What I’ve Learned in the Past 12 Months

“What has Lauren been up to this last year?” asked nobody in particular.

Glad you asked!

This year I hit a few milestones:

  • 2 years at my current job (Growth Consultant at Dexter Agency)
  • 3 years in San Antonio
  • 5 years working remotely
  • 7 years with Joey

I could go over a lot more numbers, but those are kind of boring.

Here are a few non-numerical highlights of the 12 months:

  • Went to Finland, Estonia, Belize, Florida
  • Finally started going to a barber instead of having Joey cut my hair
  • Read lots and lots of articles (a few favorites)
  • Picked up writing again
  • Bought tickets on a whim to go to Japan in February

To break up all this text, here are a few photos:


Iced coffee in Ambergris, Belize

Sailboat in Hopkins, Belize


Cool little cabin we stayed in (Finland)

Store in Tallinn, Estonia


Things I’ve Learned

I’m always amazed at how much I change from year to year. It’s crazy to me that I had certain opinions, values, and viewpoints even a year ago that’d I’d never have now.

Spending more money isn’t a bad thing

It used to be that I was so cheap I would pay to fly to Dallas and take a bus 4 hours to San Antonio to save a few hundred dollars (even worse when the bus back was cancelled and Joey had to drive me 4 hours there and 4 hours back after we hadn’t slept all night, sorry 🙁 ).

I’m still more frugal than the average person (my mom would call me cheap) but I’ve started realizing that there are certain things I’d rather pay more for in exchange for extra convenience or safety or time.

In Belize, we had a great trip hitting all the beaches and islands. Once we got to the interior (San Ignacio), where we planned to spend 5 days, the vibe changed. On our first night we had an encounter with a guy who said he was part of MS13 (a gang in the US and Central America) and had pushed a transwoman off a balcony. We noticed a lot of these guys just hanging around in the main town square. As a gay couple we got pretty freaked out. We had never felt unsafe anywhere and panicked about what to do. The next day we decided to cancel our AirBnB, forgo the money we spent on it, and take the bus to a beach town and book another hotel.

I’m so happy we made that decision. Spending the extra money and forgoing a few hundred dollars was well worth it. We felt more safe in the new town and I believe we had a better time than if we had stayed in San Ignacio.

If this same situation happened a few years ago, I’d probably have hesitated about what to do because of the money. Now I’m much more comfortable spending on certain things that I used to not want to spend on.

Know when it’s enough

I’ve always had an issue with overdoing things. At my old job, I felt pressure to work constantly. I didn’t know better and thought it was expected to work at night and on weekends.

My current job is a complete 180, probably because they’re European ;). One colleague even asked once why I was working on a weekend. To be honest, I didn’t have a good answer so I stopped doing that.

My current job doesn’t take up my whole day so I figured I’d do some extra work, because who doesn’t want more money? I was going on Upwork and helping set up marketing automation for people. I was also doing tasks on Mechanical Turk.

I enjoy working, sometimes to a fault. I can neglect other things in order to do more work because I enjoy it.

After many talks with my girlfriend I found that I was neglecting really important things in my life. Since then, I’ve stopped taking on any extra work outside of my regular work.

Instead, I now focus my free time with my girlfriend and on writing and reading.

Thinking about it now, I don’t know why I felt the need to make more. The amount I make now is enough for my needs and I over the past few years I’ve realized I value my time and freedom over extra money.

If a recruiter came along and offered me double what I’m making now but I had to work 50 hours a week (double what I work now), I don’t think I would take it. And if you asked me that same question a a few years ago I would probably take the higher pay.

Invest in the right things

As I said in the first “learning” I’m super frugal. If we go out to eat, Joey and I share a sweet tea instead of buying two, I’m that kind of person.

But I’ve started to invest more in myself lately.

First off, I bought health insurance. I have been cheaping out the past two years and paying the health care penalty instead of buying insurance. This year I decided that I have the money to buy it and should have it for any worst case scenarios.

Second, I’m trying to put myself out there more. I got back into Twitter and the cool marketing/tech/productivity sphere on there. I’ve talked to some interesting people and always come away with a new article or idea. I’m replying to more newsletters when I have something valuable to contribute.

Third, I’m literally investing more. I’ve taken my Schwab investor account a lot more seriously. I’ve got some money going into my investment accounts monthly, and also do some manually when I have extra money coming in.

Fourth, I’m investing in self-improvement. I’m spending more time doing valuable things. I’m reading good books and putting down bad ones. I got off Instagram since it wasn’t adding anything useful to my life. I am trying to write more in order to develop my thinking, as well as express thoughts and new ideas.

I know I’ll be investing a lot more in the coming years.

None of these learnings were planned, which means I have no idea what exactly I’ll be learning in the next 6-12 months. But if it’s anything like I’ve learned in the past 12 months then I’ll be very satisfied and will be sure to share 🙂