Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I Am a Peasant

My Dear Reader,

Has anyone ever asked you what you would do with a million dollars? Or if you won the lottery? Mormons don't gamble, so I'm never playing those numbers, but I've wondered what I'd do if I, by chance, came upon more money than I could count. My brother Youngest once told me that if he had a million dollars, he'd buy me a roller coaster.

I think I'd give most of my million away.

You see, I grew up somewhat poor. Padre was working something like a ten-dollar-an-hour job while we had five kids in the house under the age of eight. Later, there were six of us under the age of thirteen. I remember the first time I ever got new clothes (i.e. not HermanaMayor's hand-me-downs): I was in junior high. I know what it's like to ask your parents for something small and getting a "no" because it will break the bank. After a while, you just stop asking, and you realize you really will survive without it. I learned a lot during those years.

My brothers, on the other hand, had an entirely different experience. By the time it was their turn to be teens, my parents were in a much better situation. And as my sisters and I left for college, the family burden got even lighter.* Youngest probably doesn't remember a time before we got cable, but I was a sophomore in high school at the time. I spent fifteen years with bunny ears made of wire hangers and aluminum just for the local channels. I even remember the first time we got a remote. My brothers are used to getting iPods and DVRs. They get clothes off of the rack. They put the big gifts on their Christmas lists. I got all of that stuff after I was already used to living with less.

I just never got into that lifestyle. Don't get me wrong; I don't think there's anything wrong with spending the money that you have, I just am not into the extravagant. I like to buy media, like CDs, DVDs, and the stuff with which to play them, but that's pretty much it. I don't care much about clothes, cars, or make-up. I like things that are simple. I don't like cluttering my life with things that are high on cost but low on purpose. In other words, I'm a peasant at heart. I'm not better than anybody else, I just have a different style than you see in the movies. The less stuff you have, the more room you have to be creative.

My brothers ended up getting that peasant lifestyle after Padre got let go two years back. My parents are still really good at saving money, and they decided to sell the house, move into an apartment, and stretch Padre's severance package as far as they could until he found another job. My brothers were a lot different after that. Now, TwinOne's favorite store is Goodwill. Madre always says that happiness comes from lowering your expectations, and they definitely started expecting less after that. I wonder what it's going to be like as TwinOne and ZweiteZweitung enter the life of a starving college student. You know, when they're so poor that even pickles are a luxury. I'm sure they'll do fine; they've got their peasant training down.

As for me, I hope to be in a situation where I never have to worry about affording anything. I wish everyone could have that, in fact. I just don't see myself buying fancy cars or mansions, even if my book gets sold and becomes an incredibly successful international phenomenon/movie franchise. Yeah, I'd stay a peasant. It's a good way to live.

But I think I'm going to hold Youngest to the roller coaster.

Regards, best wishes, and provident living,

-Cecily Jane

*Padre is not the type to just pay his kids' way through college. In our family, you earn your way. I knew kids whose parents gave them everything, and even though they had a lot more time to study, I think they missed out on some character-building life experiences. I didn't meet many spoiled brats, though. Most people I know with money are really good people.

1 comment:

Allison Harris said...

I'm not going to lie. I always feel a little bitter when I find out that a college student's parents are paying for his or her education and living expenses. I plan to help my kids out (Dad helped us out a little bit freshman year), but I don't think I could justify paying for a study abroad or a car.

Part of me sstill gets mad when I meet people whose parents bought them a computer for college. I almost have my degree and I STILL don't have one.