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The tale of a shopping cart.

Yesterday, wearing all black, Lane and I walked into the woods at the end of our road and stole a shopping cart.

“Stole” is a dramatic word, really. We simply took the little, black shopping cart out of its natural resting state and rolled it down the road towards home.

You’re thinking things. I know you are. You’re thinking we walked into the woods and stole a shopping cart from someone who is probably experiencing homelessness. I should state the facts: There was nothing in the shopping cart. No people in sight. And, because I am creepier than you know, I watched that shopping cart for four days before rescuing it. It didn’t move from its place. Every day, on my afternoon walk, I would stop by the woods and look to see if my shopping cart was still there. There it sat, untouched.

Actually, I walked by one morning and thought I saw the shopping cart moved to the side of the road. At a closer look, this wasn’t my shopping cart but another shopping cart– clearly from Petco. Word around the neighborhood (because I asked people) is that a man with back issues uses that shopping cart for walking support every day. So I am not really sure why we have a collection of shopping carts scattered around our home but I can promise you– I DID NOT TAKE HIS SHOPPING CART. 

“It’s a Petco shopping cart he has,” my neighbor told me. “Always a Petco shopping cart.”

 

So now you are wondering, why did you steal a shopping cart? Truthfully, I don’t have an answer yet.At first, it was just a shopping cart that someone probably stole from Kroger. Then it morphed into a black, minimalist shopping cart. Then it became a Pinterest fixer-upper shopping cart. And then, finally, it became my shopping cart. I fell in love with the petite shopping cart the more I thought about it. I imagined filling it with things.

I am pleased to find out Lane didn’t turn me down when I called him at work to tell him about the shopping cart we needed to rescue from the woods. As if it were a puppy we were thinking about adopting, I gushed about all the reasons why we needed a shopping cart in our apartment. We could put blankets in it. File folders. Storage. A makeshift hamper. Possibilities = endless.

He followed me out the door after his yoga class. We walked casually down the road. We lifted the cart down the hilly path. We rolled it home, beaming with pride. He cooked salmon and asparagus on the stove while I had the job of cleaning our shopping cart with spray and a rag.

“This is like our first pet,” I exclaimed.

“No,” he said. “It’s actually a shopping cart.” 

Surprisingly, more people talk to you when you are rolling a shopping cart down the road. They are intrigued by you. We had more conversations with people in the span of 10 minutes it took to get our little, black shopping cart home than we’d had in our neighborhood in the four months of living there. Something about a shopping cart brings us all together. 

I actually don’t know if this is illegal. If I should even be writing about the shopping cart now sitting in the middle of our apartment. I have to tell myself there are a lot worse things I could be doing in the world than stealing an abandoned shopping cart.

 

 

I told Lane I was going to write about our shopping cart today. I didn’t know what I would say but I am tickled by its presence and I wanted to say something. And then it occurred to me: this is probably very strange. This is probably not common.

And then I thought to myself, if you’re reading this blog then you’re probably a bit strange. You are probably not all that common. That’s just the vibe I get from people who read my things. They’re dreamers. They’re people who make stuff happen. They’re people who see the good, the potential in shopping carts.

Maybe people wonder how your mind works or why you see the world as some place to make big things happen. I know what it is like to have people judge you or look strangely at you because they don’t understand you. I know it’s painful to feel shut down for seeing the good in this life and trying to be positive about it. I can tell you, though, that the world needs you more than you think. We need more people who see the good in the world, not more people to shut down dreams. 

When it came to our cart, I saw something Lane couldn’t see, my mother couldn’t see, and my neighbors couldn’t see. And it’s okay to have vision. Don’t let anyone shut you down for having a vision, either. You just do your thing and keep your head up. You only need one person to believe in you. It only takes two people to carry a shopping cart down a flight of stairs.

I know you might think it is important to have all the support or backing of everyone in the world but I can assure you, you don’t need it. More people doesn’t equal better. The coolest and best things start because a small band of people is crazy enough to invest in them.

So go right on with your crazy, bad self. Roll that shopping cart home, baby. Don’t watch it from the woods, looking to see if someone will grab it first. If you want that thing, go for it. Go after it. Don’t wait for the world’s approval and don’t let fear tell you someone else is supposed to get your dreams first.

