Things Look Different On Paper

13 Feb

I’m feeling a bit run-down today.  It might be that it’s Monday.  It might be the cold that I’ve been fighting since Wednesday.  It might be the freezing temperatures outside.  It might be the soulful Green River Ordinance/ SafetySuit/ Bon Iver playlist on Spotify.

Or it might be that I’m working on my taxes.

As I’m wading through a sea of potential deductions (does a couch in the sunroom count as a home office?  Can I count my rabbit as office equipment if I use her as shredder?), I’m realizing the true value of my time.

I was encouraged to give back and volunteer from a young age.  As a kid, I agreed to it because it made my parents proud.  As a teen, I agreed to it because it looked good on a college application.  As a college student, it was required so it didn’t really matter if I agreed to it or not.  As a university student, it wasn’t strictly required… but yeah, it kind of was.  (Emory people know what I’m talking about here.)

Now I’m an adult.  There’s no more outward incentive to volunteer.  No parents to impress, no teacher to fill out a recommendation, no graduation requirement to fulfill, it’s just me and my calendar.  And you know what?  It turns out that volunteer behavior wasn’t so ingrained after all.

I haven’t volunteered my time with anything new since last May.  In fact, I’ve dropped the two places at which I was volunteering regularly.  I could try to justify that to you through all kinds of reasons, but it all comes down to the same thing- I felt that my time could be more profitable elsewhere.

Turns out my math was wrong.  I left out some variables.

Big surprise, right?

Recently, I ran into someone with whom I used to volunteer.  They asked what I had been up to lately.  The enormity of that question hit me all at once.  I had left for personal reasons, including an increasingly complicated work schedule, but as this person told me about the new changes to the facility and gave updates on the regulars, I realized just how much I had left behind.  I had freed up a large chunk of time, but I had lost the weekly social interaction and healthy dose of perspective.

I tend to get overwhelmed by money, and I get caught up in the chase for that one more dollar that will make it all better.  Volunteering was what kept bringing me back down to Earth.  I didn’t realize it at the time.  But I get it now.

I’m going to start making more time to volunteer, even if it’s just one day every few weeks at first.  I’d like to challenge you all to do the same.  Find something small and local, and get out of the house every once in a while.  The warm fuzzy feelings and fresh air are worth more than a day’s paycheck.  You can trust my math on this one.

Plus, the mileage is often tax deductible.  Just throwing that out there.

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2 Responses to “Things Look Different On Paper”

  1. j February 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    I love this post. You’re so honest, and you’re saying what most of us think… “yeah, but I need to make money.” Which, sadly, is true. Still, it’s those tricky intangibles we have to remember. They’re what will keep us from losing our souls in the process.

    Yay you! xo

    • Losing My Cents February 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

      Thanks! It’s not always easy to say the honest thing, especially in a public blog setting, but it does tend to be what people really want to hear. So, I’m trying.

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