Tuesday, June 25

On Waking Up Rich

Last week on Wrangler Liz's other blog (it's a good one, make it a regular stop on your surf-reading. I swear you won't regret it), she talked about waking up rich. The thought came from one of the those social media memes - what would you do with $500 million? Go ahead and read her post, I'll wait. 

Oh, you're back. Yay!

I used to worry about money a lot. I grew up in a rural town with a father who, while loving us all, had delusions of making millions of dollars doing...something. He was a school teacher, a deacon at our church, and most people thought he was a really well-grounded person. Content with what he had. They didn't see him at home, coming up with money making schemes, getting involved in MLM (multi-level marketing) schemes, and generally unhappy about...well, everything, Part of that malcontent is who he is - an undiagnosed depressive/bi-polar individual. Part of that malcontent stemmed from people he saw - televangelists on TV, other people in our small town and church, fictional people on TV - doing "better" than he was. He couldn't see behind the facade of the televangelists or fictional TV shows to the real people who also struggled. And who, sometimes, were very bad people, conning others for money. He didn't see that that person from our church, who drove the amazing car (that he would lose a few months later because he couldn't pay the bill) or the other one who had just bought the mansion on the outskirts of town as a fixer-upper that would drain all of his money - and then some! - leaving him broken down. My dad could only see the flashy car, the big house and he wanted those things. He never developed the ability to see what he had as enough. He still hasn't.

I remember once, when I was 10, I think, my parents had been fighting. About money, it was one of the things they fought about a lot. This time, though, it wasn't about bills, it was about wanting more money to buy more things. My dad was on the side of 'we need more money, we need *this thing*' and my mom was on the side of 'why, our bills are paid and we have a little bit in the bank, we don't need that *thing*'. Even I knew the thing my dad wanted to buy wasn't the problem. Lack of money was. He didn't have enough, he never thought he had enough. I hated that fight and I wanted it to stop so I raided my piggy bank, which was filled with mostly pennies but a few dollar bills. I took those dollar bills to my dad because I thought maybe those bills would get him where he wanted to be. I don't write that to engender sympathy or tears. To my 10 year old mind, that handful of bills might have pushed my dad to the 'enough' stage. Of course, they didn't. And the fights continued and eventually my parents would divorce (not just about money, there were other issues. anywho). But I never forgot about those bills (no, I'm not mad about them) and how they hadn't really changed anything for my dad. I mean, of course they hadn't, it was probably $5 (to me, at 10, a fortune...to him, at 45 not even lunch, but I digress) but it started me thinking about money and what it meant. Because no amount of money ever made anything better for my dad.

For a while, money meant everything to me. I wanted it, as much of it as I could get. I got a job, then another, then my mom would get me more jobs - at one point in college I held down 3 part-time jobs and was carrying 15 credit hours.  I was exhausted and my grades were horrible and I still left college with a mountain of debt...because part time work doesn't pay beans. But years later those bills and the memory of that day helped me decide that I didn't want a life ruled by money. I want to make money, I'm not going to lie. I want to be comfortable. I want my kiddo and my husband to be comfortable. But I don't think comfort comes from stacks of green paper or gold bars. The green and the gold make things easier, of course they do. But they don't bring true comfort.

True comfort comes from loving the people around you, from having friends you can depend on and who depend on you. It comes from the connections we make, the happiness we embrace. True comfort, true happiness come from embracing what you have - not what you want, but what you already have - as enough. I have a house to keep out the rain, a man who loves me in spite of my flaws, a daughter who still thinks (as the old age of 11) that I'm pretty cool, friends who love me, enough food, clean water, and work that makes me feel that I matter. I don't have a million dollars in a bank, but even if I did those core things wouldn't change. Because at the core, those things are enough for me.

So, what would I do if I woke up with $500 million? I'd pay off our house and the homes of my family members. Because of bebe, I'd like to set up a camp for foster kids somewhere, teaching them life skills, love of the outdoors and animals. RadioMan and I might buy that RV and become full-time travelers, because I can write my books from anywhere and how amazing would it be to homeschool bebe while she explores our amazing country and continent? I'd give a lot of it to homeless organizations, pour a lot into green energy research and education/training programs for it, give more to our church. I'd keep some of it because I'm not an idiot. RVing is expensive and life comes with bills.

But beyond all of that, in a world that values money and sees that money as power, I think the more powerful thing is happiness. Love. Community. I'll never wake up with $500 million in the bank, but I've helped friends in need. I've found that you don't have to birth a child to be her mama-bear. And that being in love after 20 years is just as exciting (and sometimes hard) as it was in the first year. I've probably given and received more than a million hugs and 'I love yous' and I'm okay with that trade-off.

~Kristina Knight

8 comments:

  1. Waking up on the same page, aren't we? Thanks for the shoutout. I'll take our lives (and our loves) over $500 million any day of the week.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm with both you and Liz on this one, Kristi. Enough is fine if you have life's other, more important riches. Great post! PS: my dad was much the same way, although he left when I was six, so I saw the syndrome manifest from afar because he never used whatever little money he made on get-rich-quick schemes to support his four kids.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I only wish I'd learned what "enough" was sooner... but that is another blog.

      Delete
  3. Life would change so much if you won an extreme amount of money -- like over ten million. I'm okay with 10 mil, though. Seriously, I'd only want enough to get debt free and help out the family. Oh, and to visit the Wranglers..Paris…

    My sister's bff won a million years ago on the WA state lottery. She took the yearly payment option so she ended up with an extra 30K or something a year. She kept her job, but was able to pay for a house and one for her parents. And she never advertises she won and I think maybe it's made her a little shy and cautious--which she always was anyway--when meeting new people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that's interesting! I went through a binge last summer where I watched all of the "the lottery ruined my life" shows. It was really interesting.

      10 mil is a nice round number, Margie. I think that could work! lol

      Delete
  4. What a powerful post, Kristi! I mentioned on Liz's blog that a character in one of my books won a lot of money in the lottery and it changed the way others treated him. In my research, I found that lottery winners reported that people (even people they knew well) often treated them in two ways: either they tried to hit them up for money or they totally backed away, treating them like they'd become different people who thought they were better than everyone else because of the money. Also, many winners become poor again after a surprisingly short length of time because they've spent the money lavishly on luxuries (or they've been conned out of their money). So, we may dream of winning the lottery, but the reality of sudden wealth can be much different.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with Margie on using my sudden wealth on a Word Wranglers get together!

      Delete