We live our lives chasing status. Chasing promotion, big name careers, another figure to add to the income, giant houses, expensive cars…We chase those things because we want to achieve the best possible status for ourselves. Once it’s achieved, however, do we wind up happy? Fulfilled? Most of the time, no. How many people win the lottery and end up broke after just a few short years? (It’s scary, actually) How many filthy rich people are not only miserable to be around, but also just plain miserable? I know of a few. “Yeah, yeah. But if it was ME…” *Insert big plan for when you get rich here*. I get it. I hear you. We all have intentions, and goals. But if you are chasing a status, or money, in hopes that by itself, it will bring you happiness: Alas, I ask you to re-evaluate. Mo’ money, mo’ problems.
Chris and I fell in love when I was 17, and he was 20. We got married at 19 and 21. During those years, we bought a small house, and made it home. Our first years spent together in that house we were broke, but so incredibly happy. We slept on an air mattress for the first year…until the cat popped it. We didn’t have a stove for the first three months (hooray for hot plates and microwaves!). Ramen noodles, potatoes, and food from our little garden made up our diet. There were times when shopping meant choosing between toilet paper and dog food. The dogs loved broke days. Peanut butter and Rice Krispies were their fav. I distinctly remember having to dig $2 worth of change out of the seat-crack of my car, so that I could buy enough gas to make it home from class. On another occasion, I was in Walmart and realized the bank account only had $5 in it until Friday. It was a Tuesday, and we needed groceries. I look back at those days with such a sense of nostalgia. Broke does not have to equal unhappy. Broke does not always equal poor. We were rich in so many ways.
By 27, Chris had worked his way up the chain and was director of operations, making a killer salary plus benefits. But, the higher his salary went, the more we upgraded, the more stuff we bought, the more stress we were under. Then, he got sick. The labor took a massive toll on his already weakened body. Being the hardworking guy that he is, he wouldn’t relent. He gave 110%, all the time, even when he had nothing left to give. He told nobody how miserable he felt. Everyone was shocked to learn how ill he truly was. He hid it well, but something had to give. His job meant security, it meant stability… But it also meant his health. It meant exhaustion, a grueling commute, and next to no time with his family. So, we decided that we would rather be broke, healthy, and happy.
Plans were made. And God laughed. Things fell through, plans changed again, and again, and again. The “plan” has changed so many times it’s hard to keep track of. Obstacles appeared (and boy, did they appear). I knew I wanted “something else,” but I struggled immensely with making that a reality. I hated not having complete control of what was going on around me. I couldn’t let go. I wanted to throw in the towel so badly. Then, with my husband’s coaching, I let it go. I gave it to God. I set an intention to change, and decided that it would all eventually work out. And once I did that? It all started falling into place.
Bottom line? You can have intentions, or a vision for the end result. If you work your butt off, set your focus, and allow yourself to roll with the punches, it will come. It will not be easy. It may come in an entirely different form than originally intended, but it will come. Our plan now looks completely different than when we started, but together we are figuring it out. I’m cutting back my wine and coffee budget (desperate times call for $2 Aldi Wine and hot bean-water). We traded in my expensive mom-car for something smaller, cheaper, and far more fuel efficient. We are selling everything not nailed down, and either trashing or donating what we can’t sell. It is truly incredible how much money was hiding in our clutter, and in stuff we never used. Somehow, even with the hiccups, the budget is coming together, and the plans are falling into place. We have discovered that we will in fact be able to live, eat, and travel (and even have the luxury of Netflix) on just slightly more than what we used to put toward a mortgage payment each month.
I am not quite why we are so desperate to impress others, or to fit in the boxes society has created. No one fits. No one IS just their career, or their income. No one is the sum of their accomplishments or failures. Status, income, religion, color, we are all different. We are all just human, and for a short time, we are allowed to exist on this wonderful planet. We were given a big, diverse, beautiful world. I have decided to embrace it. I am making a change, and accepting the fact that some may look down on it. I no longer give a damn what my title is, or how much money we make. Health and happiness are my new priority. Forget the status. You may have a wonderful job, a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a 401k…But: ARE YOU HAPPY? If so, perfect. Keep doing what you’re doing, and pour your whole heart into it! If not, make a change. It doesn’t have to be huge… even the smallest step toward fulfillment is worth fighting for. It is never too late. Don’t let anything get in the way. You are not stuck. You are not incapable. You have a choice. Have faith, grit your teeth, and refuse to relent. You’ve got this.