Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day 21 Letting LOose Challenge: Money isn't everything.

"After a visit to the beach, 
it's hard to believe that we live in a material world."
~Pam Shaw

There are so many amazing quotes about money, wise words about how to save, budget, and spend. The ones I gravitate towards are those that remind us of what money can't buy. 

In working with my coach, he tells me to stand up for the value of what I'm offering with my work. If I don't respect myself, the Universe will act in kind. And, it's up to us to stand up for the belief that the healing work we do is just as valuable as what doctors and investment bankers do. Our schooling? The university of experience. And frankly, in the end, everything is a theory until it's put to the test, and then it becomes meaningful to us.
Money was such an intensely fraught subject in my family growing up. Part of Chinese culture is to always talk about the value of things, but the bigger part was the my family had always been in debt — and sometimes, severely. We didn't learn how to handle money, because my parents were struggling with that themselves, but we damn well knew what it felt like to worry about it, to not have enough of it, to constantly judge ourselves against those who had more. 

So, when I grew up, I did everything I could to ensure that I wouldn't end up in the same circumstances my parents were in — from the age of 15 and a half, I got an after school job. Then two at once. This wasn't just to pay for things I wanted, like clothes. This was to pay for the SAT prep course that my parents couldn't afford, to pay for college applications, to pay for a future far far away from what my parents had set up for us. I could never fall back on them for anything (financially, mentally, emotionally, even physical affection), so I didn't. 

But that just meant that money became the focus of everything. I never didn't work two jobs to pay my own way all the way through college and even afterwards, when I was able to score an amazing first full-time job as a copywriter. I let salary dictate where I would go next, not whether it was a good opportunity or a smart career move. As long as the next job was a substantial bump up in pay, then that's where I'd go. 

Until I realized that this was the wrong way to be. This quest to add zeros into my bank account was stressful, not at all fulfilling, and never enough. I recently spoke with a client who repeated the same truth, "If you're just looking to add more to your savings, it's never going to be enough. You're going to need to ask yourself what you want this money for. That's where you'll find value in what you're doing."

I used to also go out with people for free food. This was rooted in my eating disorder haze, and when food was combined with free, you could expect to see me there. I don't know if it's that I felt like I would starve, but I do know that this wasn't something I was proud of. A kid in my internship program in New York when I was 20 was making the same low wages we all were, yet his parents were supporting him by offering a credit card upon which he could charge as much food as he wanted. Just food, that was it. That arrangement sounded like a dream come true for me. Some people want endless shopping sprees... I wanted a limitless food account. 

Recently, I've been very lucky that a friend of mine offered to let me stay at her condo without paying rent. In exchange and to maintain balance, I'd help watch her dog while she was out of town, because she travels consistently for work. It was a wonderfully working arrangement until the busy-ness of both our schedules was making it more challenging for me to support her. I've always hated feeling indebted, which is why I paid off every credit card balance in full from the time I got my first credit card as a freshman in college. I've prided myself on these impeccable credit scores and again, simply did not want to echo any of the patterns my parents created so long ago. So, if a friend lent me money or in any way offered anything, I endeavored to pay it back in full. This is why, while my gratitude is large for my friend's support, it's time for me to go. 

What a lot of recent experiences have taught me is the value of serenity, of finding a peace and solace within myself that has nothing to do with the material world. These learnings have shown me that there are many vital things money cannot buy, and many more substantial things I'm not willing to compromise on. I now understand that we will all pay a premium for what we really want, especially if it's in regards to removing some sort of pain and suffering. 

I've always thought it interesting that despite how much money a person can have, there is no amount of cash in the world that can save someone's life if there isn't a cure. Health is everything. The fact that I didn't die the other day, potentially tumbling down multiple stories to a concrete end, is a testament to the fact that the most valuable things in my life start with my well-being. To not be able to move means not being able to do the things I love to do. To have pain in my body restricts even the simplest of things, like the clothes I can wear and the way I get into my bed at night. To have open wounds means to not be able to get into the ocean, to slow down my pace in order to do the same things I would normally like to do. It means being vulnerable, honoring limits, and letting in help — this last thing which I could pay for and do when it comes to different treatment modalities, but the thing money could never buy is the love and affection offered by the people in my life. 

This final Letting LOose Challenge is about relinquishing my old fears about money, living in abundance, and learning how to honor myself by living within my means... and then to my fullest potential.

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