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Me and my quarter-life crisis: a millennial asks what went wrong

JayDubya

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Me and my quarter-life crisis: a millennial asks what went wrong

https://www.theguardian.com/global/...life-crisis-a-millennial-asks-what-went-wrong

Sky-high rents, career fears, social anxieties… It’s no wonder so many young people can’t face the future

Juliana Piskorz
Sun 30 Dec 2018 06.00 EST



‘Our childhood visions for our lives are no longer realistic’: Juliana Piskorz. Photograph: Phil Fisk for the Observer

Last week I found my 15-year-old self’s diary. In its angst-riddled pages alongside gripping stories of unrequited love, fake IDs and Lambrini-fuelled exploits, I discovered a list of things I wanted to achieve by the age of 25. These included: own a house in Notting Hill; be a successful TV presenter; be engaged; own a pink Audi TT. “Fuck,” I thought, not for the first time that day. I am 25 and a half; single, unable to pay my rent and the closest thing I own to a car is a broken skateboard. My head began to spin, a familiar tightness seized my chest and the sweat glands in my palms went into overdrive, signalling the beginning of a panic attack that would last the best part of the day.

I’ve suffered from anxiety attacks since my first year at university when, with the trusty help of WebMD, I diagnosed myself with late-onset asthma and, on occasion, cardiac arrest. A doctor prescribed beta blockers during my third-year dissertation, which I was too scared to take. But, as life settled into a more stable rhythm and I stopped consuming Chekov vodka at the rate of a thirsty Cossack, the attacks all but disappeared. Except, over the past few months they have returned with a vengeance. The smallest things set me off: an Instagram post announcing a friend’s engagement; finding out a celebrity I fancy is several years younger than me; Monday mornings; anyone “living their best life” on a beach. The idea that people are “achieving” while I flounder fills me with panic.

I’m in the throes of a quarter-life crisis. A very different animal to its middle-aged cousin, mostly because no one aged 26 can afford a vintage Jag and is unlikely to have progressed far enough in their career to have a secretary to shag. The quarter-life crisis, or my experience of it, manifests itself in me wanting to run away; to start again; or bury myself in anything that will distract me from my own reality. Clinical psychologist Alex Fowke defines it as “a period of insecurity, doubt and disappointment surrounding your career, relationships and financial situation” in your 20s. Check, check, check.

It seems I am far from alone. A LinkedIn study last year discovered that 72% of young Brits have experienced a quarter-life crisis, and 32.4% would say they are currently having one. Darain Fawaz, a career advisor at LinkedIn, tells me that on average the crisis hits at 26 years and nine months, and lasts 11 months or more. Surprised by the scale of these figures, I posted an Instagram story asking anyone who felt they were experiencing symptoms of a quarter-life crisis to message me. Within an hour my inbox was full of earnest messages from friends saying they had felt “lost”, “anxious” or “unfulfilled” over the last year, and strangers detailing their own concerns.

It struck me that all of these people were going through the same anxieties as me, but none of us has had the language to articulate this peculiar sense of failure. I appear to have it all. I’m healthy, with a good job, close friends and a loving, if dysfunctional, family – and yet I feel lost. As do the people around me. Almost all the people who replied to me had pursued some form of higher education and had gone on to live and search for work in urban areas. These young people are ambitious, educated and seemingly well adjusted – all the ingredients for a life of privilege.

The spectre of 30 is looming. It seems too old to still be living at home, for your card to be declined buying loo roll, to have no interest in a serious relationship. But at the same time, society and popular culture consistently tells us that your 20s are a time to “make mistakes”, have experiences, get an STI, just get out there and live your life, man.

Dr James Arkell is a consultant psychiatrist at the Nightingale Hospital in London, and often treats young people. He says he is consistently surprised at his patients’ lack of self-esteem. “Very often 20-somethings I see here are beautiful, talented and have the world on a plate, but they don’t like themselves and that’s got to be about society making them feel as if they have to keep up with these unrelenting standards.” The problem with these standards is that in today’s society the markers for growing up have been obliterated. Our grandmothers may have been married with children at 21, but today’s 21-year-olds are as likely to still live at home with their parents. Arkell says that in his own experience, in the 1980s, when you left university you could afford to get a mortgage and a small flat. “That was a concrete marker that you were moving on with your life and you were becoming an adult. Now that’s just not possible.”

