I’ve always been something of an idealist at heart, but I’ve usually been much more of a pragmatist in my head. As much as I want to simply follow my dreams, as much as I long wanted to pursue a career as a writer or artist, I always would up putting those desires beneath the desire to, y’know, not be broke all of the time.
That’s the major reason why I pursued my day-job career as a programmer. Yeah, sure, I enjoy it–I’ve been playing with computers ever since my dad bought me my first computer, a TI-99, when I was little–but it’s not the career I had planned on. I stumbled into it by accident and realized that I could make a pretty good living at it for awhile. And I do; I make a higher salary right now than I’d have thought possible at this point in my life. (Not that I make that much; I think it says more for how low my expectations were than for how large my paycheck is, honestly.)
I’m coming to realize, though, that it’s just not enough.
(I’m also coming to realize that I self-identify far too much based on the work I do or the work I want to do, but that’s for a later post.)
I don’t want money to have such an elevated place of importance in my life, I truly don’t. If you asked me, “Which is more important: money or happiness? Money or love?” then my answer would always be “happiness” or “love.” “Money” wouldn’t seem to take precedence over many, if any, “quality of life” factors.
Except: I’m nearly constantly reminded, especially lately, of the painfully obvious fact that the having or not-having of money so directly affects those “quality of life” factors.
Travel? Nope, can’t do it. New clothes for the kids, or a new bed for Kelsey? Nope, can’t do it. New glasses for me to replace these that I’ve had for five years? Nope, can’t do it.
I realize that for those of us who aren’t independently wealthy, this situation’s just Part of Life. The making, managing and spending of money consumes a pretty fair chunk of our lives as Good Capitalist Americans. I accept that and know that that segment of my adult responsibilities isn’t going to change anytime soon.
But does it have to be as goddamn hard as it is right now?
I’m naturally a pretty happy, laid-back person by nature. But for the last few months, I’ve been irritable and snappish, which I don’t like being–especially at my beautiful little kids and adoring wife. But my patience and temper have gotten shorter and shorter, and I know that it’s directly attributable to the stress I’m feeling over our finances. I also know that the finacial-related stress is magnified because of the fact that I’m the lone breadwinner for my family right now, a situation I’m loathe to change.
New England’s just so friggin’ expensive–we live in Rhode Island, one of the less expensive parts of the region, and it’s still friggin’ expensive. Maybe this is one of the reasons people in the South seem to be stereotypically happier than people in the Northeast…their homes are actually reasonably priced.
And they don’t have, y’know, six months of winter every year.