My relationship with money have always been… strained, to say the least. The household I come from was considered poor in the eyes of the North American system we were born into. We lived of welfare for more than a decade. As a result, my family believed that money was the source of all evil. But they also believed it was the answer to all of our problems. Hearing them complain about the rich while wishing to be like them was a daily occurrence under our roof.
It was usual for my parents to say « we are poor ». Even today, with jobs, a house of their own, two cars, smartphones, wide screen tvs and a dog, I still hear those words coming out of their mouth when talking about their financial situation. They made this mantle their own for so long, they never learned to shed it away. As a teenager, I began to question this, seeing the many ways in which we were rich. We had time, creativity, accessible knowledge through public libraries and affordable schools. But if I dared speak up and say that we were not really poor, my father was quick to shut me up. « You’re just a child, you don’t know any better. »
So I shut up and began to live the way they did. No education but a high school diploma, I took a minimum wage job and started to live paycheck to paycheck, always in fear of lacking money even as I readily spent most of it on books, movies, video games and music. 5 years into the workplace, I accumulated more than 15 000$ worth of culture. Culture I didn’t even consume, letting it sit on my shelves just to show that I possessed it.
Minimalism was my first way out of this cycle of meaningless consumption. It did manage to make room for what’s important in my life and put a stop to my senseless credit purchases but it didn’t change my thoughts about money. Regardless of the money I could now put aside for future use and learning that I needed much less to live comfortably than I previously thought, the old idea that money is evil made its way through and settled deep. I ended up thinking that to remain in the « pure » and « virtuous » state of mind brought by minimalism, I couldn’t ask for more. And, given my educational social status, I believed I didn’t deserve to earn more either.
Things started to change when I started university. It began as a shift of perception, from thinking I couldn’t afford higher education to, thanks to minimalism, knowing I had the money for it. Growing into my new student life, I began to see better options for my future. Suddenly, in my dreams, I could afford the tiny house I often imagined living in. I could afford going for a career tailored for my needs with a decent salary. I could afford trips abroad to see my friends and to discover the world on a yearly basis.
A recent conversation with my spiritual counsellor broke the last of my objections about money. She gently told me that money is just another form of energy. It’s a chain of appreciation. One service paid for goes to someone who needs it, who will pay for another service that will help someone else, etc. Like all forms of energy, it needs to move around or else stagnation will make it rot and render it useless. Money, in itself, is not evil. It’s how we were taught to use it that corrupts our minds.
That conversation brought forth a desire I had for a while now. I aim to get paid for my online writing, and I needed a change of perception to take action. Having acquired this balanced vision of money, I now feel ready for this step. I don’t publish regularly, I don’t have any social media accounts, I don’t market myself, I don’t do what writing advisers tell me I should do, I don’t even know what my words are worth, yet I’m willing to try. I’m curious to see where this will lead me. I won’t loose a thing trying, I would loose the opportunity to learn something new if I didn’t.
Our society puts economy above humanity. It’s shown as cool and trendy in the medias, yet it’s at the roots of our inequalities. It’s been used and abused by those in power for as long as money existed yet, once fairly redistributed amongst people, it increases the well-being of all.
Money can certainly buy the luxury sold by our culture, but I found that, for me, this lifestyle isn’t happiness. My happiness is found in education and words, sharing those I write and reading those of others. It’s found in the relationships I have, some of them living as far as on the other side of the world. It’s found in the quiet and wholesome living of the countryside, with a yard bursting with fruits and vegetables, flowers blooming on the side of a house that hugs me close with its walls. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy my student fees and the time I need to write and study. It can buy books and publications written by authors I wish to encourage. It can buy my transport tickets, trips to the restaurant or ingredients for a potluck with my friends. It can buy the piece of land where I’ll build a part of my life. While money isn’t happiness, living above survival necessities makes life sweeter, for myself and others. I’m ready for more.