Powers and Passions

Well, this was unexpected. In the span of 48 hours, I applied for, interviewed, and was offered a job. And even though I went into the interview thinking the job wouldn’t be for me, I was severely torn when I got the offer.

The process had been a whirlwind and they expressed such excitement over my application that the situation immediately escalated in my mind. I began to imagine my future with the company – full of pencil skirts, hand shakes and promotions in the heart of downtown. Truly, the opposite of my current path – full of muddy boots, low paychecks, and uncertainties. Wallowing on the floor of our living room, trying to decide between the two jobs, I watched my life divide into two possibilities in front of me.

After hours of conversations, pro-con lists, and even tears, I finally circled back around to the basics – the job that I was currently being offered was not what I wanted. Imagination and potential aside, the reality of the situation lent itself to a very easy decision. So when I got the call with an updated offer, I felt prepared. What I had not prepared for was a conference call with the position’s supervisor and the Executive Director of the organization selling me on the imagination and potential in this job. These two, successful, leading women called me to very earnestly persuade me to join them in a path filled with opportunity (and pencil skirts and promotions).

And I lost it.

Which direction should I choose? Where should I be steering my career? What if an opportunity like this never comes again? I circled through the exact same conversations, the same “what ifs” and the same wallowing. And then my mind exploded. I’ve spent my career educating and inspiring youth to become future environmental leaders. Was it time for me to realize that maybe I was one of them? Maybe this was my chance to kick “saving the world” up a notch and lead an organization into the next generation of environmental battlefields. But, instead of using my passion for education and direct interaction, I would be using my personality powers and morphing into a professional event organizer, fundraiser, and shmoozer. And holy hell would I be good at it. Almost everyone I talked to mentioned how perfectly suited I would be for that role – how naturally those things come to me. There was no question that I would excel at it, so was I just afraid to take the plunge?

I’m certainly no stranger to fear, and I have no problem calling it by name. I was very much afraid – of change, of failure, of making the wrong decision. But what I feared more than anything else on the list was turning away from my passion.

An amazing friend, who was also the first person to hire me out of college and catapulted me into the world of environmental education, talked through every step with me. We analyzed the nuances, the possibilities, the feelings and then we discovered it. It was the difference between my powers and my passions.

I possess certain personality traits – my boss qualities if you will – that make me really good at things this job was asking for. But those powers are innate and while I’ve chosen to own them, I didn’t really ask for them. What I have asked for, and what I strive every day for, is to make the world a better place by igniting a love of nature in others. My passions drive me to ignore salary ranges and promotion potential for the promise of watching a person realize for the first time that they are part of something so much bigger than themselves. My passions have caused me to chase ducks and hug trees and work weekends and suffer from farmer’s tans. They’re the entire reason that I work at all (I mean, aside from bills and stuff, but you get the idea). The path I’ve chosen is the only reason I have any faith left in humanity – if I can make them feel why it’s worth saving, maybe they’ll help me save it.

Chasing Ducks

So, while I’m still young, while I have Mr. Rathroy to support me (in my decisions and our finances), and while I succumb to tears when I consider diverting from this path I’ve chosen, I’m going to push forward. I can always fall back on my personality powers, but not pursuing my passions for as long as possible is a choice I would forever regret. Maybe one day I’ll have the opportunity to combine them both and save the world single handedly. Until then, I’ll be out chasing ducks and hugging trees and watching other people light up when they do it too.

Loving Trees

Money and Marriage

It’s no secret that Mr. Rathroy and I are opposites in a lot of ways. He’s an introvert, I’m an extrovert. He’s good at math, I’m good at words. He likes to read fiction, I like to read non-fiction. It’s a mystery how we make this relationship work at all.

Of course, we have our common ground as well – our love of adventure and travel, our desire to constantly improve our 68 year old house, our hopes of retiring on lakefront property in one of these bad boys. But, like in many marriages, one of our largest philosophical gaps is in money matters. Mr. Rathroy and I treated money very differently during our single years. As an example, part of the down payment on our house was birthday money that I had been saving since I was 13. While I have no hard evidence on what happened to Mr. Rathroy’s 13th birthday money, I would bet that it disappeared well before we bought our house.

It was easier to deal with money in Malawi. We were the richest people in the entire country.

It was easier to deal with money in Malawi. We were the richest people in the entire country.

I’m a saver to say the least. And while those anti-spending habits set me on a safe financial course as a single gal, merging money in a marriage has a few more complications. I can’t in good conscience make Mr. Rathroy eat ramen noodles every night, especially when his pay check is contributing to our grocery bill. And he can’t buy a motorcycle on a whim because my paycheck contributes to our existing debt like student loans and car payments.

Leading up to our wedding, we had lots of money talks – should we keep it separate, should we combine, should we work out some sort of proportional bill pay, etc. We compared notes on what our parents do with their finances. We asked our friends how they deal with paychecks and bills. We approached every single angle of the issue and finally made a decision: we would play to our individual strengths to best benefit our marriage (and bank account).

I accepted the position of Chief Money Saver while Mr. Rathroy advocated for monthly allowances that we could spend at our own discretion (so that we could still have some fun). We merged all of our income and big bills so that we could better understand the monthly cost of our married lifestyle. And we signed up for a Mint account┬áso that we could set budgets and track our spending. It took months to design a system that worked for us as individuals and as an eternally united couple, and it still undergoes adjustments when necessary. And while spending that much time and energy talking about money can be a drag at first, it has created a sense of comfort and trust between us that otherwise wouldn’t exist. It was a crash course in compromise and allows us to talk about our money without the emotionally charged contention that a lot of people face.

We both understand our financial big picture and are both aware of every day transactions which helps us each learn to balance on the save-spend scale. Mr. Rathroy now looks forward to meeting a big savings goal and I’ve started enjoying occasional indulgences like a $10 cocktail. The topic of our money comes up multiple times a week and it’s never started an argument. Plus, now we have some rainy day insurance for days like today when we learned that the gas lines have under our house been leaking for over a year. And even though a $300 plumber bill isn’t great, at least we don’t have to chose between food and our house not exploding.

Our method of over-communicating about money is obviously not for everyone. To be honest, it wasn’t really for Mr. Rathroy at first. But once we had all the cards on the table, we started making long term goals and planning things like vacations, new kitchens, and retirement. We’re not always on the same page about everything, but we’re learning to write new pages together instead of tightly gripping our single life philosophies. And while I’m certainly not an expert on marriage, I’ve learned that letting go of some of my pre-wedding mindset helps me better grasp the new philosophies that we create together.

I don’t ever want to feel like I have to bite my tongue, especially not with Mr. Rathroy or on a subject that has been proven to make or break lifelong commitments. We’re in this together, and money is never going to disappear, so we chose to be friends with it instead. And, really, who doesn’t want to be friends with money?