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"If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough" - Vicki Robin
My relationship with money is not something I have consciously considered until recently.
Money is something that has always been there (or its lack of) and like many aspects of our world I’ve taken it as a given, something fixed and unquestionable, until I began questioning it.
“What is money?” I started asking myself recently.
Those little copper coins or the small silver ones. Or the numbers on the screen of my phone. What is it? How can it impact me so much? How come I want more of it? How come some people seem to have so much more of it than I do? How is it that people seem to have so much less than myself for seemingly no fair reason?
I’ve always had the fortune of having money.
I remember the little red box I kept as a kid, with some pound coins in there, some 50p coins (I liked those ones) and the rest. I’d enjoy counting them and sorting the coins into piles.
I remember the shiny, sometimes crumbled or crisp pieces of paper I got in birthday cards and the delight when a £10 or £20 note might fall out into my lap.
I remember too, earning money in return for work for the first time. I came home at 16 with a little bag of coins earned from time and tips from washing pots.
I remember the first payslips from part time jobs at Pizza Hut and KFC where my number of hours worked multiplied by £5 equalled the amount I’d get paid on Thursday at midnight.
I remember that first conundrum where I realised that if I work longer hours I make more money, but I don’t enjoy frying chicken so how much do I really want?
Aged around 25 I began to have a more conscious relationship with money, I began to notice where I might be frivolous or where I might be prudent, or “tight”.
I began to notice feelings of shame or embarrassment when I couldn’t afford something and notice how my pride might entice me to overspend simply to save face.
I noticed how the concept of more or less might creep in when around others, others who seemed to have something that I did not, a wealth that went unspoken or I assumed.
When I was struggling the most with my mental health I was at my most financially insecure too, yet I didn’t make the explicit link at the time.
I was living in London, living pay check to pay check (like everyone else I knew).
I was ending the month overdrawn both to the bank and a couple of mates, paying everything back on payday and then working out how much I could spend per week until the next pay day. 5 week months were painful.
Now, I’m more comfortable after a few years of a consistent salary, less nights out and the financial security a relationship can ensure too.
I am noticing now how pervasive and silent money is in our lives. Money is always there, in the background, in the environment, in the system, influencing us somehow.
As an example of it’s silent and perhaps sub conscious impact here’s something I’ve been contemplating. I went to University and whilst I left with no degree I still kept the debt.
I’m now nearly 30 and if you include my student loan and what I’ve saved after 10 years of work, my net wealth sits close to £0.
Like many students of my generation I’ve wiped off my student debt from my mind, but it’s there in real terms. And the thought might crop up in my mind...does this mean I am worth... “nothing”?
Financially so, almost, yes. Whether that defines me is my choice though and I’m glad to say it doesn’t. This is just an example of the universal and passive influence my relationship with money is having on my life and all of our lives.
Money brings out more in me though, something I continue to be more and more interested in.
Money creates a pursuit, a search, a strive. I want more of it, because of course I do. I want more, why because? Because of course. Because. I’ve always believed that more money would improve my life in some way. No matter how many stories I hear to unlearn that money does not make you happy, I still find myself chasing money, in the pursuit of not just happiness, but freedom or independence or choice.
I am asking myself a lot of questions about money and I’m really getting to know money like an old friend.
I’m doing the emotional work. What does money represent for me? What does money allow me? What’s my history been with money? I’m asking myself these questions to check how money makes me feel, to sense if money is distorting the colour of the world for me, or if it’s clouding my judgement on the next steps in my life.
I’m doing the practical stuff too. I’m asking myself; how much money is enough? How much do I need to live the life I want? What is the life I want? How much money creates new opportunities for me? How much money creates financial independence for me?
I’ve been shocked at my own levels of financial ineptitude. I’ve started two businesses so have acquired some knowledge around investing, stocks, shares, loans, debt and more. Yet without that, I’d be on even more financially ill-educated.
I’ve been getting informed though. Both learning about money conceptually and also getting informed about my own financial health, tracking my spending, looking at where all my money even is and putting it to work rather than letting it sit in the bank.
When I look outside of myself, at money in our world, I see a great misalignment. I see a global pursuit of wealth that ignores the wellbeing of people and the planet.
I see wealth as the only indicator of growth that’s consistently creating the wrong priorities.
I see greed, over-consumption and needless materialism that is burning the whole world out.
And I continue to feel conflicted. As I look at my own life and consider how much wealth I’d like to accumulate to feel different, or how much wealth I need to live the life I want.
Then I look at the impact of a humanity chasing that same wealth and I see a world burning.
At this point, I drop into the fanciful reverie of moving to live in a hut in the forest, foraging for berries and killing one animal a year with my bare hands. Yet that feels like an escape and I don’t want to run away.
I believe these questions or pressures from the global system we live in, exist within us all and manifest in stress, anxiety and different choices that we all make. Maybe we’re not always all conscious of it all of the time though.
I am becoming conscious to how money and the global model we live in is affecting me and as you can probably tell it’s leaving me with a lot more questions than it is answers.
I feel like I’m questioning IT, the whole thing, all of IT.
That feels scary, yet it feels scarier to not question the fundamentals of how we live, the social contract that we’ve all signed.
I write this a confused, curious, frustrated, hopeful, passionate young man with a frown on my head sitting in my rented apartment wondering what the hell this all means and how we’ll adapt as a humanity to survive and thrive though a mental health and environmental health crisis.
1284 worlds in and I’ve been wondering why I’m writing this, whether it’s a private journal entry or whether I feel like it’s something others may want to read.
I write in angst and hope because what is suffocating is to feel like I’m the only person asking these questions and I’m praying I am not.
If this post does one thing I hope it might make your relationship with money conscious in your life, as it has become in mine.
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