Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lunch Time Musings

As I eat my beans and rice and lament the lack of hot sauce in my office (I am mid move. The hot sauce is at my new office, I am at my old office. Bad planning on my part) I feel compelled to share something that has been on my mind a lot lately. That is Americas perception of financial success.

It seems in America that if you do not own a nice large house, well furnished and decorated, two newish cars and a certain status of clothes you have not reached an expected financial norm. Actual Financial success would be adding on a vacation house and yearly vacations to Hawaii, sending your children to their choice college and throwing your daughter a 30 thousand dollar wedding. At least this is what popular culture would tell you. And it is because of this, that all of us yet to achieve this "norm" either feel like failures for our lack, or overwhelmingly stressed about our ability to achieve this American goal. For the past couple weeks Mr. P and I have been feeling very discouraged about our financial situation. I thought I was going to get an amazing new job which would pay much more and allow us to buy a house very soon. Then the company decided at the 11th hour to not bring on any new staff at this time due to the economy.

That American dream of owning a home seemed so close I could almost touch it and then...it fell far far away. After that I was feeling very discouraged, depressed, moody, grumpy... This was especially hard because Mr. P would really like to open his own immigration firm, something that needs capital to start and may not make any money for some time. Mr. P graduates in a few weeks and then come some harsh realities, namely in the form of law school loans.

In the midst of feeling sorry for ourselves Mr. P and I came to some really important conclusions for us, our marriage and our future.

1. First foremost we realized that being poor* for a while was going to be okay because at least we were together and we would help each other. Cheesy? Perhaps but no less true.
2. We have an amazing support system here in our family, friends, church and God.
3. That building a firm together would be something we could feel proud of, something that could create a future for us and that it would be worth sacrificing some material wealth for a while.
4. And lastly that in this economy maintaining a steady line, keeping our head above water, and not getting into more debt is something of an accomplishment.

I suppose I feel compelled to share all this for a couple of reasons. I imagine a lot of other people are going through similar things and I think knowing you aren't alone makes a world of difference. I know some of my closest friends are in similar places right now and it helps so much to know they understand. I think we help each other a lot just by sharing the same worries, fears and frustrations. I also feel like in the blog world it's easy to get the "I wants" and feel bad about yourself. I know I have avoided such topics in the past just for the pure embarrassment of not wanting others to realize my own situation. But the more I think about it the more I think that is a very wrong attitude. Maybe by sharing my situation I bring encouragement to someone else. Maybe by sharing affordable recipes (a post to come), and money saving decorating tips I give someone the motivation they need. I think the idea in our society that if you don't have enough money to do xyz or by xyz is fundamentally wrong and I am ashamed at how much it has influenced me. Mr. P and I live in a nice comfortable apartment, we have everything we need, 4 years of books to read, a reliable car, a job, an education, and we eat wholesome nourishing food that is very yummy. We have nothing to feel bad about and should be proud of the life we have built for ourselves. And that is the realization I hope more people can come to.

*I am using poor here for lack of better description. I recognize that we are not truly poor. Poor is not having enough food to eat, being cold, hungry, on the streets, sick without hope of medical care and so on.


  1. Oh Laura, I'm sorry to hear that the job fell through. Perhaps as things improve it might still be a possibility?

    As to Actual Financial Success, if that is indeed the recipe for the Good Life, after 30 years together, Steve and I would be considered failures.

    But I've always been inspired and comforted by something Thomas Aquinas wrote: "Any good which is not *completely* sharable is a small good." That is, the more who are able to participate in the good, the higher and better the good it is. Of course, the highest good is God. That is why if we have Christ, we lack nothing.

    But consider these smaller goods: family, friends, church, an education, a safe, warm place to live, nourishing meals, lively conversation and laughter--insofar as these things point us towards Him, and prompt us to give thanks and to invite others to enjoy them with us--their goodness is magnified. They become blessings not only to us, but to our neighbors, and certainly incense to the Lord.

    Unless we are faithful with small things, how can we be entrusted with the great things of the Kingdom? (cf. Luke 16:10) From what I have seen, Laura, you and Mr. P. are well on the way to those great things, and the true Good Life.

  2. When we first got married, we had some financial situations that we had to work through. When we were going through it, it was difficult, but in the end, I am glad we did, because it brought us closer together. Plus, when you've have each other, and the Lord, you've got everything... :)

  3. This is such a great post - I feel exactly the same way!

  4. Thanks for this post. I know I need to be reminded not to be discouraged by the thought,"You're __ years old and you're nobody and nowhere!" It is true that our identities get very (wrongly) wrapped up in the supposed necessity of being able to have nice stuff and big vacations.

    It isn't as sweet and kind of me, but sometimes I comfort myself with the reminder that probably 50% or more of the people who do have all that nice stuff and opportunities are actually in massive debt for it.

    It can feel very stifling not to buy things and to try to be good with money, but I am trying to ask myself more and more often: How will I feel about this decision to purchase something in the long run? I find that with most things, the purchase would only bring short-term happiness. In the long-term I would gain much more satisfaction from the knowledge that I had acted with wisdom and self-restraint.