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What would Suze Orman say?

This is part of a 5 blog series telling you my top five excuses…..

If you’ve ever wondered, here “could I leave my job and travel for a year?” The answer is if I can, you can. Most who know me would call me practical, predictable, even. I had many excellent reasons not to pack my bags and go.

Excuse #1 I can’t afford a trip

Excuse #2: I won’t find a job upon my return.

My sister, dad, and I

????Excuse #3: I have too many responsibilities at home.

For a 32 year old without kids, I have been handed a surprising amount of responsibility. Five years ago, my mother passed away unexpectedly  of a heart attack. Since then, my father has suffered from multiple strokes and was recently diagnosed with dementia.

My sister and I are my dad’s primary caretakers. We’ve adjusted our lives to prioritize his health. At various points, both my sister and I have lived with my father in order to take care of him. When his needs exceeded our capabilities, we moved him to a senior assisted living facility where professionals could ensure his safety.

Still, taking care of our dad is a full time job. We manage his finances, coordinate his doctors appointments, and oversee his team of caregivers. How could I possibly leave my dad? Given the circumstances, I asked myself over and over again whether our year-long trip was too selfish. Didn’t I owe my dad everything I could provide?

I told Jenni that we should wait to travel until my dad became more stable. He has steadily crept into permanent instability and varies from good days to bad days. Doctors tell us that he could live 2, 5, or 10 more years. The excuse of putting off the trip grew into waiting until our unborn children were older. I saw the excuse of responsibility snowballing into waiting until my retirement.

My dad's 62nd birthday this February

I thought of what my mother would say to me. My mom never retired. She died at age 56. She had traveled and lived for long periods in three different countries. She would have urged me to go.

Then I thought about what my dad would say to me, and I figured he would urge my to stay..

To my surprise, my father instead encouraged me to seize the opportunity.  He supported our bold idea and told me to take advantage of my youth. Funny, because I didn’t feel very youthful. Since losing my parents, I felt like a 50-year old woman taking care of my aging father. As soon as he gave the approval for the trip, the weight of responsibility shifted off my shoulders and I started to act my age again.

I would love to hear comments…

What responsibilities in relationships keep you from your dreams? How would a loved one truly react if you were honest with them?

As the kid growing up in a stereotypically thrifty Asian immigrant family, information pills I desperately lusted after the brand-name stuff of my Caucasian classmates. L.A. Gear high-top sneakers. A real Sony walkman. A Schwinn 21-speed bicycle.

For my mom, pharm who grew up poor in Taiwan, patient money represented security. So when she and my dad started their lives in the U.S., she was careful to spend little and save much. My mom smuggled popcorn into movie theatres, never allowed us to buy sodas at restaurants, and scoured garage sales for used toys. Thriftiness was a result of discipline, not necessity.

My mother felt it was imperative to teach her children how to be financially independent and secure. And while compared to my parent’s habits I live a decadent life, a lot of her mindset about money has nonetheless passed onto me.

So when Lisa and I began considering taking time off of our careers for this project, I could hear my parents’ voices in my head saying “What will this do to your savings account? Are you stupid to be leaving a job that’s secure? Shouldn’t you be working hard now while you’re young so that you can enjoy financial freedom when you’re older?”

If I were to call my lesbian financial guru Suze Orman and ask her “Suze, Can I afford to take a year off of work?,” would she yell at me and say, “Denied”?

But then there was the dreamer side of me, the side that told me “You’re never going to lead the kind of life you want unless you have the balls to make hard decisions like this.” And plus, I had found the perfect partner who was willing to go on this crazy adventure with me, and that’s a precious gift no amount of money can buy. I made my peace on money matters. or at least so I thought…

…until a bonus offer came in at work that would have doubled my savings if I stayed at my job an additional four years.

This was not an easy decision to wrestle with, especially since Lisa had submitted her resignation letter to her job two days earlier. Do we leave anyways or do we delay this trip? It’s not about money for money’s sake, I told myself, but about the freedom that money can buy you.

But then again, how much is enough money before we start doing what we want? Am I fooling myself if I think that we’ll ever take this trip if I choose to delay it this time? Would I be losing an opportunity for Lisa and I to begin the course of our lives together in an amazing way?

I’m not sure what Suze would say if I presented my situation to her. Maybe what’s most important is that Lisa and I can make a decision together that we can live with and be proud of.

So, forget about Suze…we’re going anyways.


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