Our childhood visions for our lives, moulded by listening to parental anecdotes of their milestones and reinforced by TV and films, are no longer realistic. Due to unaffordable housing, less job security and lower incomes, the traditional “markers” of adulthood, such as owning a home, getting married and having children, are being pushed back. This has left a vacuum between our teenage years and late 20s with many of us feeling we’re navigating a no man’s land with zero clue when we’ll reach the other side.

Rory Brecknock, 25, replied to my Instagram story, saying his quarter-life crisis started when he lost his job. After almost two years working in marketing he went on holiday and returned to find he had been made redundant. He’s been in an odd state of limbo ever since. “Now I’ve been stuck at home for nine months unemployed. I’m 25, but I feel like a 16-year-old. I want to move on with my life, but I can’t.” After months of applying for new roles, he says he’s lost a lot of confidence: “I feel like I’m stuck in a place where I’m not a new grad, but I’m not experienced enough for mid-level positions. For a while I wasn’t getting any interviews and I was finding it hard to get out of bed and have a sense of purpose.”

As I struggle to articulate to Arkell the sense of disconnect I feel between where I thought I would be and where my life actually is, he suggests that the importance of religion, or the lack of it, has a large part to play. “One feature of religious belief is that your value is intrinsic rather than based upon performance or image,” he explains, “and as we move away from a religion-based society, young people are looking towards their careers to validate their sense of self.”

Although I rarely think about religion these days, I grew up being forced to go to church by my grandmother. She spent her childhood during the Second World War in a labour camp in Siberia, and for the rest of her life she credited God and her Catholic faith for saving her and her family. As my sisters and I fidgeted and complained, she would hang on the priest’s every word, taking comfort from the rambling sermons that we tried but failed to understand. We were children of peacetime, consumerism and Tony Blair – there was no impetus for faith, no urgent need for salvation. When she died in Charing Cross hospital in 2012, she requested a priest be present to conduct the last rites. Unwavering confidence in God had given her a lifelong purpose and with her last breath, all those Sundays, all her whispered prayers, were neatly fulfilled.

For my generation, work not prayer has become the personal project. The struggle for meaningful employment is something I read about time and time again in my Instagram inbox. The retirement age for those in their 20s has crept up into the 70s and the likelihood of receiving a state pension looks slimmer than ever, meaning for most of us our work will be our lives. For the first time ever the pressure to find a career that could define you for the next 50 years feels as important as finding a life partner. So when you have neither it’s easy to feel as if you’ve failed.

James Irons, 25, also felt compelled to reply to my Instagram story – he feels an acute need to find the “right” career. He thought he wanted to do medicine and spent eight months working as an unqualified nurse in the NHS. “I eventually got on to a medical course, but I never had that emotional jolt of happiness. I think it’s because I knew given the next six-year investment I had to make, it would be an unsure pay-off. It was really upsetting. I felt as if I had something to give, but I didn’t know what I wanted to give it to any more. I want to do something fulfilling, but also spend the rest of my 20s in London with my friends. I’ve now applied to do the Met Police grad scheme.”

When I speak about these insecurities with my parents, they can’t understand why I spend so much time worrying about where I am in my life – for them your decisions are a means to an end. Their advice is often pragmatic – “If you can’t afford your rent get a new job” or “Move out of London” – and it seems to me that their relationships with their jobs are motivated by fiscal security over ideological fulfilment. This is certainly nothing to be sniffed at: our parents’ sacrifices mean that many of my peers and I are in the extraordinarily privileged position of having options.

It strikes me that we are living in a time of extreme contradiction – young people are told they have a kaleidoscope of opportunity, but are fettered by a complete lack of stability. We were fed a narrative that we could be whatever we wanted to be, our heads filled with spangled dreams of ballerinas, astronauts, footballers and Girl Power. But for many of us the reality is working all day at a job you wish away, and spending every last penny to live in a rented flat with four strangers and a bad case of damp. According to one calculation by the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment, 25-year-olds need to set aside £800 a month over 40 years to retire with a £30,000 a year income. Personally, if I did that, I would have barely enough left for one Pot Noodle a week, let alone avocado on toast. I’d rather live in the present than worry about where I’ll be in years to come.

As we face an uncertain future, many of my friends and I have adopted a “fuck it” mentality. The more lost and stressed we feel, the more we find ourselves looking for an escape. While for me this usually involves tequila and a 20-pack of Marlboro Lights, for Lottie Acland, 26, this meant leaving the UK. Acland had just finished a job at a tech start-up, had broken up with her boyfriend and she felt trapped. “I didn’t believe in my own ability and was scared of rejection,” she says. “I was burning through my savings and I was struggling to suss out what I was supposed to be doing with my life. Within a short space of time my cousin committed suicide and my grandpa died. It felt like a wake up call to go out and live my life. I left London and moved to Palma in search of a job and, almost immediately, found myself working on a boat doing a Pacific crossing to the Galapagos islands.”

