then again, maybe not
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July 07, 2006

The value of things

The whole flood situation has meant I've spent more time than usual talking to my mother. Though, now that Atlantic City casinos are going to reopen, she may have less free time. She loves the slots. 'Cause you can drink and smoke in the morning, and you're not alone. I hope to grow up just like her. But taller.

We were talking about replacing shit in my place, and I was telling her that I'm making a budget of what I can afford to spend, before I get all shopping happy. See? I'm very financially responsible for someone with so many shoes. Shut up. I am!

Anyway, it got me thinking about the value of things, and money. I spent most of my childhood (and college to a lesser extent) as the poor kid. Not because I was poor, but because those around me were kind of rich. Now, I think the reasons my mom spent such a significant part of her single-mom salary on private school tuition are complicated. She's well-educated, and wanted to make sure it was as easy as possible for me to be the same. Don't parents want their kids to have more than they did? But, of course, there's more to a private school education than just good teachers and books. It's a different world. If I'd gone to the public elementary and high schools in my neighborhood, there still would have been good books and teachers. But there wouldn't have been handbells and a May Queen, and Viking Day and the Eagles orthopedic surgeon. And I certainly wouldn't get to learn about broadcasting because Dave's dad was general manager at a TV station, and go to Baltimore to go sailing on the Van Dykes' boat. Private school was a an education in a world that's not like mine.

There were certainly times when that was difficult. I'm sure it hurt my mom when all of her hard work and good salary weren't enough for me because I didn't understand. And, I imagine, someone with a less down-to-earth, no bullshit mother might have gotten a bit obsessed with the "finer things", but fortunately my mother would have none of that shit from me. I always knew the difference between what we need and what we want. And eventually I learned to value what I had, rather than covet what others did. And to this day, when I think about the privilege of buying a new sofa because mine got trashed, or going out to a dinner I can only kind of afford because the food is amazing, or having TiVo because I convince myself it's efficient, I always think about how lucky I am. Sure, I'm underpaid, but who isn't. But I can work where I do, and make a living supporting a cause that matters to me. That's certainly more important than having a fancy car (or a car at all in my case), or more expensive shoes. I guess my point is I appreciate the things I have or can get. Every day in little ways. Even when it ends in a hangover, or an inability to stop watching old episodes of Buffy, or embarrassment in an elevator because I realize I've been singing Tina Turner out loud with my iPod.

This is a great post. I didn't go to private school, but I moved to NYC and found myself suddenly around people with money and, most of all, opportunities and it was a crazy thing.

Anyway, I'm having a lot of conversations with myself about money. I've never had enough to do more than make ends meet and go out to eat or see a movie to unwind at the end of the week, which is a lot better than being a little kid without groceries, so I've felt really lucky compared to my parents, but have also thought about money A LOT. And lately, I've been wondering why I obsess about money so much. I mean, I have a pretty nice life. I live in a cleanish apartment in a neighborhood I love with the person I love and, being childless, I don't have to worry about anyone but me and A. So, why haven't I learned to chill? I think your perspective is great.
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