I can promise you this: most of the things I’ve done in my life look a lot like this shopping cart story. I get an idea. I doubt it. People don’t always see the vision. I do it anyway. It’s been the most valuable thing of my career and my existence to be someone who doesn’t see life as a mud pit or a problem. Life is a beautiful thing and I’m lucky to dance inside it. I’m always going to be the girl who sees a bigger purpose for a shopping cart and goes after it. I think we need more people who see potential where other people see nothing special. I think we are all capable of opening our eyes and seeing something different, something more beautiful than what we saw yesterday.

 

Step one: steal the shopping cart from the woods.

Step two: figure the rest out as you go.

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Trimming debt & budgeting like a baller.

I became debt-free at the end of 2016.

Goal-setting is like a reflex to me, I can’t help but do it. For the last few years, I have made it a goal to kick my student loan debt to the curb. I made it a goal but I didn’t make it a priority.

The difference between me finally getting rid of my student loan debt and me just talking about it rested in three things: action, sacrifice & focus. I think those are the core components to accomplishing any goal: action, sacrifice & focus.

When I say “student loan debt,” I don’t mean some small figure. I mean over $60,000 worth of student loans. I knew going into the four years of my higher education that I was taking on this burden. I remember being almost certain that I would never be able to pay it off. I would have regular anxiety about my debt as I watched it accrue with every passing semester.

For nearly five years, I didn’t do a thing about my debt. Naturally, it spiraled and became larger as I paid the minimum every month and watched the interest make the number higher than what it was before I began paying it off.

So I made 2016 my year to kill debt. I looked at the $57,000 worth of debt and I decided to face this beast. I was paying about $500 a month and I knew there had to be a smarter way to tackle this debt. 

I’ve wanted to share my tactics for a while but I also want to be open and honest with everyone. I am self-employed and have been for four years. I don’t have a fixed salary which comes with its own hurdles but I am able to increase or decrease the money I earn by the number of jobs I take on. I bring this up to say, everyone’s road to becoming debt-free will be different. Set a goal that is manageable for you but also stretches you to focus and sacrifice. Achieving goals require discipline. Below are the things I did to discipline myself and erase my debt: 

1. Budget, budget, budget

I cannot stress this one enough. I created my own budget sheets last year and I am a really huge fan of them and it’s not because I made them. I designed the budget sheets for someone like me who is often scared of numbers and wishes budgeting could be a little more inspirational. I love them only because they’re working and I am someone who doesn’t use products unless they work. It’s been so cool to see people all over the world use these sheets. Someone emailed the other day to tell me she’d been using my budget sheets and, because of them, she erased $7,000 worth of debt.

She said it took her about a year to make it happen (which is freaking awesome) and the biggest things she focused on were: 1) eating out less 2) putting her tithe first 3) taking on extra side-jobs like babysitting.

Using budget sheets has helped me assign my dollars where they ought to go. Plus, I love keeping them in a binder and pushing myself to save better from month to month.

(P.S. there’s even a space in the budget sheets for tacos. Because obviously.)

2. Consider a Challenge

At the beginning of 2016, Lane and I took on a Contentment Challenge. For the first three months of the year, he and I didn’t buy anything except for necessities, groceries, and the occasional date night. Our minds were sufficiently blown and our bank accounts were thankful.

The coolest thing that happens in a contentment challenge is you figure out where your contentment actually lies. Whether it’s cool stuff or the amount of money in your bank account. You figure out what you are dependent upon and what is in the way of reaching a point of contentment. For Lane and I, the common stumbling block where we spent the most money was on food and drinks. We enjoy going out and trying new restaurants. We don’t keep ourselves from that experience but the Contentment Challenge helped us to reign in the spending on big dinner tabs and begin enjoying home-cooked meals.

3. Face the Issue

I couldn’t begin tackling my debt until I was willing to look my debt in the face. I think we do this a lot with things we are afraid of. We hide them. We shove to the side. My debt was completely normal for a student in 2017 but I made the fear bigger than it needed to be.

