I have nothing. I have to really budget myself at all times. I pay an obscene amount just to keep the IRS off of my back. I recently got stuck with yet another outrageous cost for taking care of my health. (Sometimes its lost on me why I even have insurance.) I feel as though I’m so far behind the rest of the people out there my age who are pursuing their careers. I feel as though there is no catching up.
But there is a silver lining in all of this sentiment.
In the grand scheme of things, you, me, and everyone else aren’t that different at all. Regardless of if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a Barista at Starbucks, we wake up to the same sun, have our morning coffee, and have our morning trip to the bathroom. No matter who you are, deep down, we all want the same things:
We all want to feel successful and complete. We all want to love and be loved. We don’t want to do this whole life thing alone.
Some may associate ‘having things’ as something that makes them happy. But when’s the last time that your car comforted you while you were crying in the shower with a bottle of wine? In other words, more ‘stuff’ isn’t going to get you anywhere. Quite the contrary, more stuff is only going to make you more… stuck.
There is a distinct advantage to having nothing. When you have nothing, you have less to worry about. Whether you like it or not, having nothing means all you’re left with the things that make us all human. You’re left to focus on what really makes us happy at our core. Things like experiencing people and cultures; going on a trip that you’ve always wanted to go on; listening to the breeze whistle through the trees in the park; focusing on the important relationships in your life; eating pizza whilst simultaneously singing the national anthem; that’s the kind of things that make you happy.
I remember hiking around in Chile when I was travelling alone. I had only been living in Santiago for a month and had freshly moved into a 1-bedroom studio. Friends seemed only a distant memory. Feeling somewhat distraught and alone, I left my apartment in an old pair of hiking boots and a backpack that was falling apart. I was in a pair of Khaki shorts of which the inseam was too short and uncomfortable. I had a slight hangover from the night before when I had a lapse in self-control watching Netflix specials until midnight in naught but my boxers. Sounds awesome, right?
As I ascended through the steep desert slopes in the Las Condes section of the city, I got further and further away from the noise and pollution that made up the city. Sweat cascaded off my battered body at a rate that would rival the CFS of Niagra. As I reached the summit I noticed how far away I was from the city, how much I had climbed, and how alone I really was. As I sat there looking at El Plomo in the distance the hair raised on the back of my neck and I began to feel electricity coarsing through my body. My being buzzed with excitement and tears streamed down my face.
It’s one of those feelings that one only gets every once in a while. Some might call it a moment of clarity. Some may say liken the feeling to having an epiphany. But I know what the feeling was. It was peace. It was happiness. It was finally feeling comfortable being alone, with not a dollar to my name.
I had nothing. I was happy.
Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.
Regardless of whether you’re trying to put your kids through college, pay for your next sandwich, trying to make rent for next month, or trying to buy a house, don’t forget what makes you human. It’s not the things that you buy that make you human. Realizing what makes you… you and prioritizing those things in your life are what you’re going to cherish when you are laying on your deathbed.
Tell people how you feel. Travel. Stop sacrificing yourself for your career. Prioritize experience and relationships over things. And for the love of god, have yourself a beer. You deserve it.