• Stephanie Hinds

Investing in Yourself, Your Future, and Your Happiness

My recent lack of writing can be attributed to three things: summer, school, and the re-discovery of things I thought I had learned long ago.

Sure, maybe the equation doesn’t add up to justifiable inactivity lasting almost two months, but as any writer would know, inspiration (and I mean the type of inspiration that makes you produce masterpieces), is very hard to come by.

Unfortunately, despite Eat, Pray, Love being my favorite book (and second favorite movie next to Home Alone 3), I have no Elizabeth Gilbert tale to tell you. I went to Barbados, not Bali, and ate roti by Rockley Beach, not pizza in Naples. Nonetheless, I still learned a ton of things that they don’t teach you in school.


School started last week, and as I sat in class the first day, I watched on as second-year students flooded the room. So naïve, and so untouched, almost, I envied them. They didn’t work full-time like me. They didn’t have another three years left like me. They didn’t have to pay for parking like me. I was quite miserable. In the midst of my mental complaining, a beautiful woman walked in and stood at the head of the class.

I watched the other students look at her, thinking the same thing as me through their expressions, “That’s the Professor?”

All class long I tried to focus, but was almost distracted by how strikingly beautiful she was. At some point, very early on, I decided I wanted to be just like her.

I thought about all the complaining I had done earlier on, and figured she too, had been in my exact situation, maybe just ten years prior. Perhaps she had thought this will never end, just like I did. But some way, somehow, she got through it. And there she was, radiant at the front of the classroom.

It must have been her attitude that pulled her through. That, along with her dedication to the study of diaspora and transnationalism, totally evident by how she lectured us that day.

I, too, was dedicated to something. And that was journalism. After reminding myself of my own passion, and where I intended to go with my studies eased my worries (and my complaining), and I was finally able to pay attention.

After class, I went for my first follow-up appointment after having my braces put on in August. Yeah, I’m 21 with braces. The only thing I feared worse than this was being 25 with braces. But at least then I would have been out of school and wouldn’t have to speak in public just to get my money’s worth.

I had wanted braces for so long, but as a teenager my family just could not afford them. Hell, at $6200.00, I don’t think I’d give them to my kid even if I could afford them. But nonetheless, I saved and saved and saved and was finally able to get them.

As I sat in the dentist chair, while he tweaked this and that, hurt me a little here and a lot there, I felt my teeth straightening. Not in the literal sense, but in the overall scheme of if this is what it takes.

To be honest, that phrase has been echoing in my head a lot lately.

It echoes in my head when I think about my debt. When I stay in on Saturday nights to avoid spending $100.00 on some drunken expedition that could have been held in my friend’s basement for free.

It echoes in my head when I sit in my classroom and look on, thinking just three more years.

It echoes in my head as I head to work for 8 hours, five times a week.

Ultimately, this is what it takes.

Over the last two months, I have come to learn a truly valuable lesson about what it really and truly means to invest in my own future.

These investments range from time to money to travel and mistakes. They range widely from good decisions to bad decisions, to sacrificing some of the most important things ever in between, just for the sake of your future.

Parents send you to school for 13 years before you finally have a say in what you want to do with that education. Spend money and carry it further to make more money? Or save your money and start working full-time?

We break up with our partners because we know they are not good for us only to have to do it again in our next relationship because we stillhaven’t found what we want in a partner, or sometimes in ourselves.

All of these things, the moves that we make, are investments.

For me, braces aren’t just a means of bettering my appearance cosmetically. It’s a means of increased confidence, increased professionalism, and it means I’ll be that much more like my Professor, beautiful and intelligent.

The three years of school I have left, despite the fact that I am currently in my fourth year of university, sounds like a big waste of time. But it’s an investment in my career, my life, and most importantly, my happiness.

Chances are, you’re probably going through a lot of sh^% right now that you don’t see a point to. You’re probably travelling to and from school on public transit wondering when it will ever end. You’re probably paying an arm and a leg for tuition you’ve borrowed from the government, and have contemplated filing for bankruptcy upon graduation to avoid paying it off.

Just me? Whatever, it’s a brilliant idea.

The point is, nothing you are doing and nothing you have done, is in vain.

At least, it shouldn’t be.

This is just a friendly reminder that in order to live the life you want, to be the person you want to be, you have to set the foundation, and you have to set it right now.

There’s a local entertainment group that functions in the GTA, and part of their motto is “Work hard to live good.”

I had heard this hundreds of times before I actually appreciated the phrase. It’s a reminder to people that things don’t just come. Not for real people, people like you and I. They must be attained through blood, sweat, and tears.

No matter how bogged down you may be about this or that, I call on you to embrace the opportunity of challenge.

Don’t look at debt as a burden, look at it as a challenge. Set up a reward for yourself (preferably one that won’t land you back in debt), so that there’s an incentive to get that credit card paid off, as if being debt-free isn’t motivation enough.

Don’t look at your character flaws as unchangeable traits that constantly bring you down. Recognize them, and try to work on them. If you’re always late, challenge yourself to be more punctual. Give yourself a chocolate bar whenever you’re on time. Make it white almond chocolate if you’re early.

And lastly, stop measuring time by how much time has elapsed, and instead by how much time is left. If I sat in class everyday and thought “Isn’t this over yet? I’ve been here for four years already,” do you know how long it would take me to graduate? But instead, I say “just three years left”, no matter how much I’m dying on the inside. And I have endless amounts of homework, readings, assignments, and those eight hour shifts to thank for making the time fly by so fast.

Whoever told you that you couldn’t fake it till you make it obviously never practiced for long enough.

Because three years ago I didn’t believe any of what I’m preaching to you, but today I do because it worked for me.

This is your life. You won’t be here forever, but you have more than enough time to make this the life you want to experience.

Invest in your life.

Invest in your future.

Invest in yourself.

And for goodness sake, invest in your happiness.

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