To Live Poorly

To Live Poorly

I am a car wreck that has just happened. The shock of the situation has yet to set in. I am dazed, confused, and attempting to take in my surroundings. I am aware of some body pain but yet unable to properly assess the damage.

I am just starting vacation.

This is how I feel and this last week at work was like watching the car wreck happen in slow motion. I have needed this vacation for awhile, feeling the pressures mounting at work, my fuse a bit shorter every week, absolutely nothing going right in work and in life.

I hate walking so close to the line, to tease myself with an anxiety overload or a burn-out. I am, after all, getting too old for this shit. This is the sort of rat-race best left to the younger ones – the naive ones who still believe they can do something about the system – like it is their voice that will matter or influence or change their world. I am simply the regurgitation of the system’s lunch and I am thankful to be out but man I look and feel like shit.

It shouldn’t be this way. I shouldn’t be living like this. I don’t want to be living this way and I certainly don’t want this to be my life. Perhaps that is why I am so focused on my five year plan – my exodus out of this place – and this set of circumstances.

But what will change you may ask?

Well, here is the secret. I am learning to live poorly. I like saying it that way but in an attempt to explain clearer I am learning to live on as next to nothing as possible. To live as below the poverty line as I possibly can. Certainly for the first few years of my marriage that is where we were at and when my wife and I think back to those times we were most content when we had nothing – during those seasons of unemployment when circumstances were beyond our control – somehow we found contentment in the midst of those times. We were even aware of our contentment in the moment, which only made it better.

Where the hell did all that go?

I have climbed the corporate ladder. I have climbed my personal ladders and have achieved my business and professional goals. However, without exception, every time I had an opportunity to make a hell of a lot more money than I currently was I opted out at the last moment. The cost, it would seem, was just too much for me. I knew this truth about myself but would fight right up to the last second – that if I begin to pursue money that I would lose my joy and I would forever lose how to be content.

You see I would rather be happy than rich.

I was dreaming about winning the lottery the other day with my wife. I was talking to her about becoming a millionaire but in the moment there was a clarification made. I wouldn’t be a millionaire because in order to be a millionaire you need to hang onto your money. I wanted to be different. I want to spend millions of dollars. I don’t want to keep any of it. There is no joy in that for me. But to spent millions of dollars – that sounds like a lot of fun.

So, since I am not winning any lotteries the other more tangible way for me to find joy is to figure out what we need to do in order to live on next to nothing. To have our minimal needs taken care of so both my wife and I could do what we wanted to do without needing to make sure that we were well financially compensated for our efforts. This is our five year plan. To slowly eliminate the financial hurdles in our life that will hold us back. We started a few years ago when we made a decision to get rid of our credit card. As you can imagine it has created some hurdles but we have been able to figure out a way around it in most cases.

Slowly, we are figuring out what we can do in order to get ourselves to a place where we can live at or below our poverty line and be content. This approach is so opposite to what society wants. Just recently I had a friend of mine who I have known since our teenage years and who lost his career to the economy downturn last December – he has become a financial consultant, figuring it would be a good way to put his masters in business degree to good use. The focus, of course is how to stockpile money and build interest. To hoard our wealth and never touch the principle.

Nope. Not me. As my wife and I have been reading and studying we are discovering a completely different way of doing things. A way that doesn’t embrace this false economy where everything is so dependant upon the interest earned, accumulated, stored, and accessed, which really only contributes to the massive divide of the rich and the poor and more tragically where such upheaval, uncertainty, stress, and anxiety can happen with the change of a percentage point. To what end? So you can enjoy a luxury filled vacation to Europe?

Well, I will be able to do that as well but I will get there a different way. In my scenario if my wife and I can be successful at this we would only need to go flip burgers for a couple months or take on some minor jobs – or perhaps I take on one more consulting contract – something temporary is the point that after a few months we have saved up this additional income – if we want – so we can then go sit beside our friends on their luxury cruise across Europe. There really is no difference in that sense.

We probably won’t do this but we could if we wanted to, which is the point.

However, the larger point is that throughout the rest of the year we have learned to live as simply as possible, with as little as possible, with learning how to do things for ourselves, grow things for ourselves, make things for ourselves, and to find contentment in the simplicity of life and in each other’s arms.

To live poorly never sounded so good.