The best thing I ever learned to do was look at my debt weekly and remind myself it was there. As I looked at it, I became proactive and started putting money towards chopping down the number. I tackled an $11,000 loan and a $7,000 loan during the Contentment Challenge. I took on extra jobs to whittle down a $5,000 loan. I made myself stare at the debt in order to become less afraid of it.

4. Pay those quarterly taxes

This applies more for the freelance crew out there but I cannot tell you how much of a difference it made for me to pay my quarterly taxes last year. I’ve dreaded the middle of April for the last four years because I know I will be writing a really large check to the government. However, I paid my quarterly taxes this year and I was free from the anxiety of needing to save unknown pockets of money to not be slammed come tax season. Know what you’re working with– that’s why I tell myself now. Pay your quarterly taxes to figure out what is still yours to work with.

WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR BUDGETING AND KILLING DEBT? I WOULD LOVE TO CHAT IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!

 

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Why it doesn’t matter if you met (or meet) online.

Lane and I met on a dating application.

The name of the application is called Hinge. My friend from New York City recommended it to me at the start of 2015.

“I’ve been on a couple of good dates,” she said. “They have jobs. Real jobs.”

It’s sad to think that a ‘real job’ is a thing you find yourself looking for in a partner these days.

 

I downloaded the application on the floor of her living room on January 1. We’d just come back from a diner where we mapped out our year and I was feeling lucky and ambitious. I set my search settings to Atlanta and I started to scroll.

Mind you, I was in the middle of thick depression when I downloaded that dating app. My feelings and emotions were a jumble of really high and rock-bottom low that winter. Me being on a dating application was probably not the healthiest choice and I soon realized that a couple of days later. I deleted the application.

It’s not that I didn’t want to meet someone. I just knew in my gut that the words I needed to repeat to myself were, “not now.” Not now. Get healthy. Get happy. Get sane. Get better. Get “anything” before you start believing a guy with a full set of teeth and a real job is going to fix you.

I ignored the idea of that dating application for another nine months.

 

My first year out of college, I wanted to be in love. I thought I would be one of those people who got married young. I’m happy God didn’t have the same plan for me because my husband would have starved to death in wrinkled clothing during our second month of marriage.

I don’t want to say I wasn’t in touch with reality back then but I really wasn’t. I saw everything through the eyes of a dreamer. I believed I would meet someone in a romantic clash of serendipity. I wrote this really whimsical blog post about how I didn’t support online dating because I believed I would meet someone in a more unexpected fashion. Somewhere like aisle seven of the grocery store where we would bump carts and then exchange awkward words before he asked me to dinner.

I remember getting a blog comment from a reader who was offended by my piece. She told me she and her husband had met through online dating and there was nothing less magical about their story than the idea of two people meeting in the oatmeal aisle.

 

I sat down to write this today because I know there is a stigma floating in the air about meeting online. I don’t know why the stigma exists but I think it’s because we don’t watch people in the movies meet online and fall in love. Rarely. We consume the unexpected crossings. We consume the scenes where two people end up in the same place at the same time and everything changes.

I wrote this because your love story is great and important, even if it hasn’t happened yet. You aren’t wrong to want to try out a dating application or make a profile on Match.com. That’s not crazy. You can do it. But I wouldn’t be a good friend to you if I didn’t ask you a more important question: is this what you need right now? Are you healthy and are you ready?

Relationships change things. Hearts are fragile. Humans are no different when you fall in love with them– no matter if we meet in a grocery store or in a chatroom. Make sure you are ready enough to bring your heart into the relationship before you swipe right.

 

Love stories happen everywhere. It’s important to note that. If we have a scale of what’s more magical and what’s more deserving of our applause then we are missing the point of love. The most beautiful thing that happens in a love story is two people choosing one another. I don’t think we should care how that happens, or where that happens, so much as we should be expectant and praying that it happens for the people we love. We should be more invested in people’s daily fights to keep one another, not the “how we met” story.

We become entitled. We get jealous and it’s hard to want good things for people when we haven’t yet seen them for ourselves. I think we miss the point we start to believe life is a story all about our expectations being met.

