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Splurges, Surprises, and Serious Consequences

In my last year of 20s, here's what I'd tell the younger, less responsible me

(Image: Thinkstock)

I’ve always been mum about my age. “A lady never tells,” would always be my response upon hearing an inquiry I always found rude and intrusive. As the years went by, I’d even remix the reply: “I’m 21 for the second time… third … fourth … fifth … sixth…”and friends and family would play along.

But, after the sixth time of turning 21, I thought about how close I was to reaching 30 and how being 21 for the umpteenth time was just becoming tired and corny.

Earlier this month, I hit the big 2-9 — my last year in my 20s. And with that has come quite a bit of growth and fearful, honest reflection.

There are small triggers for me that spark those Oprah-esque “Aha!” moments in my life. I recently had a candid conversation with my 81-year-old Granny about aging, and it somehow drifting into ideas for decorating my apartment. I’d been practically neglecting to do so since it wasn’t the ritzy Park Ave. oasis I’d envisioned I’d have by 30.

“You should learn to make wherever you live a home,” she advised. “No matter how small or how big and no matter where you think you should be, you should always create a space to be proud to come home to.”

That insight alone made me think of my life and what space I wanted to create for myself in the world at large. As a college student, I was used to being transient and carefree. I’d lived on campus all four years, supported by my parents, loans, grants, scholarships, and an allowance. When I had breaks, I’d spend them either traveling or interning, and when I was home, it was for short stints.

My outlook on getting employed was centered on the concept of free-spirited independence. I had dreams of leaving behind my laid-back, debutante, Southern upbringing for the fast-paced, ever-changing city life I’d witnessed many times while visiting my family in Harlem and Brooklyn as a child.

I was blessed to get my first full-time job in media shortly after graduation, and briefly lived in my own apartment in the South. In my mind, the move was temporary — a stepping stone to get my feet wet, excel as much as I could, and catch the eye of a big New York publisher. I never really invested in decorating or fixing up my place, nor did I invest fully in many things I’ve written so much about as a mature journalist today (such as networking, retirement accounts, savings, and emergency funds). I was more focused on spontaneous experiences, travel and ultimately keeping it moving.

When I finally got a chance opportunity for a freelance job for a major publisher Manhattan, I went for it — with very little planning or savings. I had many bumps, including interesting and not-so-comfy rooming experiences and several bad financial decisions. Fortunately, I landed the job and would eventually move on to a few others before getting my position here at Black Enterprise.

Now that I’m close to 30 (*gasp*) and have achieved all I have professionally, I’m implored to approach things in a more holistic fashion— where every piece of the puzzle plays a vital role and must fit in a more strategic, big-picture way. It’s less about growing pains and short-term thrills, and more about building a foundation of worthwhile experiences that will ultimately have long-lasting benefits.

Continued on next page …

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