This morning I sat down with my dad and we talked about money.
We talked about finance, bills, mortgage, taxes, all the fun stuff. I’m not really sure how we brought it up, but I was genuinely interested (at first). And then I became genuinely distressed, as though talking about money formed a psychological pile of fees, bonds, notes, and interest dues that were crushing my sense of youth, or the freedom, spontaneity, and creativity that accompanies it. The muscles and tendons in my shoulders began to twist and wrap around themselves, forming knots that could only be untangled by stopping the conversation or pursuing a half-hearted belief that I will be rich (and therefore none of this as significant as it might be otherwise). A belief that I will be in a position where the finances of starting a family, paying off a home, and being able to live a life I am proud of will not become a source of concern or a game of catch-up.
Ever since I was little I wanted to be famous. Of course I wanted to play specific roles that would lead to my inevitable transformation into a celebrity: first a successful author then a successful singer then a successful actor then a successful movie director. However the underlying goals of these professional pursuits narrowed down to fame and the lifestyle that accompanied it. I had a construed ideal of what “successful” meant as most children do (money = happy, popular = happy, doing cool things like walking on stage at the Academy Awards = super fucking happy), and what “successful” means to me now has nothing to do with money. Successful on my own terms means having a loving and large family of relatives and friends, being able to do the things I have always dreamed of doing, and affecting the community or world around me in a fulfilling and helpful way. However all that being said I am still rather guilty of wanting to be famous, or more simply said wanting to be rich.
I do not want to be rich for many of the reasons that I did when I was young: to be able to spend on myself, to be able to live a more luxurious lifestyle, to be able to do the cool things that famous people do. I want to be rich in order to escape the burden that money can prove to be, or rather a lack of it. If I have enough money I will not (under the right circumstances) need to cringe at every expense I incur. Finance itself will have less of a psychological weight on my life, because spending will not be as painful. I will be able to create a home, treat those I love, and achieve the dreams I have set for myself without reallocating the finances in my head or saving up for some glorious period of spending that may never come. I will be able to focus on what is truly important to me: the people in my life and the world around me.
And now with my thoughts written down in front of me, distress takes a turn towards clarity. I guess it is not that I want more money, but that I want to be free of money.
What scares me about money isn’t necessarily the outcomes aligned with debt or loss. It is the way in which finance can shape you psychologically that worries me the most. Money can act like a leech, once you begin thinking about all you have and all you do not rumination is inevitable. Whether you are concerned about dollars, yen, or euros, something occurs inside of the brain that alters your perception of value. Experiences begin to be weighed in a cost versus benefit format and life itself can become a never-ending network of losses and gains.
As we enter the adult world and incur greater forms of responsibility (familial, financial, you name it), financial anxiety poses a threat to our well-being and ability to live in an unsystematic, natural manner. While there may be no magic pill that enables us to escape the anxiety and stress of our finances, establishing a psychological framework that promotes our attention towards the things in life that truly matter to us starts with an understanding of the fact that we have control over our thoughts, and what most of us generally want to focus on in the scope of life does not consist of a dollar value.
This, however, is easier said than done. Hence the creation of this piece.