The irony that these strangers were contacting me through Instagram, a place known for triggering anxiety, was not lost on me. But it’s hard not to compare ourselves when we’re constantly bombarded with the edited highlight reels of other people’s lives. Thanks to social media we are living in what career coach Chloë Garland describes as a “grass is always greener culture”. Garland, who founded Quarter Life, a coaching service for people in their 20s, says she has noticed that the constant exposure to “better options” through social media has left many of her clients with a perpetual feeling of dissatisfaction. “The same phenomena is appearing in relationships now, too. It is harder to commit to one person when a possible ‘better option’ is merely a swipe away.”

I ask Arkell if he has a solution to the quarter-life malaise. There’s a long pause before he says: “You can go faster and faster and faster and get nowhere. Sometimes it’s important to accept your life for how it is now, even if it’s not where you want to be yet.”

I put the phone down and realise the tightness in my chest has loosened a fraction. When I started writing this I felt like I was going mad. My life was good, I was lucky, but sitting at my desk every day all I wanted to do was scream. As the messages trickled and then poured into my inbox, it dawned on me that I am not alone.

My generation has the odds stacked against them, but in our collective struggle we are a community. We are not afraid to talk about how we feel, although we should probably talk more. We stand up for the causes we think matter, we are not afraid to try new things and we are not willing to have a life half lived. One day I will get that pink Audi TT, but in the meantime I’ll focus on passing my driving test. One step at a time.
Millennials: the facts

  • People aged 25-34 are more concentrated in London than any other UK region. There were around 1.69 million millennials in London in 2015
  • Half of UK millennials will rent rather than own their homes into their 40s, and one-third will rent into retirement
  • People aged 25-34 make up the largest percentage of the population with no religion (49%) and the smallest percentage who were Christian (39%)
  • More than a fifth of 25- to 29-year-olds live with their parents, compared to 17% in 1996
  • 60% of millennial referendum voters voted to remain in the European Union
  • Millennials are now spending almost a quarter of their income on housing, three times more than the pre-war generation, who are now aged 70 and over
  • Millennials will spend almost three full days more commuting in the year they turn 40 than baby boomers did at the same age
 

keef

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#4
What's to say? She is a young non-directional confused spirit paralyzed by this material world.


Unable to find what her grandmother found. Of course that took a labor camp in Siberia or her grandmother would have turned out the same way.

It reminds me of that episode of Star Trek where they found Paridise, but Kirk commented something to the effect, "That's not what this life is about."


Young people today have been so brainwashed by modern commercialism they only have a vague realization that this ship is sinking fast.


When they finally do realize it, it's usually too late to find a lifejacket.

Turns out, her grandmother's spent time as a youth in a Siberian labor camp was much more fulfilling in the long run.
 
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glockngold

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I REALLY thought more people would comment on this.
I couldn't stop shaking my head as I read it.
Ok,
It's just hard to read without becoming nauseous.
Poor chickie, the world is not set up for your happiness.
If your participation trophies aren't doing it for you any more, it's time to go out & through hard work & maybe luck, earn it for yourself.
Your current situation may not be what you "wish for", but it's a shit-ton better than peering out through the cave smoke to see if the saber tooth tiger is still out there.
 

southfork

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(Last week I found my 15-year-old self’s diary )(The spectre of 30 is looming. It seems too old to still be living at home ) , ,My generation has the odds stacked against them ) Another whining fucking Lib looking for handouts
 

Hystckndle

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#8
What's to say? She is a young non-directional confused spirit paralyzed by this material world.


Unable to find what her grandmother found. Of course that took a labor camp in Siberia or her grandmother would have turned out the same way.

It reminds me of that episode of Star Trek where they found Paridise, but Kirk commented something to the effect, "That's not what this life is about."


Young people today have been so brainwashed by modern commercialism they only have a vague realization that this ship is sinking fast.


When they finally do realize it, it's usually too late to find a lifejacket.

Turns out, her grandmother's spent time as a youth in a Siberian labor camp was much more fulfilling in the long run.
Took my mom to see Andre a few years ago.
Wish I could still see her smile.
He really touched her.
 

newmisty

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I often struggle with patience when trying to read anything written by a woman. Too much fluff & grizzle not enough meat.


