This is a guest post from Sheryl (a.k.a Cdn Gwen) in Ontario, who is 39 years old with a grown daughter, and is trying to rebuild her retirement dream just 20 years too late for early retirement.
I’m saying goodbye to my 30’s soon, and in my social circle (friends and family), we usually just get together for a meal to celebrate birthdays. We send a card, or call on the phone to say “Happy Birthday”; no gifts (usually). This year is different. It seems that for the “milestone” birthdays, people are compelled to buy something. I understand this, I do it myself, unless something big is happening for a birthday, gifts are usually only given when decades change (i.e. 30,40,50 etc).
The question has been asked “What do you want for your 40th birthday?”. The answer? I haven’t got a clue. This got a reaction from my daughter that really made me think about what I’ve allowed my life to become. I asked her what she wants for her 21st (that is 3 days before my birthday) and she said right away “I’d really like a new camera, and the one I want is expensive, so any contribution towards it would be great.” She has several hobbies (photography, horses, mountain biking and snow boarding being the main ones), all of which she supports herself, but can always use something for one of them as gifts. In my quest to get my life back on track, have I allowed myself to lose my life in the process? Should I expand my interests while I’m on my journey to financial independence? Currently I tend to pursue hobbies that I already have everything for, or that don’t cost much (bike riding, reading, cooking, computer games etc..) I have everything I need, and I have a happy life, but have I stunted my personal growth somewhere? I’m not very materialistic, so buying for me has always been difficult.
Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things I can use. My condo has not been upgraded since it was built over 20 years ago. There are walls in need of painting and faucets, appliances, kitchen cabinets, window coverings that will need replacing in the next few years. When I started rebuilding my life after the divorce, all my “stuff” (with the exception of my clothes, TV and computer) are hand-offs from friends and family or were found on the roadside. My home is functional, but mis-matched and not very pretty to look at.
The question is, do I want “home stuff” for my birthday? Part of me will appreciate anything I get, and part of me wants a gift for my 40th to be “special” (special meaning something personal and meaningful, such as watch, or a painting, or piece of jewellery that i will always cherish). In writing this, I am starting to think that maybe the best gift (if I have to provide ideas for things to be purchased) is to encourage items that will enrich my space long term (home improvement store gift cards?).
Truly, this journey is about so much more than the mechanics of doing smart things with money, it is about changing how I think (and subsequently feel) about every facet of living.
New start, new life, a place I can truly make “mine”, with the help of my friends. I think I can make peace with that and not feel like I’m missing out on “birthday presents”. Of course, the boyfriend is not going to get away that easy 😉