Hit by a Pitch

Redefining Wealth

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Reposting something I wrote in December 2011, because I need to be reminded:

I’ve realized I need to take a more radical approach than just a spending fast (although that is itself kind of radical, at least to me). Hippie alert: I have to attempt to completely reject consumer culture. What I mean is that — it’s hard to say but I’ll try to start. In some ways, I was raised to think it’s good to have money and a nice house and nice things. It’s not that I was taught to be blatantly materialistic, but in subtle ways, things were ingrained in me, like: money is good, money is important, shopping is fun. I think those might be lessons many of us learn directly or indirectly from our parents who maybe were children of immigrants and made lives for themselves and their families that were “better than” what they had, with “better than” being equal to “richer.”

Trying to reject better than = richer and having more and/or better things might be one of the big struggles of Generation X. For me (and I’m still working on it) this involves completely redefining my understanding of wealth.

Here’s the thing. I often fall into the trap of comparing myself to other people. Usually, those other people are more well-off financially than I am. So I get bummed out because I don’t have a super-cool place in a super-cool neighborhood and I don’t take exciting, exotic vacations and I don’t go out to dinner all the time and I don’t have every new Apple product the day it’s released. It took me a long time to get over that feeling of being “less than” and realize I have other things, things that aren’t as easy to, well, show off. I have time, lots of time, because I don’t work long hours. I have a husband who doesn’t work long hours. We have low-stress jobs we generally enjoy. We have a good enough house with a low mortgage payment in a good enough neighborhood that’s close to everything we do. We have a good amount of time and a good amount of positive, non-stressed-out energy to spend with our kid and each other.

I’ve always valued time more than money, which is why I never went to work for a big law firm. I am absolutely unwilling to work long hours or be overly stressed about my work. What I’m getting at here (finally!) is that for me and my family, “wealth” doesn’t mean money — it means time. And I know there are some very lucky people who have both, but more often than not, I think most of us get one or the other. I’d rather be on the poor side than work 60 hours a week (or more!) or have a husband who’s always at the office. Time isn’t really something you can put on Pinterest and have people gush over how beautiful it is, but for me, it’s what really matters. And realizing that makes me realize it’s time to stop spending money on, well, anything that isn’t necessary or at least very important. Necessary or important might be new glasses or an iPhone every two or three years, but it’s probably never another handbag or a sequined shirt or pair of fancy heels.

I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a smug hippie, or that if it does, it’s understandable because it’s been hard enough for me to realize I need to change my way of thinking about wealth and it’s going to be even harder to really put it into practice in everyday life when I’d really like to buy some more shit from Etsy. Money doesn’t buy happiness and things don’t equal happiness. Duh. Did I really need this many years to figure that out?

Written by Tracy

April 23rd, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Posted in and life

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