Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Operation Spirit

I have this thing about spending money, I don't like to do it, at least not wastefully. Not that I don't love shopping, because I do, and I've been guilty of buying up a storm on more than one occasion, particularly when there are good deals to be had. But, as a general rule, I'm careful with my money and I prefer to save it rather than spend it. I don't like to spend it carelessly, I hate paying more for something than I know it's worth, and decadence sometimes makes me uncomfortable.

I think it's a product of an innate cautiousness and being the daughter of my father, who also has an aversion to spending money wastefully. Sometimes, while growing up, I did not agree with my father's view as to what was wasteful and what was worthwhile, such as when he insisted that it would be wasteful for me to go to a college out of state, even though I had the grades to go almost anywhere. In that instance, I decided that going out of state was worthwhile - for the value of the education I was going to get and the value of being far away from home for a while - so I went away to college and relied on financial aid to make up the difference.

My father also believes that when you do something, you should do it right, and this goes for spending money on worthwhile endeavors. (My mother always had this view, but had a much broader definition as to what qualified as "worthwhile" which is why we went on a lot of awesome Caribbean vacations when I was younger). I'm not sure if my father believed this while we were growing up, but it's certainly a lesson I've heard repeated many times as I've grown into adulthood and started to earn my own money. For example, just before I started my job at the firm, I was stressed out with the logistics of moving to New York and finding an apartment, and I was thinking that I had too little time and too little money saved up to take a vacation. My father, thankfully, talked some sense into me by reminding me that sparing myself some stress was worthwhile and that I was going to be making plenty of money once I started my job. He advised me to use some of my savings to take a trip and to pay the extra money I needed to in order to have peace of mind with respect to the move. I spent the money and never regretted it.

One thing I did regret about that period of time was that I had not taken enough time off. Or, more precisely, I had not taken enough stress-free time off. I took about 6 weeks off which would have been awesome except that I filled up most of that time with stress-filled activities. Bad move on my part, although some of it was unavoidable. I spent a lot of time packing up my apartment, apartment hunting in New York, and stressing about the move (before my Dad talked sense into me). I went on a 10-day vacation to Belize, which was wonderful, and went on a few short trips to visit my family, but other than that didn't do any travelling. I was constantly moving from one thing to the next, figuring out logistics, or worrying about what was going to happen next. I also spent a lot of time worrying about other people, like my family and EXBF, instead of focusing on what I needed.

This time, I'm not going to make the same mistakes. I'm sure I'll make different ones, but I'm not going to make the same ones. For starters, I arranged to take 8 weeks off before I start at my new firm. Although I've been talking about my upcoming 2 months of freedom as if it's the greatest thing ever - which it is - you should know that it was incredibly stressful to ask for that amount of time. I was nervous that my new firm would have doubts about my level of commitment or might see me in some negative light because of my desire to be off work for that amount of time. Most lawyers don't take two whole months off between jobs. It's not the Type-A, over-achieving thing to do, and it certainly doesn't make sense financially. Perhaps because of the money issue, it also strikes me as decadent and indulgent to be off work for such a lengthy period of time. However, despite the stress, doubts, fears, and feelings of guilt, I stuck to my guns and negotiated a late May start date. Go me.

Now that I have the time off, I need to figure out what to do with it. See, I'm already feeling the feverish urge to plot and plan. Why is it so hard for me to just sit still? I actually know the answer to that, I'm a Type-A overachiever (or at least I used to be before my firm crushed my overachieving tendencies into smithereens and turned me into a creature who delays in returning emails and phone calls as a survival mechanism). Sitting still with nothing to do is hard for me. Hence, my difficulties with meditation. In fact, last week, when I realized I was about to give my notice, I was paralyzed with anxiety for a moment thinking with dread about what was going to happen the first Monday that I did not have work. I pictured the worst case scenario: Me, completely undisciplined, staying in bed all day, doing nothing productive, playing endless games of spider solitaire, eating junk food, and waking up 8 weeks later to realize I had wasted my entire vacation! The horror! That's why I need to plan, so that I don't waste this valuable time.

I have goals for my 8 weeks of freedom. I want to cleanse, rejuvenate, detoxify, refresh, and rebalance my mind and body. I want to get back in touch with myself, enjoy life, have an amazing time travelling, and I want to have fun. To achieve these goals I plan to do everything in my power during my 8 weeks of freedom to (a) erase from my soul the negativity of working the last 2 1/2 years in a toxic cesspool, and (b) make up for the last 2 1/2 years of sacrifice by enjoying my work-free existence to the absolute fullest. In honor of one of my favorite bands of all time, and inspired by Starshine's Operation String Bikini, I'm dubbing my 8 weeks of freedom "Operation Spirit." Bonus points to anyone who knows the band.

