While cleaning up the FS Forum application spam I had a realization. For the past eight years I’ve been happy with what I have. Before 2005 I was restless because I still needed to prove myself at work and make sure I wasn’t a failure by age 30 in two years time. The 1997 Honda Civic I was putzing around in wouldn’t do so I upgraded to something nicer within the 1/10th rule. Even my condo I had so proudly bought on my 26th birthday began to feel insufficient after a couple years.
After turning 28 things just clicked one way or another. A promotion a year earlier provided the confidence to buy my current house. Moose was also rescued off Craigslist the same year after his owner rushed to Amsterdam for a job transfer. I’ve faithfully taken care of him ever since, most recently buying him a new power steering pump for a pretty penny.
Meanwhile, I already found the love of my life, which is more important than all the money in the world. I’ve seen colleagues never find anybody because of a busy career or simply bad luck. Some admitted they’d give up their fancy titles and riches just to find someone. They wished they worked harder on love instead of career.
THE STEADY STATE
Since 2005 I’ve also gone from making a lot of money to making much less, yet my consumption habits have not changed. Perhaps it’s because I only lived off 30% of my income for the past decade. I’m probably more happy now because I don’t have to ride the bus into work anymore and deal with all the pressures to produce. Then again, I can’t remember when I wasn’t happy even as a broke foreign exchange student sleeping on a wooden plank in the middle of summer with no AC.
I’ve driven the same car and have lived in the same house all this time. I even wear the same jeans from 14 years ago along with a bunch of other clothes. I sure do love my REM concert t-shirt from 1995. What fun memories. Other than splurging on annual two week international vacations, there’s really nothing more I want. I’m starting to wonder if there’s something wrong with me given we’ve all grown wealthier during this time period. Shouldn’t we desire more things the more we have?
I thought I’d have the answer by the time I finished this post, but I don’t. Perhaps we humans are quite simple. All we need are the basics for survival and anything more doesn’t move the needle for very long. We always revert back to our steady state after every milestone.
I’ve learned to be happy with what I have, yet I don’t have many lessons to share. The desire for status fades as we become more financially independent. We become more aware of our mortality the older we get. The immaturity of our 20s goes away. We do things we think will lead us towards more happiness, and aggressively stop doing things that create despair.
At some point whether it’s at 28, 38 or 68 we’ll look back and realize we’ve been satisfied for a very long time.
Readers, have you learned to be happy with what you have? If not, what do you think is missing to get you to that satisfied place?
Photo: Hearts Of San Francisco, Downtown Embarcadero, 2013, FS.