 

 

I remember one of the former contestants on the Bachelor telling a story about how she met her last boyfriend on a plane. It was such a serendipitous moment. For years, as they dated, she kept waiting to fully fall in love. She wanted things to click. She said she finally left.

“I was always waiting for my feelings to catch up to story of how we met,” she said.

Maybe it’s more dangerous that we ask the question so often, “How did you two meet?” Maybe it’s not important that you meet on a train or a bus or a coffee shop. Maybe the better question we could ask people is, “How do you stay in the fight for one another? How do you keep your love fresh? How do you sacrifice?”

 

Lane and I met on a dating application and I think the most important detail of the story is that my heart was ready to meet someone. My heart was ready to treat someone not like a crutch or a savior, but an equal. I knew what I wanted.

Fireworks never exploded in the sky to spell out LANE in big letters. He didn’t march up to my door with a bouquet of sharpened pencils. I made the first move. We talked for a week on the application before Lane asked for my number. I remember the messages were the best part of my day. In a week of traveling to three cities and watching my brother get married, this stranger on the other side of the screen was the best part of my day. He asked questions. He sent back paragraphs. We’d wait until 8 or 9 at night and then write back to one another until we fell asleep at night.

We found out, in piecing together our histories, there were a dozen or so places where we should have met already. We attended the same parties. We knew the same people. We lived 8 minutes apart. We were in the same places at the same time and I am still convinced I served that boy a corn dog and a coke at one of the parties. I just didn’t notice him.

“You wouldn’t have liked the girl you met if you met me any sooner,” I am confident enough to say to Lane. I needed to change before I was ready for a love story. I needed to become someone different and I am proud to say I did the hard work required of me.

 

It doesn’t matter where we meet. We are silly and insane if we get caught up in the “how we met” story that we forget the rest of the details. What will matter in 5 years from now is how we thought to build one another. How we thought to lay our hearts on the line. How we showed up. How we emboldened each other. How we met? That’s just the first part of the story. If you ask me, it hasn’t even gotten good yet.

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Things fit: a note to those “flying solo”

Lane texted me last week from a shoe store in Utah. The store sold primarily Nike products. A picture popped up on my screen of an awesome pair of grey Nike sneakers.

“7.5 please,” I texted back, not actually thinking he would buy the shoes for me.

A few minutes went by before he responded, “The smallest size they have is a size 8!”

It wasn’t until recently that I figured out my natural shoe size is a 7.5 and not a 8 but I’ve been wearing shoes in size 8 for years so I knew I could wear these too. However, if Lane had texted me with the news that they only had a size 6 or a size 7, I would have been out of luck. The shoes wouldn’t have fit me.

 

I think when it comes to relationships, we want things to fit as seamlessly as shoes. We date with the anticipation that things will work out. We work hard to make things fit with the person across the table. And sadly, not because it’s anyone’s fault, sometimes things just don’t fit. Two people don’t click. One person has more work to do. You both don’t see the same future. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to realize you two want different things.

The wicked step sisters in the story of Cinderella were notable for trying to wedge their too-big feet into the tiny glass slipper. The original fairy tale actually illustrates the step-sisters cutting off portions of their feet so they could fit into the shoe. Bloodied up, they still didn’t get the happy ending they wanted. It simply wasn’t their story to live. This wasn’t their person.

Throughout my dating years, I knew myself to be guilty of trying to wedge myself into a box just so a guy would choose me. I thought that was the most important thing, to be chosen by someone. Being chosen is beautiful but making a choice because you know it’s the right one is an even better feeling. If dating leads to marriage and marriage leads to the long haul, you’ll want to be sure of the investment your making. You will want to be sure of that person’s character, ambitions, capacity and how they respect you.

 

People have asked me to write about marriage and I honestly don’t have words yet. I think I should wait another 20 or 30 years before I ever try to claim I have wisdom on this topic. However, I know one thing to be true: Lane and I entered under the contract of marriage because we knew we were a fit. We asked the tough questions. We investigated any red flags. We held the relationship loosely, knowing if things were meant to crumble before marriage became an option then things would definitely crumble.

