This is a personal “rant” that I wrote back on 03/04/08, which prompted my wife to insist that I go talk to a shrink. Looking back at it today, it’s still quite valid.
The Taste of Freedom
And it was just that, a mere taste. Like so many times before, the end was in sight, financial freedom was within my grasp, and as quickly as it appeared, it slipped back into the woods, to hide within the shadows again. The prey that I had chased for a good 20+ years was again out of reach.
Retirement at any age, let alone an early retirement, is once again, unimaginable. It would seem that I am destined to work until the day I die, only to pay back every penny earned for some trinket I didn’t need or some service that was imposed upon me. For every step forward, society pushes back 3 times as hard. For every $200 payment to a credit card I make, that month would show another $900 in purchases. It’s a never ending battle that I wage; a lone soldier against the capitalistic economy that has made this country both great and loathed worldwide. My one true goal in life, to be out of debt, is only a goal in my own eyes. The rest of my family is firmly entrenched in the world the advertisers have created for them. They need the latest items because they’ve been told they need them. Call it savvy marketing, call it brainwashing; either term fits the situation. It’s a fine line of distinction, but in a world where millions of people are trying to get into my wallet, there is but only one line of defense against the hordes. The buck stops here, or so I can hope.
The battle takes its toll, both financially and mentally, as the strain of reality catches up to me. I hide it well, but sometimes the corners get loose and some rage slides out. Last night was a prime example as I was fit to be tied after seeing the most recent credit card bill. It’s not the amount that makes me crazy, it’s the fact that it’s another amount to be paid, just like last month. When the hell does it all stop? I sometimes wonder if death really is the end or if the tax man will somehow track down your soul to torment you once again for leaving him behind. Maybe this world really is hell, and our penance is to thrash about for ~80 +/- years, trying to shake free from the bindings, only to discover that freedom was waiting patiently for us to arrive to it. Catholics believe that suicide is a sin, but if this world really is hell, then anyone preaching at you to stay is the devil himself. After all, who would be filling the churches coffers if we all abandoned ship leaving this world high and dry?
Procrastination keeps us from reaching for the stars. It’s also the one thing that keeps most people from taking a short-cut there with the help of Mr. Winchester or his buddies, Smith & Wesson. Many have short-circuited life and been chided for doing so; but who’s to know which end of the journey is really the short end of the stick? Much like a car with a light brown stripe on one side and a medium brown stripe on the other, life does not afford you the chance to see both sides simultaneously, thus comparing right & left sides to see if they match.
This battle is no stranger to my family. My own parents, though never full-time war wagers, did keep the beast at bay. They had to. A single income family with 4 children is a prime opportunity for spending to spiral out of control. They provided the best that they could, albeit very little. That simple ideal was instilled in me and drives my own battle. Unfortunately, my own shrewdness is the same force that keeps my own son from excelling – he doesn’t have to, because his old man provides nearly everything he needs.
How does one instill the value of a dollar into those around them when that same dollar is eroded by forces that can’t be controlled? The Federal Reserve cuts interest rates in an effort to stimulate the economy, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. The president’s “financial stimulus package” is another attempt at rejuvenating the economy, but I fear it’s in vain. I’m contemplating whether I should use my $600 check from the Feds to buy lotto tickets, or just keep it scurried away in a jar. If we (as a country) suffer from another market crash (a la 1929), then only those people with enough cash on hand to get through the bad times will prevail, or so modern wisdom would lead you to believe.
But what if your life was not hinged to the need for money? Sounds impossible, right? Think about this – if you did not need money, then any changes in the value of a dollar would not affect you. Read this again before you whip out your checkbook and start adding up how much you spend every month on stuff. Stuff that the advertisers convince you to buy whether you need it or not. Stuff that the marketing agents design new programs around, just so that stuff can reach out to an ever increasing market share, thus removing an ever increasing amount of cash from your wallet and placing it into their wallets. It’s a game, and the big players have all of us (the little guys) doing their dirty work. What makes the world go round? – money. It takes money to make money. Sure, but why? Why are we driven to earn more, to prosper, to get more stuff than the next guy? Our own jealousies and greed, of course.
So now we’ve gone full-circle, back to the point at which I started this epic. Fighting off the beast, while all the time trying to maintain my sense of reality and internal morals. Where does it all end? It’s impossible to know. Personally, I’m looking forward to spending my $600 financial stimulus check on a lobotomy, so I can escape the beast once and for all.