December 30, 2012

if it ain't about money...

People have been asking me, “So, how much will you be making at your new job?” And I tell them it’s actually a writing internship. The answer is, “Nothing.” I will be making nothing. I am paying money to make no money. Take a moment and let that sink in. Now come meet me. Hi.

When I decided to quit my job to trek to Thailand, I had to accept the unpleasant feeling of not having money steadily stream in for the next couple of months. The feeling is not unlike the one you get when you peer down a super high balcony and your heart feels like it’s going to fall out of your butt. So why am I doing it then if there’s no money in it? “It’s for the experience,” I tell people.

When they hear this, a bewildered expression often accompanies their next question, “But, but how will you afford that?” Then I feign interest in the conversation and say my usual. “I save. I’m cheap. And uh hello, they have spreadsheets for budgeting now.”

Honestly, I’m not surprised by the worries. It’s quite a normal reaction to have upon hearing someone has decided to not make money on purpose. I’ve had many conversations about this and what I’ve realized is that our society puts little value in having and seeking experiences. We live in a practical society where the holy grail of immediate fulfillment is (drumroll please) money. I mean, we grow up programmed to go to school so we can get a job so we can make money so we can have a life that is what? Easier? Happier? Better? It’s probably true.

But it’s not the only truth. Fulfillment is a confusing desire. What is it? It can’t be only money because I was just as content being a broke student stuck in a ramen rut until payday when I could splurge on Pizza Pops. It can’t be landing a grownup job because I did that and it was nice, but it didn’t cure that existential anguish that plagues the twentysomethings. Is it companionship, love, a ring on it? Fuck, is it babies?

Whatever it is, and it is different for everyone, I just know it isn’t any one thing. In an age where everyone seeks success, we need to stop attaching fulfillment to obvious payoffs like a paycheque, a job, a marriage. Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is totally awesome, but it’s not the only ticket. Instead of waiting for that “one more step” that we’re convinced is the be all of our lives, we should bask in those bursts of awesome that are guaranteed, like the first bite of a really big, juicy, decadent burger, or the mornings you wake up without a hangover despite the five (or was it nine?) jaggerbombs, or the chance to finally fart once your guests have left (don’t even, you know it’s great). Those are the moments that keep us in the upper echelons of fulfillment, only if they are for a second.

At the risk of sounding like a self-serving hippie, it’s the little experiences that count for something, even if the only payoff is a brief and unbeknown smile. They have to. They just do. Because I’ve already paid for the flight and it’s non-refundable!