That's the plan, and I'm indebted to Prue for helping me to kick it off in style. Yesterday, while we were talking on the phone, I was telling her I wasn't sure if I should spend the money to go to a yoga/spa retreat in Mexico for a week, and she basically reached through the phone - all the way from Texas - and started shaking me until I agreed to sign myself up. (Thanks Prue!) Because of Prue, in about 10 days I'm heading down to Tulum, Mexico for Bikini Boot Camp. Yep, that's actually what it's called. Beach, yoga, meditation, fresh fish and fruit, and 5 hours of physical activity a day, here I come.

It's a fair amount of money, and it means that my savings will be temporarily depleted (particularly once I factor in the other activities I'm planning as part of Operation Spirit). But, I'm doing it anyway because it will be awesome, it will be good for me, and it's worth it. My spirit is worth it. Money is something I can always earn again, but - as I learned over the course of the past 2 1/2 years - time is something I'll never be able to get back. While I have both of them, I'm going to live it up. Innate cautiousness, be damned (but only for 8 weeks).


Gypsy said...

Hot damn, that's awesome! I'm so jealous! Jealous because 1) you're going on this awesome trip and 2) you're going on this awesome trip that I wouldn't have the gumption to take. A healthy vacation! ;) You're kind of my hero. Have fun!

InterstellarLass said...

That looks gorgeous! I've never considered a 'workout vacation' though, so for me that would be strange. I think I could get into that though! If I could work in workout vacations for a living, that would be something!

Prue said...

Hoorah for you!!!

wordnerd said...

Buttercup this trip sounds like EXACTLY what you need. AM so impressed!

I honestly think that these 8 weeks are going turn over a new leaf for you. Any time I've taken off for more than a week....the ONLY regret I've had is that I couldn't manage to take a LONGER time off. Money can be repayed...time can't be re-found.

You rock...but then again, you already knew that!

I also think that, at some point, you should drive North East....for about 10-11 hours, to be exact....and visit Atlantic Canada...I promise you'll have a blast...we're real good at "givin 'er".

Qui said...

I was able to take last week off (between jobs) and did an accelerated version of what you're planning, including:
- A liver cleanse (I recommend one for you since you want to 'detox')

- A deep cleaning for my teeth (a first - regular cleaning is too painful!)

- Washing my car BY HAND and doing a damn good job

- Quality time with friends, family, and ME

Taking a little time off is critical. Kudos to your new firm for getting that.

Have fun and drink every drop of those 8 weeks! You'll like the bikini bootcamp, according to a good friend of mine who has gone...

Sparky Duck said...

um, Live!!! Who I saw in concert just before Throwing Copper exploded. Spa weeks are always cool for you chicks :)

Starshine said...

How fun! After the cold NYC winter you've had, a warm Mexican getaway sounds like it's just what the doctor ordered. Maybe Bikini Boot Camp would be what I need to get the results I'm hoping for with Operation: String Bikini!!! ;) South Beach Diet is working pretty well so far!

So glad you're going to live it up and enjoy your two months of freedom! My hope is that you will find yourself so relaxed and rejuvenated that returning to NYC and your new job will be something you feel ready to jump into!

Buttercup said...

Gypsy - I don't believe you wouldn't have the gumption to do just about anything.

Lass - There will also be plenty of lazing around in hammocks and reading. I may even skip a "sculpting" class or two...

Prue - Good work motivating!

Wordnerd - It would be soooo much fun to visit up North. One day!

Qui - What kind of liver cleanse did you do? Glad to hear another person has good things to say about bikini boot camp. Yay!

Sparky - You win! I've seen them in concert three times. Love them, although I loved them the best during Mental Jewelry and Throwing Copper.

Starshine - Me too! I'll give you the full scoop on boot camp, but it sounds like you're doing amazing on your own. :)

Travel Guru said...

Travel Workouts are wonderful. I thought you might be interested in this new Yoga/breathing/exercise technique that was developed for athletes. Basically, you get all the benefits of Yoga with the added perks of what you might consider a high-altitude workout achieved through revolutionary breathing techniques. The breathing also serves to relieve your body of any stiffness or soreness post workout. I bought the DVD at www.mindandbodyworkout.com