The price of the good life

What is the good life worth? This is a question I’ve been pondering a great deal lately; maybe it’s because my years in the windshield are growing fewer than those in the rearview or possibly it’s the lingering personal fallout of this economic eruption which has enticed me to re-prioritize my entire world view – kicking and screaming the entire way.

When I was in high school I had one dream – to live in Lower Manhattan and work on Wall Street. The 80’s movie of the same name and an 11th grade Economics teacher wetted my appetite with visions of million dollar deals, extravagant lifestyles, and corner offices overlooking the charging bull. In the mind of a seventeen year old that was the epitome of the good life and I was going to get there. But by the time I graduated college that idea of a good life had been reduced to anywhere other than living in my parents’ basement. In my mid twenties the good life was a girlfriend, steady paycheck, a few friends, and plenty of beer. In my thirties it was a 5000 square foot house, three-car garage, two German automobiles, and a condo on the gulf. Now in my early forties I struggle to define what the good life is for me. I’ve realized, through my faith and monumental mistakes, how shortsighted and shallow those previous ideas were and am intent on approaching things differently. But even with all of the hindsight I still find myself buying into society’s one-size-fits-all definition for what the good life should be. Frustratingly, it remains one of my most significant character flaws.

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The economic crisis that began in ’07 was pointed squarely in my direction. I was in the industry at the very center of the storm and by ’08 I had been thrown overboard only to resurface, thankfully, in a new business at half my former earnings and responsibility. When you’ve gotten used to living life at 100 mph slowing to 45 takes some getting used to. While I stayed clear of any fifth story ledges or bankruptcy courts I viewed this new financial reality as anything but ‘good’ and would often catch myself reminiscing on how it used to be.

One of the things I love most about my son is his passion and fearlessness. Like most rambunctious boys he relishes thrill. Once he accomplishes any feat involving the smallest amount of risk he can’t get enough of it and wants that rush again and again. I can understand how he feels. Even as I started growing accustomed to living in third gear I couldn’t forget the excitement of doing it in sixth.

To the casual observer I still live the good life, and maybe they’re right. I work from home, have free time to write, volunteer, workout, ride motorcycles, and grow myself spiritually and intellectually. And while I need for none of the basic necessities in life there are certainly things on my bucket list that are now going unchecked. My one time desire to travel the world has been put on an indefinite hold and I still don’t have that custom Ultra Glide I dream about nightly, and my nest egg isn’t as big as I had hoped. And after four years I still find myself referring to my former monetary glory as ‘the good ole days’ wishing I could get them back.

And therein lies the rub in all of this.

[pullquote]When you’ve gotten used to living life at 100 mph slowing to 45 takes some getting used to.[/pullquote]When I am able to look past my ego and those extra zeros on the paycheck I’m quick to recognize what I would undoubtedly sacrifice to go back there. To live again at 100 mph means that I’d have to shift through many of the less glamorous, but vastly more satisfying, activities that are now part of my life – none of which have a price tag. Instead of enjoying coffee on my deck most mornings I’d be trudging to the office in aneurysm causing traffic. Instead of picking my kids up at the bus stop I’d be signing them out from after-school at the last minute. Opposed to having the time to court my Queen I’d be stressed out from airport hopping and rarely seeing her, plus I could forget writing high octane observations and this blog would be just another in a long list of forgotten websites. And all of it has lead me to ask, am I willing to give all of that up for a bigger paycheck?

Not a chance.

For me, the good life has become vastly more than just a bank account, the car I drive, house I live in, or the exotic locales I visit and I’ve grown to understand that the good life certainly isn’t all-inclusive. Half joking recently I told the Queen I wouldn’t take another job for twice my current salary if it would mean a significant change in my work/life balance. At first blush that might sound ridiculous – double the salary -but as I thought about it the more sure I became. Because having a few extra dollars in the coffee wouldn’t be worth the price I’d pay to for it.

No, I’ll never work on Wall Street, have a high rise penthouse apartment or drive a Ferrari but as far as I’m concerned I’ve never had it so good.

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7 responses to The price of the good life

  1. Oh, I know exactly what you mean! I used to be a Stage Actress. After I had the kids I realised one day that I didn’t want to go back to doing that. Of course, this meant giving up what others may see as the good life. One person even told me that I gave up my life for my kids.
    I haven’t given up anything. I’ve gained so much. Sure, I could be a rich, celebrity mother who never sees her kids but what would I have lose to get there.

    Great post.

  2. TheWateryTart

    Good for you. Aren’t you glad you realized what things are worth the most before it got too late… you would have been in your 60s with enough money to do everything you wanted and with no one and no health to do them.

    Same things happened to me, although my lifestyle changed drastically when I separated from my ex in 2002. He took all our savings and, based on how angry he was at me, my child support varied each month for four years. One mon

    Ten years later I am still convinced that this economic change spun me around in the right direction!

    Cheers to the good life!

  3. Kimberly

    Hey great post as always! Right now I am in the process of trying to provide the good life for my kids, In a couple months even though we just moved into our apt in dec, we will be moving yet again to my sisters house, this is to help out my sister as well as myself. You see I want to go back to school and cant do it rt now because I have my kids more than full time dont get any child support and have a job that pays me way less than I need. Yes things will be tight but I wont have to worry about my kids being alone all the time and I can go to school and make things much better for us. I am hopeing to get a job in the medical field which is my passion plus I get the added bonus of making much more money and not having to rely on the ex to pay child support.

  4. Well said. I am a NYC cop. Not rich by any stretch of the imagination but not struggling either. My wife works too but I am lucky enough to have weekends off. When I retire in 8 years, I do not plan to get another job. Why? Balance. As you mentioned it is not all about the bank account. My wife will continue to work (makes more then me anyway) so I will be home every second of the day for my daughter who will just be turning 13 when I am done. Just in time.

  5. My life has downsized many times in the past few years. Each time it has been a little painful, but so worth it. After 4 years my dreams of the future fit my current situation. No upsizing, just simple and sweet and full of what’s important love, joy, and peace.

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