Tuesday, August 17, 2010

#3- What You're Worth

OK, enough politics for now.

My day was all spilled coffee, error messages and wrong turns. I got lost trying to find something in an unfamiliar neighborhood and wound up having to make three U-turns to correct it. This doesn't sound mathematically (geometrically?) possible, but it's true. Baltimore, like any city, is full of one way streets and no left turns. I'm used to this.

Last year I interviewed for an internship position with a very large non-profit. They ended up canceling the internship program for various reasons, but the woman with whom I spoke kindly offered to answer any questions I had about non-profits when I told her I was looking for a career change. She said, "There is one main thing you should keep in mind when pursuing a career in non-profits: work very hard for many hours for very little money."

Which brings me to #3 on the Happiness Project: Put money low on the list.

If I had a nickel.

No, seriously.

The thing is, more stress in this world comes from money and the having or not having of it then pretty much anything else I'd imagine. Mo' money? Mo' problems.

It's true, and I've witnessed it first-hand. I always think that I would be a happier person, a more complete person if [insert goal here.] I were ten pounds thinner. I were ten IQ points smarter. I had a few thousand dollars lying around.

And, over the years, all of these things have fluctuated. Aside from the IQ points. No, actually, maybe those too. I think I'm quite smarter during the times when I limit the vodka intake. I have been thinner, fatter, richer, poorer, smarter, dumber, and any given mark on the spectrum of these. And- let me tell you, while it certainly can be less stressful to be in the black on these terms, it doesn't guarantee happiness.

I have figured out that I am a person who values experience over material things. I didn't find this out through some deep, spiritual process. I took a long hard look at my finances and discovered where the bulk of my money goes (outside of bills):
1. Food.
2. Bar tabs/general alcohol purchases.
3. Travel.

I don't spend excessive amounts of money on things. This is not to say that I do not like things. I have more books than anyone I know. (Except maybe Jackal.) I love shoes and bags and big earrings.

(I recently purchased my first Coach bag. For the record- it was a very practical black wristlet. Purchased at nearly 50% off from an outlet. Does this count?)

The point is, I apparently spend 90% of my expendable income on experiences. Dinners out. Nights out. Traveling to new locations.

Wealth, to me, is measured in experiences. In moments with friends and family, in countries I've visited, and in what I choose to do with my time. I choose to work in a profession that espouses the values I embrace, and I have the luxury of having an education and a background that has built the framework for this life.

Also, and this is never, ever to be underestimated: I measure my wealth in health. I have been laid up with mono, with Lyme Disease, with broken bones and, I can tell you, I am eternally grateful that all of those things were curable and temporary. For those who are healthy, I think it's an easy thing to take for granted. Do not. You have essentially a million dollars in the bank if you have your health and, if you don't believe me, ask anyone with a permanent or terminal illness to show you their medical costs and the cost of time taken away from their work, their life, their loved ones.

Money is money. It comes and goes. It's problematic and stressful, it's not talked about in polite society, and there will never be enough. Yes, it can grease the wheels in certain circumstances but without the wealth of love, of health, of an appreciation for life it means next to nothing.

So, despite my day of frustrations and my pitiful bank account and the fact that I am desperately lusting after a plane ticket to either Greece or San Francisco (can't decide which one I want more...) I consider myself wealthy. I was born a middle-class white girl with a loving family vested in my success and at-least-average smarts. I consider this instant wealth.

Do I wish I had a couple thousand dollars lying around? You better believe it. But you know what I'd spend it on? I'd fly to San Francisco and take Snickers and Snap out to a lavish sushi dinner with bottomless wine glasses. And then buy a bunch of books at City Lights. And then go kayaking at Pebble Beach.

OH- and then a wine tour.

OH- and I'd buy a pair of killer winter boots.

To wear when I buy my plane ticket to Chicago.

OH- Chicago...I want to go there too.

I digress.

Measure your wealth in ways other than monetary, Glitteratis. Yes, money is important. But so are all of these other things.

And may I suggest www.LivingSocial.com to assist you with the purchasing of experiences at a discount. I recently got a $35 bar tab for $15, and an entire day of kayaking for $18. Win.

1 comment:

Josh said...

George Best once said "I spent 95% of my money on booze, fast cars, and women. The rest I wasted" - it's all about priorities.