Five years ago next week I was unceremoniously kicked off the corporate America treadmill. In the midst of the “Great Recession” I was laid off like so many other workers world-wide. I did try to find another job; although not really at first because I foolishly believed that I would get my job back when the economy improved. I even got training and certification in another field in an attempt to become a part of the working class again; all to no avail. I finally came to the realization that the work ethic which is touted in this country is a myth, especially over the last forty or so years. I think it goes something like “work hard and you will be rewarded.”
It certainly did not happen in my case. I did not have the most stellar track record with employers; generally after about two years I got fed up with the politics, with the lack of ethics displayed by those in charge, by the poor treatment of the workers. It was the same wherever I went, in whatever industry I found myself working; construction, healthcare, retail, fine dining, manufacturing. There were the haves and the have-nots, and the haves always made sure that they got more at the expense of the have-nots.
At the last job, five years ago, I was busting my hump to get my consumer credit paid down. I was on the tightest budget of my adult life and I was making serious headway. At the time of the pink slip, I was six months away from being consumer credit debt-free. I tried for a long time to keep the payments up to the detriment of everything else. In the end I still had to admit I couldn’t do it any longer and prepared for the months of horrible collection calls. Actually not a single call center person treated me badly; they were all polite and professional. The experience still left me feeling knee high to an ant. After about six months I declared bankruptcy. I never saw myself in that situation. I always had a strong sense of responsibility regarding my financial choices. But it just couldn’t go any other way. I did find an attorney who did bankruptcies based on assets, and since my assets totaled zero, the fees were waived. To this I am very thankful, because it would not have happened otherwise.
In these past five years, with the help of the love of my life, I have really set out to understand what it means to be a productive member of this society. To have the house of one’s dreams means to have a mortgage that in all likelihood will never be paid off because the dream changes and there is always something bigger and better just around the corner. To have a family means to either give up on one’s present life or give up on the future life of the child(ren). Spending money on things that we don’t need but have to have because advertising tells us it will complete our lives. All of these things do not sound appealing to me.
Poncho and I have a fairly unique situation. We live on property that belongs to his family free and clear. There was never a mortgage on the place, just a fifteen year contract that was paid off in less than ten; and that was over thirty years ago. All homes are free and clear, all water sources are secure, waste is carried out via septic systems. As far as utilities, Poncho and I have electricity and landline phone/internet. Our needs are very basic and are met through rental income, and our wants are all but nonexistent. Now this is not a life that is for everyone. We are introverts, and do not need to have the interactions that are necessary for extroverts.
I don’t see our lives as being lazy; for us it’s about prioritizing. We want to appreciate life, be present in the moment, enjoy sleep, wake without an alarm, a leisurely meal, a cocktail, and having meaningful conversations. We don’t need a McMansion, or an Escalade, or a Coach purse, or Nike’s to feel fulfilled. We have a cabin that we (meaning Poncho) built, clean water, mostly unprocessed food, a nightly cocktail, great friends, and a solid relationship. When those are the things that count, we are rich.