too scary!) *sigh*

  • Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me
    February 12, 2014

    I totally agree there is no work life balance, life is a balancing act. You know there’s money to made in rewriting crappy websites, I’ve got a lot of work this way, threading SEO words into copy for people who don’t have a clue. I’m sure you know but just another avenue x

    • Debbish
      February 12, 2014

      Yes… I do part-time work for a web design and development company and we constantly have clients who ask about their content. For reasons unknown I haven’t spoken up to tell them I could write it for them. (It’s partially confidence – even though I write for other websites – but also that conflict of interest thing. I worked in Govt too long obviously!)

  • Satu
    February 13, 2014

    The only thing I can say is that you DON’T want to be making your ends meet for the rest of your life. I’ve lived and live that kind of life at the moment and it’s pretty exhausting in the long run.

    • Debbish
      February 14, 2014

      Yes… somewhere in between I think.

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