Intellectually understanding that money, power and status are unimportant and FEELING it in your heart are two different things.
I consider myself a pretty tapped in, spiritual person. I write a New Age blog for goddess sakes. I know that happiness and love are infinitely more important than the kind of car you drive or the brand of sneakers you wear. So when my husband asked me yesterday, “How much of a pay cut would be acceptable to take a job out of state?” my answer was, “As long as we’re happy and can put food on the table and a roof over our heads, that’s all that matters.”
I said what I was supposed to say and I even meant it at the time…but about two hours later, that little yucky pull in my stomach that says something doesn’t feel good started to tug. I imagined putting my career on hold, dramatically changing our lifestyle and spending habits and becoming a stay-at-home mom. My husband was asking because he’s been antsy for a couple of years in his position and is looking for a change in scenery at work. An opening out of state just popped up but it would mean a pay cut. Currently, he gets paid an insane amount of money to work in a job that he considers somewhat boring but is super flexible with when and where he works. From my outsider’s perspective it looks pretty cush. In addition to that, I get paid pretty handsomely myself. I work more hours than he does, but I love my job and consider it very flexible (even though he does not because his has nearly infinite flexibility).
So, to sum it up, we get paid a fuck-ton of money to work awesome jobs. Now, to put pen to paper I can see this isn’t going to win me any sympathy. I should mention that this hasn’t always been the case.
I grew up, the first born to a teen mom. We were one of the poorest families in my town. At one point, my mom sent me off to stay with a friend for the summer while she lived in our car. I had no idea until she told me years later. It was worse than I thought. There was always enough food, but I was one of just a couple of kids that stayed back when the other kids went on a school trip to Spain. School told me that if money was the problem they would raise most of the funds for me, but I knew that if my mom had to pay even a couple of hundred dollars, it was too much for our family. I told my Spanish teacher I simply didn’t want to go.
Our health insurance policy was, “don’t get sick.” My mom made it out to be a joke, but in reality, she was serious. If one of us got sick, there was no way she could pay the doctor. We never got sick except once when my brother needed a root canal. My mom cried. There was a very short time she went on welfare, but when I asked her about it she said she didn’t want hand-outs and only took the aid as long as was necessary, until she could afford to feed us and keep a roof over our heads again.
Sounds pretty awful doesn’t it? Well, honestly, it wasn’t. Our house was usually happy and my mother instilled in us enormous gratitude and appreciation for what little we had and for each other. Neither of us kids were selfish and we both have great compassion and empathy for others who struggle. I swore to myself I would never be poor but I also vowed to never take wealth for granted. I put myself through college, earned my degree and was one of just two in my graduating class to find a job immediately out of school in my field. I made smart career moves, fell in love and got married. I didn’t even know we were wealthy until my husband told me one day that our annual earnings are in the top 4% of Americans. If you had asked me to guess, I would have said the top 40%. I was clueless.
So why, when my husband asked me about cutting back our salaries to something that is still perfectly livable, did I imagine having to explain to all my hypothetical new friends that we consciously chose to give up our wealth? Why do I still feel that having money somehow equates to success, even though I understand intellectually that it isn’t true? Why do I even care what my new hypothetical friends think and why wasn’t I worried what my real life friends would think? That I can answer. They are my real life friends and they truly don’t give a lick if I have money or not.
The whole thing feels strange and foreign. Why does money have so much power over us? ∞