We wanted to the relationship– our unique partnership– to be more important than our own personal needs to be chosen for an ego boost. I can confidently say that if Lane or I knew things weren’t fitting then we would have walked away. It would have broken our hearts but we vowed to never wedge ourselves into a space where a love story wasn’t meant to happen.

 

If you’re impatient, it’s okay. I wish people would stop saying “when you learn to be content with your singleness, then the right person will come along.” That’s garbage. I honestly don’t think half of the people who say that even mean to phrase it that way– that’s just how we’ve packaged it in the last few years.

I hope what people are trying to say is that it’s okay if you don’t like being single. You don’t have to like it but you have to be careful not to hinge your life, your joy, or your completion to a relationship status. You were fine yesterday. You are fine today. You will be fine tomorrow.

Waiting for the day when you enjoy singleness actually may never happen. I can’t honestly say I ever looked at my singleness and thought, “I am absolutely loving this right now. Bring on more nights where the only spooning I do involves the one I am shoving into this huge vat of ice cream by myself.”

I never once became okay with being single. I learned to be independent, yes, but I never liked the solo life. I remember crying to my mom through the phone after a breakup two summers ago. This was the guy I dated before I met Lane.

“I’m not even upset about the person so much as I don’t want to have to go back into the game,” I cried. “I don’t want to have to play the dating game anymore.” I didn’t want to resign myself to a chair again and wait for more glass slippers to come along.

 

Lane came along shortly after and I remember being so impressed with how easy we were with one another. It wasn’t forced. I wasn’t trying to wedge myself into a place where I didn’t fit. When it’s the right person, there won’t be all this grey area, fog or confusion. That doesn’t mean it will always be easy or you two will never fight. Fighting– healthy fighting where the two of you learn how to communicate– is vital to a relationship. A relationship is two people who’ve lived a separate life coming together to build new territory together. That’s a heavy and light mission. When you find the right person, they’ll carry your heavy and you’ll handle their light.

 

I’ve been writing about fear so much lately because I am realizing just how much I allowed it to narrate my stories for me. If you allow fear to narrate your “flying solo” story, it will try to convince you your person isn’t out there. This isn’t a forever sentence. I can’t tell you when it will end or when that person will walk in. I can’t tell you how you’ll meet or what it will feel like for the first time. But I pray you’ll give someone a decent chance to create a new story with you.

Don’t try to wedge someone into an old story. Don’t be constantly checking to see if they measure up to stories you’ve lived before. This is something new. Something golden and new. Treat it like its sacred (because it is).

All of this happening right now– the lonely nights and the days you cry for no reason except for the fact that you thought you should have met that person by now– is all part of the story. It won’t be discounted when you two meet. It will only help you treasure the person more.

Stop thinking you’re in the wrong place. Stop thinking you’re getting off the wrong exit. Stop thinking they’re in another city or at a different coffee shop. Just stop and live the life you want to live. Be the person you imagined you would be before fear gave you other agendas. That person is going to love you when they find you in your element.

They will love you. You’ll breathe out relief. You won’t be striving or pushing. The two of you will just fit. Don’t worry, things fit.

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You can still go back to yourself.

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I started Monday with writing.

I try my hardest to not open my inbox until 11 in the morning. On the days where I am disciplined in this area, I always feel my most productive. I feel alive and at ease with the skin I am in.

I sat down in front of my desktop by 8:30am and already 3,000 words have come out of me. I pace the floors. I reheat my cup of black coffee for the sixth time. I feel more like myself than I have felt in ages.

I wasn’t planning to write anything today in this space but I find that my little writing corner on the internet gets quiet when I get away from the creation process and spiral into trying to be perfect. It’s a tiring game with no winner. I struggle with looking at the lives of other people who seem to have it all together and wishing I could be more like them. I make a fatal error when I get so invested in the filtered lives of others that I forget to invest in my own. My life. My body. My craft. My growth.

Don’t stray from your craft. Don’t look to other people as if they are going to start the car for you. Sit down. Do the thing. Use your keys. It’s your journey and it doesn’t belong to anyone else. In the same vein, no one but you will suffer if you never take the journey. People don’t miss or grieve over the life you didn’t live. That’s your grief and that’s your funeral.

