This isn’t one of my more popular philosophies with others, but it is my personal truth. I came across this lesson at the very young age of sixteen and it still holds true for me every year. As an adult, I live a very bohemian lifestyle and attitude, which I adore completely.
I wasn’t always so savoir-faire about being financially poor, as I grew up “American poor” for most of my childhood and teens. My family home had running hot water and lights, although we didn’t have a real heat source in the winters and huddled around kerosene heaters.
I remember hearing many reports of similar families meeting the fate of their houses burning down in cause of these primitive devices or dying in their sleep from the carbon monoxide poisoning it produced. Myself and my siblings were trained at an early age how to care for these devices and take safety precautions to prevent such tragedies. My mother was wise enough to “air out” the house periodically by opening the doors in order to let out the carbon monoxide.
To this day, I know the smell of kerosene very well, what it looks like, and which brands burn the best. Avoid the “red” kind, as it causes more carbon monoxide, doesn’t burn well, and can ruin the heater’s function over time.
We had food, but most of it was from food banks and charity organisations. When we actually bought food from the markets, it was always the cheapest knock-offs of the popular things I saw in commercials. Not always did I get enough to eat and I was a very skinny little girl, but I never starved.
We had one color TV, without cable connection, that everyone had to share in the living room. This was before the age of the internet in the 80’s or before it became so popular that almost every household had internet access in the 90’s. The general thing that children had for entertainment in my youth was home gaming systems, like the Atari and Nintendo.
I had neither gaming system then, so my siblings and I gained our joy from watching cartoons and children’s programs on the local stations like PBS. Or we watched horror films late at night, scaring the crap out of ourselves. Freddie Kruger was our favorite villain!
Our clothing and toys were purchased from the local Thrift Shop, a place for poor people to shop, before the popular Macklemore song… and before the hipster thought it was cool. I had toys that were half broken, missing pieces, and cost under twenty cents apiece.
I had bought a bunny toy that was suppose to hop around and do a somersault, but it was broken. At seven years old, I decided to take it apart and fix its gears, then I put it back together again. It hoped and flipped around the room for my sister and I for a week, before it wore down once again.
However, it was a good experience because I’d learned that I had the power to fix things, if I wanted to. I also repaired the inner workings of a music box (which I still have the workings today with me) and an old clock for my room that lasted many years. ^_^
I honestly didn’t know that I was “poor” until I started school, at age six. I knew that my clothing looked different than my peers, but it didn’t really occur to me that I was somehow “different”, until they circled me in the playground and made fun. That was the first time I heard the term “poor” in my entire life.
It was at that moment that I began to feel bad about myself and my life, which was otherwise happy and normal to me, and I wished that my family had more money. I wished for it so much, that I would pray to the heavens every night for some god to make my family rich.
At age fifteen, it seemed that I had gotten my wish, after many years of being bullied and excluded from social circles for being “poor”. My family came into A LOT of money and almost overnight we were transformed from the “poor family” in the neighborhood to the “Oh, my god! Did you guys win the lotto!? What happened!?” family.
I remembered being the only teen on my street, marching to the local shops with a thousand dollars in her pocket (I’m surprised I wasn’t mugged!) to fetch my new brand-name clothing, new gaming systems, and a shiny new red bike! All of a sudden, the peers who harassed me for being poor were now my new “best friends”. >_>
I thought to myself in that moment, “This is happiness! I’ve finally found happiness in this life!” I bought myself a new popular brand of a computer at the time, an IBM Aptiva, and logged onto American Online with a dial-up modem. This was great stuff back then and many of my peers were in awe because I had my own computer with internet access, as they had to use their parents’ computer and take turns with the internet access all the time.
It wasn’t long before I wised up and realized that my new “friends” only liked me for my stuff and to borrow money from me. It was so crushing to realize that they didn’t like me for me, but only smiled and was nice in order to use my computer, ride my bike, play with my video gaming system, borrow money, or eat the brand-name foods that my mother had stored in our new fancy refrigerator.
I fell into the deepest pits of depression, refused to meet with my peers anymore, I started to stay indoors a lot, and surrounded myself with my newly bought things. The items couldn’t love me back, nor could they hold conversations with me, and I felt totally alone. I thought if I bought more things, it would cheer me up, but it didn’t. I had my first suicide attempt at age sixteen. u_u
Finally, the money ran out and I actually felt relieved! I would take odd jobs here and there, in order to buy myself a video game or a music c.d., but for the most part I went back to living my “poor” life. I went back to being happy again, before I was told that I was poor on the playground. And there I stayed.
Don’t get me wrong, money is important for food, shelter, and so on. I would not want to live in a mud hut without running water, nor would i ever want to learn what it’s like to be on the edge of starvation. I currently live in a house with heating in the winter and cooling in the summers. I’m writing this blog on a very nice laptop that I’ve saved for and bought.
And I wouldn’t mind enough money for my eye surgery, needed dental work, to buy my mother a new house, and to pay off my sister’s student loans. It would make life for me a little nicer, but money is not the path to my overall happiness. For me, money is a huge burden that I can do without and becoming rich would be my worst nightmare! O_O
I do wish to become a best selling author someday, but not for the money nor the fame. I just like the idea of people enjoying something that I wrote in great numbers. I honestly would become a philanthropist if I ever become wealthy, giving most of my money away, because I have no real need for it besides the four things previously mentioned.
Money isn’t everything in life… there’s so much MORE out there, better things, things that I can truly keep. I want to fall in love someday, start a peaceful life with someone, keep learning more awesome things, to keep smiling and laughing, and most of all I want to keep writing. ^_^
Thanks for reading!