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Finding Happiness in the Time-Money Continuum

March 8, 2012

When I got my Contractor’s license I bought a canoe. It was the single most expensive luxury item I’ve ever bought for myself. I did it to bring some goodness into my life, to reward myself for taking a positive step forward, and because for the first time ever I could afford to.

That was four years ago. I must admit I’ve launched the canoe a total of two times since then. Otherwise it’s been sitting in the yard collecting moss. Why haven’t I taken it out more, you ask? It has to do with time and energy.

I got my license so I could work legally as a carpenter; I never planned to hire employees or an accountant and certainly had no desire to invest thousands of dollars to become a name-brand Contractor. But the hustle caught up with me anyway. I quickly discovered there was no way to avoid paying for insurance, licensing, incorporation, lawyer’s fees, advertising, tax preparation, and of course tax itself. And what was left was barely enough to cover rent, gas, groceries, utilities, and two years’ worth of preschool tuition.

With much help from my family we made it happen, but it took everything I had. If I wasn’t working I was meeting with potential clients. If I wasn’t meeting with clients I was in the office worrying about finding work. And when work was plentiful I didn’t have the energy on the weekends. It was such a grind that I forgot about canoeing – even when I had time off.

Now I have all the time in the world, and I need to exercise. But guess what: this week I sold the canoe. Why, you ask again? Frankly I needed the money more than I needed the canoe. That’s right: my quest to reinvent myself as a writer has been – to date – less than financially lucrative. Though I’ve been able to provide Ann with more time to work on her business by taking over parenting duties, and though I’ve been trying to minimize expenses by gardening and trolling craigslist for free firewood, the fact remains that I haven’t brought in much money this year.

Tell you what, though. I don’t need the canoe to bring goodness into my life. Every day I wake up and don’t have to load and unload tools from my truck and into someone’s home; every day I don’t have to tear rot or mold out of someone’s bathroom; every day I don’t throw out my back; every day I don’t have to spend two hours in traffic has been a good day. Since I dedicated myself to writing I’ve been happier than I can remember being in a long time. So I’m very willing to let go of a few material possessions if it affords me time. I’m remaining firm in the belief that – eventually – I’ll pull a Chuck Palahniuk  and rocket skyward to success.

Some months ago I turned down a mold repair job. Frankly the smell sickened me (even with a respirator) and my clients were on a budget. I told them the only way I’d do it was on an hourly basis with a blank check. They called their insurance company and obtained one! So I reluctantly took the job in the name of the almighty dollar. But midway through the first day my intuition told me – in no unclear terms – that I was going to die if I kept doing this. That, my friends, was the first step. Expressing it to Ann was the second. And bless her heart, for all the issues we’ve had in this relationship she supported me one hundred percent in pursuing my passion.

It hasn’t been easy. I know she’s feeling the financial burden and part of me wonders how long I can go before looking for a job. If it becomes necessary I will, but in the meantime I’m taking every advantage of the time I have. My writing is coming from a place of truth and purity. It’s more important to spread my message than to get paid for it. Money only motivates me when I don’t have any, and is never worth sacrificing happiness for. Money can only buy short-term happiness. And instant gratification usually obscures the possibility of long-term happiness.

That’s my sermon for the day. Don’t wait until you retire to enjoy your life. Instead ask yourself how you can make it better right now, and then talk about it. If the people around you are supportive you’ll find a way to make it happen. And if they aren’t, they may be contributing to your unhappiness. Like William Gibson said, “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with assholes.”

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From → Journal

2 Comments
  1. Powerful message. Good luck, I wish you well.

    • Denny, thank you so much! I can’t tell you how good it feels to ‘meet’ people through this weblog.

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