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FI wins and losses

Yesterday, I took Sonya to a gymnastics meet that was three hours from home. Well, 2.5 hours. Except really, 3.5 hours, because who the fuck signs up for a gymnastics meet that is 2.5 hours to the north, on a Great Lake, in the middle of January? This girl, I guess.

So it took us 3.5 hours to get there, my hands gripping the wheel every second. I could have canceled, I should have canceled, but I didn’t cancel, because at heart, I am a person who meets obligations.

A total of 6 hours on the road (the roads were cleared on the way home, so it only took 2.5 hours on the way back), 4 hours at the meet, trying desperately to wrangle a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old who really, really didn’t want to sit still after sitting still for so long.

I kept thinking about the traps I fall into, and this was one of them. I absolutely love what gymnastics has done for Sonya’s (and Viv’s, and Amelia’s) relationship to her body, to her work ethic, to her understanding that she can do literally¬†anything she wants to, as long as she works at it (SHE CAN DO A CARTWHEEL WITH NO HANDS, WHICH DEFIES ALL LAWS OF PHYSICS). I love the meets. Okay, I don’t love the meets, although I always end up crying at some point because it all comes back to that time exactly two years ago when I thought the massive brain tumor was going to murder me at any given second and I’m so, so grateful to be able to chase two little kids through crowds for four hours in order to see my itty bitty baby do multiple back handsprings in a row.

But yesterday was definitely a trap. I signed up for this meet because I thought, “we’re rich, we can make a weekend out of it!” And I also thought, “the more meets, the better.” But a) we aren’t rich even though we should be, and b) not all meets are the same. It’s completely worth it to travel 45 minutes and spend 4 hours and get the experience and the excitement and the weeping-mom-you’re-embarrassing-me moments in the crowd. It’s not worth it to drive 6 hours in one day for a meet.

Because we had to pay for gas (something like $40). We had to pay an entrance fee (I think it was $100, but I paid it months ago and then blacked it out of my brain). I bribed the littles with candy because they were so wound up (yes, that’s right, sugar helps to wind them down…Whatever, it was a desperate move by a desperate weepy lady), that ended up costing about $6. There are “gifts” that get handed out to the gymnasts that you can give them at the end of meets, and Sonya has told me she feels bad that she never gets them, and so last time I got her a $2 lollipop, but this time I spent $20 on a water bottle that she will actually use for all of eternity (I later told her that this time I got her a big gift and am not going to get her ones at the other meets, so this was kind of an investment). I let Viv choose where we were going to get dinner because she had to sit for 10 hours in a row, and she chose Red Lobster, which set us back $65. I couldn’t work on freelancing basically at all because I was gripping the steering wheel all day and when I wasn’t gripping the steering wheel, I was hissing at toddlers to be quiet and sit still or weeping about my overwhelming gratitude. I could have, should have, made at least 100 bucks yesterday, so there goes that extra income.

So yesterday was a bust, FI-wise.

Except it kind of wasn’t. In the morning, Sonya asked me about how much money we make, and how we spend it, and she’s very, very interested in all of the ins and outs, and it feels good to have these conversations. Importantly, we talked about college. She’s in third grade, and it seems like college is a billion years away, but remember when third grade seemed like a billion years away and it was only 8 years ago? Yes, it’s coming.

I think college is incredibly important. I think that when people in the FI movement say that it isn’t, they are at times blinded by their own deFIres. Get it? DeFIres? Although many in the FI movement regret their student loans, look around – how many people have hit financial independence without higher education? Sure, they exist. But the majority of those who are doing well went to college, even if they say they wish they hadn’t.

And I think it’s actually kind of shitty when people who went to college say that their kids won’t, or shouldn’t, have that opportunity.

I’m not going to go into it here, but I think college is important and useful for a lot of reasons that have little to do with direct return on investment. And I’m also not going to get into it here, but yes, I think trade school and community college are super great, too. My kids, at least so far, are not turning out to be the kind of people who seem to be interested in bricklaying or plumbing.

So, I hope that my kids decide to go to college. I work in academia, and if I still work there in 10 years (10 years! That’s nothing!), they could decide to go there, or to a bunch of our partner schools, for free (and other partner schools for a reduced price).

Yesterday, Sonya brought it up. I told her that I thought it was important to go to college, but I also thought that many of the different places offer similar or the same experience. I explained the policy at my work, and she said, “well, I hope that I go there. That’s a lot of money that I can save!”

I hope she goes there, too. The seeds are planted, and she came to this conclusion herself. Who knows how she will feel in another 10 years, but I’m hopeful that all of our conversations about money, and living in a LCOL area where people are pretty conscientious of their spending, will sink in.

It was so easy to be super frugal before I had kids. It was so easy! And now, I end up pissing my money away, one ring pop at a time. But in the big picture, we’re doing okay. I lost maybe $350 by going to a meet I shouldn’t have, and making choices that were not the best, but I potentially gained $200,000. I’ll take it.

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