The old adage “Money can’t buy happiness” repeats in my head quite often these days. I’m on the search for a new job to do the same thing I was doing to keep making money to be secure to keep doing the same thing I was doing (rinse, repeat). But what about happiness? I used to think that adage was, quite frankly, bullshit. Rich people can be unhappy. But that’s because they caught up in rich people drama. But people who face real hardships – who have to struggle on the daily to survive, who have to pick betweenmedication or food, who have to decide what utility bill they can pay that month, people who don’t even have a steady place they can call home – those people have legitimate unhappy struggles. I’m not poor. Not by a long shot. But I’m not rich enough to not have some of those classic money worries either. I guess I’m part of what you could call the rapidly-declining middle class. I have been all my life which makes me pretty lucky and pretty damned privileged.
Why do I feel so unhappy about what I’ve done with my life? People in war torn countries or extreme poverty (or even mild poverty – which what the hell is that even) don’t get the opportunity to sit and ponder if they’re doing what they should be doing with their lives, right? They have to worry about . . . staying alive and keeping their families alive and finding little joys in their day to day however they can. I’m pretty sure if I talked to a refugee fleeing Syria right now about my malaise towards being a corporate cog in a capitalistic machine, they’d tell me to get over my damn self. And they would be right. I’m lucky to live in a country and be part of a class (and let’s not lie to ourselves, America has a class system – it always has and we always try to deny it) that lives in relative comfort where we have the opportunity to question our existence and wonder about “our purpose in life.”
My dad called me on my bullshit when he and my mom came to visit me last week. He told me the reality of the situation was that I would still need money to live and to be secure. That I would need experience in writing to get ahead. And until I could make money writing, the smart thing (the logical thing – above all things logic) would be to work and write in my “spare” time until I built up the resume needed to move on. I argued with him. I didn’t want to see logic. I wanted revolution. I wanted manic, large scale change. I know what happens to a person in the corporate environment. They eat you up piece by piece until you’re middle aged and wondering how much longer until you get to retire. You think you’ll do things in your spare time but then there are excuses – about being tired from a long day of stress, or putting in extra hours so you have to make compromises – and you end up putting the thing you want to do with your spare time aside. And you sit in front of a TV for a while. Or you play video games or you read or you do something that won’t tax your brain so you can forget that you just spent 8 to 10 hours doing something you didn’t want to do until you go to sleep. Then you wake up and go to work the next day (rinse, repeat).
I’m also a person who craves logic and reason and rules and security. I am my father’s daughter. I am also that perpetual good girl that all parents point to as the example for what a good daughter should be. Well, without the husband and 2.5 children. I’ve lived my life to never give my parents (or anyone) heartache. I keep thinking I should break out and do something uncharacteristically me. It’s just damned hard. So my dad talks me into the logic of the situation. And my mom keeps telling me my home is so very nice (and dammit how lucky am I that I have a home). And then I apply for 3 jobs I’m not sure I want. I have interviews for 2 of those jobs.
Is that really the worst thing? My dad isn’t wrong. If I practiced some discipline (that famous discipline I used to get a degree while working a full time corporate job), I could write in my spare time. I could set up a schedule and grind it out. So why do I feel like I just did the same thing I always do and nothing will really change. Maybe money buys you opportunity. And it’s up to the person on how they use it. Maybe.