Deciding what’s worth my time

This is not a post about taxes.

But, I have to do my taxes this year. At 24, this will be my first year of filing without help from my dad and while I feel totally capable, I’m still a little nervous. I’m going to itemize and figure out all of these W2s and forms and numbers and… Basically it is just going to take a little time.

When I was explaining all of this to a friend he said it wasn’t “worth his time” to itemize or do his taxes himself. Having someone else do your taxes is pretty normal – and the smart thing if you don’t know what you are doing. But the way he phrased it made me wonder how we decide what is and isn’t worth our time in other aspects of our lives.

Currently I’m entry level, which is short for my time honestly isn’t worth a whole lot. If something will save me a few bucks (like buying the rice you have to boil for 10 minutes instead of the kind you can microwave), I’ll probably do it.

I grew up with parents that worked hard for what they had. There was no such thing as quitting when times got tough. Sick? The cows won’t feed themselves. Tired? Too bad, your clients aren’t going to wait around for you. But giving their all didn’t stop at work. My mom never hesitated to ask if it was “worth her time” to volunteer and clean the local church or help serve meals after funerals. My dad never wondered if it was worth his time to remove tree branches from an impassable local dirt road after a big storm.

I’ve spent time mopping floors and making fries for minimum wage and (more recently) carefully editing words that may never be published. Why? Because I’ve decided it’s worth my time. Because I was taught that there is no job beneath me. If it’s legal, ethical, placed in my sight and needs to be done, it’s my job to do it.

But what about all of the selfless work? The work I have watched my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents doing all of my life. I’m sort of, well, failing at this. I’ve managed to fall off this bandwagon. I don’t volunteer to babysit kids during PTA meetings. I don’t offer to sit down with high school juniors to edit college entrance essays. I don’t cut and plate cakes at local fundraisers. I tell myself I’m too busy, but what I’m really saying is that it isn’t worth my time. And how sad is that?

You’ve probably benefited from people doing things that weren’t necessarily “worth their time.” At least I hope you have. I know I have. And I know it’s time for me to give back so that another generation knows what it’s like to be worth someone else’s time.

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