I have a hate/hate relationship with money. It hates me. I hate it. We get stuck together in society, each needing the other to move forward and neither of us is happy about it.
Rather, money depresses me. Thinking about money makes me want to keep walking into the ocean until I wash up in Maine. Trying to figure out how to get enough of it, balance it when everything breaks or falls apart or runs out or stops working or gets eaten, trying to justify my existence without having a lot of it… It’s all just the kind of overwhelming that makes living under a bridge look like a pretty good plan.
I mean, I apparently don’t have the kind of skills people want to pay money for. Oh, people want me to help them. Jobs I’ve had, people usually wanted me to do my job and then some — or they wanted me to shut up and stop asking questions because from what I can tell questions in any organization larger than six people are a form of Evil that must be combated with seventeenth century methods of shunning or fire.
If you work in a place where questions are an ancient unholy thing, there’s a chance they’ll expect you to dress in clean, newish clothes so that you look like you escaped the pages of a fashion blog or at the very least a JC Penney circular. Unless shopping bargains and all the “good” thrift stores is your sole hobby outside working your allotted seventy hours a week and commuting another 10-15, chances are most of your paycheck will end up in your closet to impress people who hate you. Or, maybe that’s just me.
In order to do just about anything these days, you need devices — phones, laptops, tablets, chargers, fancy watches, bracelets that monitor your biorhythms, USB drives, clouds, and whatever else has been invented in the past half hour. None of these things are what I call “cheap.” Cheap to me is still less than $20 because my last job thought a salary that declined $12,000 over the course of eight years was motivational. Cheap to me is still based on the salaries offered for the jobs on my resume. Problem is, goods and services are priced for people with venture capital, IT salaries, law degrees from top tier schools, etc. When I drop multiple hundreds on a phone, I still want it to last for more than a season. Spending $50 on a dress caused crying.
In other words, I’m not “worth” anything to society. We’re continuously judged by what we “do,” what we earn, and what we spend. No matter how much we say otherwise in interviews about “finding our balance” or blogs about doing things that “matter.”
A podcast I was listening to recently had the same theme of value. One woman said, “That’s one of the first things we ask of people. It’s like ‘Hi, what’s your name? How are you? What do you do?’ When people are so much more than that.”
But are we?
We yell at the poor to work harder when they work harder than any of us. We want to deny them the tools to get ahead — education, technology — out of spite for not being more already. We talk bad about our friends who made choices we wouldn’t have. We laugh at artists for having that audacity, for being that “dumb.” We’re all hustling harder and harder just to stay on the same step or the one below.
And I don’t know anyone who isn’t tired. Who hasn’t thought about giving up. Who doesn’t fantasize about giving up the whole hustle to do those things that matter or to chase dreams or to feel balance.
Is that the new American Dream?
Most of us can agree the old one is dead. It’s only the hardcore delusional who think anyone but the furthest outliers can turn rags to riches. Yet, we all still keep thinking we can find balance like our parents thought they could find wealth and success.