The gift of limits.
Tomorrow I turn 31.
My 30s did not begin how I thought—or hoped—they would.
I went from living as a digital nomad near a beach in Costa Rica to moving back in with my parents in the suburbs of a small city in Canada.
I went from living the dream to living in a place I swore I’d never return to.
At 30, I had not reached my goal of being debt-free. In fact, I was in more debt than when I’d initially set that goal for myself.
Every unplanned expense turned into a full-blown crisis. I worked all the time but never had money in my bank account.
When my computer shut off one day and refused to turn back on I had a meltdown that was disproportionate to what had just happened. While I have always had a flair for the dramatic, the scale of this reaction concerned even me.
So I packed my bags, sold my surfboard, and sheepishly returned home to face my demons.
In more ways than one, I felt like a failure.
I would spend the next nine or so months figuring out what it meant to be a financially responsible adult. I taught myself to budget with the help of a budgeting app and their supportive online fan community.
I took a sobering look at the amount of debt I was in and realized that for the next two years—until I paid it all off—I was going to be working within some pretty hard limits.
(Some people say, “Debt is a part of life. As long as you’re making the minimum payments, you’re fine.” I am not one of those people.)
This meant—means—no major travel, no more investing in school or personal development programs, and no spending money that hasn’t been budgeted for.
Initially, this felt suffocatingly restrictive. I had gotten where I was because of the money I’d spent and so not spending money felt counter-intuitive.
Now, almost 10 months into the process, I am learning to appreciate the limits of my current financial situation.
Here are just a few of the benefits I’ve noticed so far:
I have gotten much clearer on the value of my time. I have set non-negotiable rates for my writing and coaching services and have built out the value of my offers to match them.
Knowing how much money I need to make to live, pay off my debt, and build an emergency fund means that I’m able to take on just enough work to cover those costs. This has freed up time for me to build out my own business without having to work long days.
With clearer boundaries between work time and free time, I am now able to get back into my creative practice in a way where it feels nourishing and enjoyable.
I no longer take on other people’s financial stress. Whether it’s a client or a friend, I stay relatively emotionally unattached from all monetary transactions.
Without travel as an option when I’m looking for inspiration, I am investing more time in the communities I do have access to. This has lead to co-creating relationships and collaborations that I would have previously overlooked.
It’s no coincidence that my financial stability developed alongside my emotional stability. Money is never just about money after all.
Looking forward to this next year of my life, I am deeply grateful that I am able to connect to more grace when working within my limits, financial and otherwise. In a society that tells us that more is more and don’t limit yourself because what if you miss out, this feels like a rebellious act.
It’s also a much quieter and less chaotic way of being.
And what do you know, I am finally able to get out of my own way and do my best work.
So, what do you think might be possible for you if you let yourself accept—and work within—your limits? Whether they are financial, physical, emotional, psychological, or otherwise.
How could you experiment with working within your limits in the coming year?