That being said, here's the whole thing in a nut shell: SELF CENTEREDNESS IS YOUR PROBLEM

Last week I found my 15-year-old self’s diary. In its angst-riddled pages alongside gripping stories of unrequited love, fake IDs and Lambrini-fuelled exploits, I discovered a list of things I wanted to achieve by the age of 25. These included: own a house in Notting Hill; be a successful TV presenter; be engaged; own a pink Audi TT. “Fuck,” I thought, not for the first time that day. I am 25 and a half; single, unable to pay my rent and the closest thing I own to a car is a broken skateboard. My head began to spin, a familiar tightness seized my chest and the sweat glands in my palms went into overdrive, signalling the beginning of a panic attack that would last the best part of the day.
1 paragraph, 6 sentences and mentions the self 9 farkin times. Doesn't take a genius to see the "ME" generation's obsession with the self. Selfies, as the prime example. Everyone is spending so much time comparing themselves to other show-offs they forgot to learn a trade, develop a skill or enjoy existence. Hopelessly lost infantile mindset's where "everyone's a winner".

"Welcome to the party pal."
 

mispillion

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these kiddies didn't raise themselves. they all had parents that failed miserably. our government turned into a pile of shit. we voted them in. anyone not know tv and movies are bad? yet we watch the crap. the way i see it, after jfk, rfk, and mlk getting offed by our own government, into the 70's society collectively said "fuck it" and turned to coke and discos (as an example). try and enjoy the show, after all we're just passing through.
 

Cigarlover

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If your an attractive female you got 1 shot to marry more money in a day than you will ever earn in a lifetime. If your not attractive, get a gov job.

What really happened and what they have no perception of is that wages stagnated for 30 years while inflation kicked housing higher over the same period.
I remember in the early 90's my first house cot me 80k. Needed some work and then I sold it a couple years later for 125. But I remember paying 80 and talking to others who bought their house in the early 70's and never though housing would get so expensive.. But then it did and along with that, everything else. So a new car in the 90's is what a house cost in the early 70's.
I never thought that would be possible for me in the 90's.. Fast forward to today and with financing a new truck is 80k and a that same house I had is 250 in some places.
Until recently wages stagnated so it's not easy to come up with even a down payment let alone make the mortgage payment. As far as I'm concerned if you need more than a 7 or 10 year mortgage than you cant afford the house. Just rent. If things get bad you can just walk away from the rent. If you have a house you kinda tied to it unless you can sell. If your desperate than your going to lose your equity in it probably anyway. If you rent and something goes wrong you call the landlord. If you own your on your own.
 

newmisty

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you own your on your own.
Good write up CL. Just thought this was a stand out looking sentence and wanted to capture it for posterity.
 

Uglytruth

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So a 25 year old British woman is broke / jobless, has a meaningless life, no relationship husband or prospects, ain't getting laid, has no future or direction...... What she can't see is she has contributed to the downfall of her nation. Will never be "happy" or "secure" and probably never be a wife or mother.

All the while her nation overrun by "rapeugees" because they are being welcomed by the NWO and breeding like rats!
 

Uglytruth

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As far as I'm concerned if you need more than a 7 or 10 year mortgage than you cant afford the house.
If they would read or study they would know your house payment should only be one weeks take home.
Idiots going into deeper and deeper debt for more than they could afford or dual incomes have driven home prices up along with the stress of trying to pay a mortgage that's a burden. People can't separate fantasy from reality. If you can't afford anything more than a $500 month payment that's all you can afford, PERIOD. To change that either save more for a bigger down payment, earn more or LOWER YOUR UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS! Life ain't a TV show. If you don't your going to be house poor, stressed, and probably divorced. Kids won't help that picture either.
Funny she never mentioned one simple small word........... sacrifice! Can't have everything sweetheart and right now you seem to have 100% of nuttin honey.
 

TAEZZAR

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newmisty

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Irons

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I couldn't finish reading that tripe. I did try though.


.
 

Rollie Free

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New misty hit it on the head. She is possessed by her own narcissistic self. The cure for almost all 'anxiety' is to give yourself to others. Focus on the problems of those less fortunate than yourself and your problems will fade away.
 
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ErrosionOfAccord

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Only read the first three maybe four paragraphs but unlike the rest of you, I can relate. By 25 I had a four year stint in the USAF and was just entering mining in a boom town known as Elko NV. That was 93. I had a batshit bipolar for a wife and a newborn and was living in a camper. Went to Elko because the money was big but I didn’t have the foresight to recognize that the cost of everything was bigger. I think I grauated to a 1976 singlewide that year but I sure did feel like I was spinning my wheels and going no place.
 

