People love to talk about gratitude – it’s positive. Sometimes my gratitude must be framed in loss for me to really understand it. Does life have to be full of so many things to be grateful? Maybe I just need a few.
We always want more – money, experience, love. I know I do. I read an article today reminding me that even if I worked at McDonalds I’d be in the top 8% of richest people in the world. Even $40,000 a year, long since surpassed, would put me in the top 2% of richest people. Of course, this doesn’t account for different economies and markets (my rental market at the moment has me in tears), but I digress.
I remember poignantly the struggle of my youth. I’m still young, but when I was younger, I felt desperately that I might never achieve what I wanted or even get that career-making job that would launch me towards finally making money that I needed badly. I gambled on dreams and plastic in hope that one day my financial life would match what I thought I was worth. Never mind the fact that I always believed I was destined for artistic greatness and some level of fame – my income didn’t start a steady increase until I was 28. It took another huge jump and began consistently growing when I was 33.
I’m now 37 and finally able to functionally achieve a dream of my youth, to travel internationally again. Something I couldn’t have done when I made $14,000 a year living in a maid’s quarters with no kitchen in Los Angeles. (Or maybe I could have, if I’d been more disciplined?) I was lucky then too, despite how difficult things were at times and how spare my living was. It may be laughable in fact to describe my living as spare, when my occupation was a freelance production assistant, getting fed all my meals at work and driving around to deliver scripts to A-listers all day.
At this point in my life I still feel the burning need to achieve something artistically, especially before other obligations weigh me down. And, I sometimes wonder if I’m already doing what I was meant to do – that twenty three year old’s goals don’t seem quite as important anymore. Not because they were unrealistic, but because she didn’t know how life ultimately takes shape around you and your decisions. And while you have control, you control things differently than you thought you would as you learn what it all takes and how the world’s relationships and economies work, and find happiness in your own.
I am finally in a position to not only travel, but live comfortably and get rid of some debt. I feel an urgent need to do this because I don’t know when things will end. I may be on top of some things in my career at the moment, but one never knows when the bottom will drop out. Suddenly you aren’t the popular girl anymore. Suddenly people aren’t trying to hire you and pay you more money. And you have this closet full of expensive clothes, a classic car that needs a paint job, and a mountain of credit card debt.
It’s so easy to take things for granted, from the money in our pockets to the love in our life. A rule I’ve read about in “Essentialism” is to assess what you would pay for something if you didn’t own it before you get rid of it. (This is actually a tip for discarding unneeded possessions, but works for a lot of dilemmas.) What would I do to get the job I have now? The interviews I endured, the months of waiting and hoping, the earnest anxiety to do everything right that I experienced years ago for the chair I comfortably sit in now? I’d likely do that again, from the more powerful and experienced position I now hold. On a more personal note, how vulnerable, giving, and accepting am I willing to be to sustain a relationship of ease and affection – the type I admired for years?
It all takes more work than a beautifully arranged life would have you believe. But I’d like to keep working. I believe it’s worth it, and we never know how long it all will last. How lucky I am for what I have today.