Definitions, definitions. This year has been all about definitions.
How I’ve gone through my entire life without defining my boundaries or my personal relationships, I haven’t had time to wonder. Because I’ve been surviving, my comrades, up until recently: maneuvering through a hormonal cocktail of adrenaline and testosterone that came from either my obnoxious determination or fear (both of which I often covered up with sex). But it is now that I feel clear-minded and calm enough to examine my life’s choices and figure out my future ones.
And according to numerous testimonies: I’m right on time. My 20s were supposed to be chaotic. So, okay, I could’ve settled for a calmer childhood; but that is the very tragedy of children: They don’t have a choice. They survive whatever circumstances are granted to them, whatever chaos they inherit. And I could hope that they come out as strong and compassionate adults at the end of it all. But then, I’d rather spend that same hope on a continuous prayer that every child is granted a more peaceful, innocent childhood in the first place. I myself no longer harbor any feelings of being gipped as a child. Instead, I chalk it up to a lesson in my own better parenting, in the future.
One of the leading topics of the year — is money. Or rather, whether or not money defines success, and how? I find that for most of my American contemporaries, this particular definition has been long established: They are more at ease with cash; and many make it the ultimate goal of their living. Which must be why there is no better plot to an American life than the one in which the pursuit of making a living — is often synonymous to making a life. (And if there were any saving grace in the current recession we’re all still surviving, it has to be the necessary — generational! — reexamination of our values.)
Many of my friends with more traditional professions invest their lives in the purpose of their jobs. For the sake of these jobs, they work insanely long hours, taking a few sick days here and there; and they rarely take vacations. But even then, their typically American vacations don’t last long. They are comprised of a quick, and sometimes stressful getaway to an exotic location — for just a week; while most European families I know won’t even consider packing their suitcases unless they have a near month to spare.
As for me, it has been ingrained in me by my own socialist childhood that money is merely the means, not the end. But then again, I’ve witnessed my parents’ poverty; and let me tell you, my comrades: There is no more brutal dehumanization or humiliation than that. So, as far as experiencing poverty goes (for me or my folk) — I’m done with that one! All set, thank you very much. Good to know; but here, I’d like to think I’ve fulfilled my life’s quota, so I’ll just to join the money race now. Where do I start?
My bohemian friends who manage their survival via freelance gigs and an occasional income from their artistic endeavors tend to define money as energy. Many years ago, one of my first LA-LA comrades defined it this way:
“If you use your money to help people — not start wars — money becomes the force of goodness.”
However simplified, I had to write that one down; and thank Shiva I did! Because back then, so painful was the lack of my own money, I could only be preoccupied with investing it in my basic needs. But these days, as I invest endless hours in the pursuit of my self-made career, I’m also in a position to start defining the purpose of my money: current and future.
A couple of days ago, a sensitive and inspiring young creature descended upon my evening, but nearly ended-up staying the night. I have adopted her, you see, as my soul’s guardian. It’s a two-way exchange: I look out for her physical wellness, while she — continuously saves my soul. (What can I say? It is a habit of mine: To walk through every chapter of my life while keeping an eye on a handful of young women. “Feminism”, “a delayed maternal instinct”, “a comfortably bisexual orientation” — call it whatever the fuck you want: I believe in helping those who, just as I, have been robbed of a peaceful childhood.)
While she vented, albeit gracefully, about a job at which she was underpaid but also humiliated on a weekly basis, I thought: Bingo! My definition of financial success must include helping my friends. But then again: My friends are my equals (which is why my friendships have always worked out better than my romances), so I wouldn’t go calling it “help”. Rather: I would consider myself ever-so-successful if I were soon in a position to hire my friends. Of course, I am very careful about entering into any business ventures with acquaintances. But what better way to pay it forward — for any possible success or prosperity of my own — than to eliminate unnecessary suffering from the lives of those I love, by granting them better opportunities?
And then, of course, there are those beloveds whom I have adopted as my family (which includes, by the way, my own old folks). There aren’t very many of them, but they are my very truth — the very gist of my worth; and for them, I wish my prosperity were limitless. I would dream of no better success than to be in a position to contribute to my goddaughter’s education, for instance, or her plans to travel the world. It would thrill me with gratitude to contribute to my best friend’s first house downpayment or to purchase arrangements for my girlfriends’ getaways while they’re the midst of their undeserved heartbreaks. To buy a luxury vehicle for my old man — just so that nerd could take it apart and put it back together — it would break my heart with humility. Because what better manifestation of a life well-lived than its limitless generosity?
Finally: What is the definition of money for my own existence? Easy-peasy, comrades: MONEY — IS FREEDOM. Freedom to pursue my own opportunities, to fulfill my own wonderings (and to pay for my wanderings), to chase my own dreams. Freedom to have the privilege of time. Because not every life may have the deficit of money — but the deficit of time does appear to be universal.
So: “Time — is money” it is, eh? And considering I’ve already been quite successful at defining the ways I choose to spend my time, I’m right on time in defining the spending of my money.