JayDubya

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ErrosionOfAccord, the thing is, we've all been there, it's called life.

The thing about us (you included) is that we didn't incessantly bitch & whine about it. We didn't wallow in self pity. We didn't tell every single one of our friends and family members about how bad we have it. We didn't play the victim card and we sure as hell didn't expect someone else to be, or find, the solution for us. We didn't have the sense of entitlement.

There may be one or two of us on this forum who were born with silver spoons in our mouths, but I don't think so. Likely, every single one of us had struggles when we were just starting out. It's just the way things are. And when you fight through those lean times, you're supposed to learn from it. You learn the value of each and every dollar that you earn. If those dollars come from someone else, if you didn't earn them, the real value is lost on you.

I'm not kidding, when I tell you, there were months when my wife and I would put all the bills, face down, on the table, shuffle them around and pick one. We'd turn it over and say - "Looks like the electric bill isn't getting paid this month."

Then we got more creative. We'd put the check for the phone company in the envelope to the city/water bill and the check for the city/water bill in the envelope to the phone company. They'd contact us, we'd feign ignorance and it bought us an extra month to come up with the cash necessary to pay both.

It was tough, it was incredibly tough. But it taught us to be very careful with our money. And once we started to make a little more we sure as hell didn't blow it on frivolous crap. We had friends who decked out their cars with after market wheels and kick-ass sound systems. They had gigantic big screen TVs. We had none of that stuff, but we lived fairly comfortably within our means and we put away money when we could.

Now that we're old (older) we're not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but we're comfortable in our house that's about to be paid off this summer. We go on pretty nice vacations when we feel the need to get away from the pressures of everyday life. I'm still driving my 2009 Dodge Ram and plan to keep driving it 'till the wheels fall off. I don't care about the newest iPhone release date. Hell, I don't even carry a phone. I don't care about that kind of stuff.

My wife's niece got married a couple years ago and the niece and her new husband moved in with us for a while. (Long story, not going into it here). I don't give advice unless I'm asked and sure enough, one day, the nephew asked. Specifically, he asked something along the lines of - "What's the one single best piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting out?" I told him, "Own your possessions, don't let your possessions own you."

ErrosionOfAccord, I hope I didn't come across as "preachy", that wasn't my intent. I'm just extremely tired of people, like the one in the article, who continually spout the "Oh, woe is me!" bullshyt. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Pull yourself together and do something about your situation. Make a better life for yourself. I swear, it seems that some of these people put more effort into figuring out how to spin their tale of woe than they do in figuring out how to do something about it.
 

mtnman

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#24
She's a fat drunk, there's no helping her. At 15 I was working before and after school. By 25 I was five years into my trade.
 

Mujahideen

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#25
She's a fat drunk, there's no helping her. At 15 I was working before and after school. By 25 I was five years into my trade.
I’ve been working since 15; I could only legally work after school on Friday and on the weekends at 15. My dad made me pay him a token amount of rent up until I moved out. At that age it helped me appreciate the struggles of life that my parents went through to put food on the table and keep the lights on.

I believe people my age and younger may have a lower prospect of achieving the American dream than our parents and grandparents in some cases, but keeping things in prospective, everyone that I know who was focused making their life better and wasn’t into partying and bull shit or material things have made it.

I’ve even made a few missteps in my life, mostly just wasting time in my early 20s and was at a point where my life where could have went left or right. Well I’m glad I did waste that time in my life because I have the whole wasting time thing out of my system. I’m able to invest my money, travel the world and stack silver.

I see so many people at dead end jobs living for the weekends going paycheck to paycheck... well what’s gonna happen when you get older?
 

Ensoniq

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#26
She needs to turn her inner self pity voice off

Good stuff doesn’t happen while you sit back and wait for it - all the while complaining

Buckle down, work your ass off at anything and get ahead

When you “earn” you self worth will improve immeasurably
 

hammerhead

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#27
I'm late to the party as far as being financially responsible or aware for that matter. Debt is slavery? Ha. It's just the way the world is, right?
 

JayDubya

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Yeah, they say “Good things come to those who wait"
Well, I'm here to tell ya, good things come a hell of a lot faster if you get off your ass and do something to make them happen.
 

Ensoniq

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I'm late to the party as far as being financially responsible or aware for that matter. Debt is slavery? Ha. It's just the way the world is, right?
Negative

The “rent seeking” crowd who grows rich off your interest payments wants you to think this way though.

Read Dave Ramsey and follow his steps. Debt free is a true freedom