If you are someone who creates things then make life about the creation. You can admire the creations of others but don’t waste your best hours of the day watching other people. Use your hours wisely. Do the work. Even if you only get 20 minutes in a given day to make something, make it happen.

We run around like maniacs claiming there isn’t enough time in the day. So often we bewitch ourselves with the curse of “busy.” We don’t see how much time we kill with scrolling, clicking and liking. I can watch you live your life in 10-second increments or I could create something the world needs. One of those things is going to take no energy at all. The other is going to require everything you have.

If you are feel odd or out of sorts today, maybe you’ve forgotten something. Maybe you got wrapped up in stuff that doesn’t matter to you and you’ve forgotten what you truly love. Time isn’t up though. You can still go back to yourself. You can get a new journal. You can write two glorious sentences. You can open a book. You can start over.

Life hasn’t called and asked you to come and turn in your keys yet. Go while you still have the keys. Go. 

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The Unofficial (but so official) Reading List for 2017

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HEY YOU!

Today is Thursday and I am currently mourning over the fact that all my friends in Connecticut have a Snow Day (yes, proper noun in my world) and I’m stuck dealing with Atlanta’s indecisive weather patterns. In the spirit of Snow Days (and me not getting any), I am working until 2pm and then cuddling up on the couch to do some much-needed reading. I can’t begin to tell you the difference it has made in the last year to start picking up books (real ones… with covers and spines…) instead of my phone at the end of a long day. I feel healthier, happier & smarter. You asked for this list… I’m answering. 

Also- It took forever (really) but I linked all the books up with Amazon since I love you so much and love Amazon a lot too. 

Dig in. Enjoy. And comment below with your current reads + favorites! Happy reading!

tying you closer than most,

hb. 


 Classics are like vitamins, you should have them everyday.

Books for #bosses

Nonfiction I will forever keep on my bookshelf.

Mackenzie’s picks

(I asked my fantastic literary agent Mackenzie Brady Watson to weigh and recommend her top 5 books for today)

Fiction picks for 2017

For the writer in you

A bunch of books featuring crazy chicks gone psycho.

Books to grow you spiritually.

On my docket for 2017

These are books that I’ve either never read or plan to read for a second (or fifth) time in 2017. I can’t speak for all of them since I don’t know all the content yet but I compiled this list with the help of reader junkie friends and the “12 Banned Books Every Woman Needs to Read in Her Lifetime.” 

A Subscription for Bookworms

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I don’t spend a lot of money on myself. When I do, I am very careful with every investment. However, I made the choice to invest in a Book of the Month subscription this past November and I honestly cannot shut up about it. I’ve gotten three books delivered to my doorstep so far and each one has been exactly matched to my personality and the genres of books I like to read. Book #4 (Behind Her Eyes) just shipped!

If you love books and love being in unofficial book clubs then this will probably be your jam. You get all hardcover books. You get to keep them. A lot of the titles are newly released or not even out yet!

When I signed up, BOTM gave me a link to share with friends. This link will get you 3-months of BOTM for $30. Dig in and let me know what your first pick is!

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Notes from an investor: people, projects, plans.

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Recently I started investing. My money. My loot. My greens. My Benjamins. My clams. My dough. My wad. My lettuce. Okay, I’m done.

It makes me feel like a serious adult to say that I’m saving money. I wiped out all my student loan debt this past December and I figured that was the next adult-ish thing to do: begin investing.

When you first start investing, the whole process seems a little intimidating. The website I use ultimately tells me how much I need to save up if I want to retire at age 67 (they picked the age, not me). There are pros and cons to looking “Big Picture” at your life like this. Pros: you see what you’re working with. Cons: you figure out what you’re working with and you realize you’re not working so well with it. 

The app I invest with gives you a list of options as to where you can invest your money: a home, a retirement fund, your children’s college funds.

There are too many options and I find myself thinking I need to invest in every single one right this very moment. 

I’m not writing a post about investing money right now.  I may have married a financial analyst but I’m not ready to come at you with my money savvy just yet. As I’ve learned the ins and outs of investing, I am starting to see that investing translates into all areas of my life.

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