The question has finally reached a tipping point in my mind: Do I want to have money and enjoy my life or do I want to pretend like being broke is getting me somewhere?
While it's not good to compare your life to other people, I do. In fact, that's all I do. I look up famous people and see how long they struggled and then I pinpoint where I'm at on the timeline to see if it's a no-go. Then, I look up normal people who couldn't be happier with ordinary, wonderful things, and I think, 'Gee, that's what it's really about!'
And then I watch people win Oscars and change my mind again because I'm certain it must be super-rewarding.
Sometimes, you don't have to look far, however, to re-prioritize. Case in point -- my best friend Natalie. To celebrate her marriage last year, Natalie, who I met in college, threw a party over Memorial Weekend at her new home outside Denver, and invited me and my three other best friends to join. Natalie used to live in a major city like the rest of us twentysomethings, but then decided there was more to life than traffic, trash, and poverty, and left it all for the Rocky Mountains. For me, getting to see all that she'd gained in her life was an opportunity to reflect on everything I don't have. And by 'things,' I mean tangibles.
First of all, Natalie and her husband Craig own a three-story, three-bedroom house with a yard and a porch, and their mortgage is less than the rent I pay for my studio in Los Angeles. Technically, her house has four bedrooms since they have a finished basement, but the latter is primarily used as a "music room" where Craig can play and store his guitars. For the weekend, this space doubled as a sleeping quarter, which is the way my living room is all the time. Not only do I not have musical instruments, I do not even have the option of giving them a room of their own.
Natalie also has extra towels. She keeps them in a linen closet. Even if I had a linen closet, it wouldn't contain extra towels because a) ha, I don't have extra towels! And b) I would need the space to store other random crap I'm hording to feel like I own things. While in town, Natalie let the four of us and two additional guests stay at her palace, and we arrived to find her extra towels plus washcloths arrogantly displayed on our beds like we wouldn't have noticed them otherwise. And they matched.
In L.A., I have no room for guests unless you don't mind sleeping on my couch, and even then, it's not a good idea since the coffee table is squished so close to it, you'd probably roll off and crack your head open. In such a scenario, I would have one advantage over Natalie because, unlike her, I'm not in a serene neighborhood away from commercial activity, but next door to a hospital. So, I could most definitely save your life. Alternately, I could hail one of the helicopters that fly over my building every five minutes.
The deficiency of my property became more apparent when I stepped into Natalie's kitchen and noticed she had special pots to make pancakes, and more than three forks in her silverware drawer. Plus, her pantry and refrigerator were stocked with food she'd purchased just in case she needed it -- chocolate chips, frozen chicken breasts, dried beans, couscous. Feel like a handful of yogurt-covered almonds? No problem, if you're Natalie.
I, on the other hand, only buy what I absolutely need for the next three days.
After exploring the interior of Natalie's home, I moved outside where I realized her neighborhood doesn't require permitted parking because everyone, including Natalie, has a garage. I practically forgot such a thing existed. There also isn't street cleaning because the roads stay spotless from soap that gloriously spills onto them when people wash their cars in personal driveways. No parking restrictions means no parking tickets, thus, Natalie probably has about another $200 more than me each month to spend on kitchen novelties and guitar picks for Craig.
Of course, most significant of all is the fact that Natalie is married, completely in love, and gets to split the cost of all these things with somebody else. I am as single as a dollar bill, and still have ambitions to tie the knot with Cory from Boy Meets World. Though I know this won't happen, I believe it will. This is pretty much how I approach everything in life.
Regardless, Natalie attempted to offer me encouragement.
"It'll happen!" She said, referring to love, not Cory. "It's the timing, that's all!"
She mentioned another friend of hers, a woman in her late 30's, who just finally got into a stable relationship after years of nothing.
"See?" She said enthusiastically. "Talk to her about it!"
I told her that was depressing and not a good example.
I don't mind my life, of course; it's just different. I like that no day is the same. I like the range of people I run into every day -- sometimes literally -- and the fact that I have to come up with creative ways to deal with the weird faucet clog in my 1970s kitchen. I like the art that comes from struggle. Somehow I believe instability and poverty are catalysts to success.
And who needs a house when you have perseverance!?
All I know is, if I do make it big, I want bedrooms, fancy cooking utensils, and so many fucking extra towels they don't even fit in my linen closet. And I hope I can be just as accommodating as Natalie.
PS -- To my future Craig: I get the music room.