“So like, even if they paid you a million dollars, you wouldn’t stay?” my coworker asks, testing my commitment to quitting in March.
I have a weird relationship with money.
I heard on NPR Americans would spend an estimated $370 million on costumes for their pets this year. Awww. That’s cute. You know what’s not cute? Cancer. This huge hole of debt America keeps digging deeper. Lives literally blown apart by natural disasters. Without making this political, and trust me, I know it’s not this easy, I sometimes wish a Wizard of Oz like voice would just come over America’s loudspeaker and kindly suggest, “Heeeeeey…know that $370 million you are about to waste on those ridiculous costumes your dogs definitely hate wearing? What say we put that toward helping out the good folks affected by that tornado that ripped through the next town over, yeah? Fido won’t mind being the clever ‘hot dog’ he was last year.” Boom, problem solved.
The way people flush money down toilets makes me hate money. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve flushed my fair share. My own spending habits only add to my distaste. One late night in Vegas a few years ago, I bought an $800 pair of Jimmy Choo’s, just because the snotty saleswoman treated me like I couldn’t, all Pretty Woman style. And I didn’t even look like a hooker! Pfft. I showed her.
Not my proudest moment.
I didn’t grow up fancy. We didn’t earn an allowance; we did chores in exchange for a place to sleep and home cooked meals. If we were bored (a word we knew better than to say out loud in front of our dad), we played outside: Kick the Can, Ghost in the Graveyard, and Cops and Robbers. We used our imaginations, created entire new universes in which we had secret imaginary powers. We rode our bikes to the swimming pool or dared each other to jump off the train trestle into the lazy river below. Our lives did not revolve around the hottest toy, coolest electronic or sweet new game.
I shared a bed with my younger sister until I was 11 and a room until I was 17, while my brother slept downstairs in the windowless concrete basement until my older sister left for college. We put a bed down there and considered it the biggest bedroom in the house. I have zero idea how much money my parents had when I was growing up and I have even less of a clue today. But one thing I’ve learned as an adult, just because you don’t have fancy things or live a lavish lifestyle does not mean you lack the financial resources to do so. Some people, just ain’t fancy people and don’t care too much about “stuff.”
Money does weird things to people. My boyfriend once told me he’d break up with me if I won the lottery, the moment I won the lottery. (Heeeeey…why do you keep buying me lottery tickets?) I don’t hate money that much; I view it more as a necessary evil. He ended up breaking up with me anyway, and I don’t even have a crap ton of money to show for it. I got his point though. Money too often turns into an unnecessary evil. In my case, it just turned into meaningless things.
I know money is real, and I am not playing a life-sized game of Monopoly. But when I first starting earning my own cash, I didn’t really know what to do with it. You mean, I can buy whatever I want? You know those old SimCity games where the object is to buy property and acquire stuff? It was kind of like that. I bought a bike(s). I bought a car. I bought a house. I filled the proper rooms with the proper things. Dining table goes here. Bed goes there. Desk, in the writing room. I acquired things, filled up a house and parked a car outside.
I thought I was enjoying it, but at some point while playing the game, I became very aware that I was playing a game. And I started to feel…weird. Trapped. Claustrophobic, with all of these newly acquired things slowly closing in on me, tying me down.
And now the game is over.
According to Paul McCartney, money can’t buy you love. According to a million clichés, it can’t buy you happiness either. (And I think after basic needs are met, that’s probably true. Of course, everyone’s definition of “basic needs” is a bit different.) But money can buy you a lot of sh*t.
It can also help you experience a lot of life in a lot of different ways. And sometimes, those life experiences can make you pretty damn happy.
And that’s sort of where I’m at now. I’ve played the “stuff” part of the money game. No idea if I won or lost, I’m just grateful I saved enough to experience what I’m about to experience. I couldn’t do that without a little bit of money, at least not with the same piece of mind. That I even have this opportunity, makes me appreciate money.
You know that controversial saying “guns don’t kill people; people kill people”? I’ve applied it to money: Money isn’t evil. It’s which toilet you choose to flush it down that gives it meaning.
Oh, and Eddie Vedder. Eddie Vedder definitely gets it.