or fiscally conservative

I’m sitting in my bed right now with some Nutella toast and green tea and I’m thinking about what my immediate future has in store for me. With spring break, prom, summer, and pre-college planning just around the corner, it’s hard not to think about all the costs that are quickly adding up: class dues, AP exams, yearbooks, prom dresses, prom plans, spray tans, tanning-bed tans, clothes clothes clothes, spring break accommodations, travel plans for the summer, and the endless expenses for college. It goes on and on and on and in the face of all of these impending costs it’s hard not to get caught up in all of it and stress about money (and your lack of it).

I know that my lack of money has been on the very forefront of my mentality lately: on Friday I had to return a dress (a borrowed prom dress) to a friend who lives in the affluent neighborhood in town. I had been to her house before but I couldn’t remember exactly how to get there so I drove around the streets for a while looking for the road she lived on. And let me tell you, those houses were gorgeous. They all seemed to capture this old southern charm in that “Allie Hamilton’s family” type of way. (Haha, it’s kind of sad that my only good southern reference is to the Notebook..) But you know what I mean, right? Like, you look at those perfect houses and you just know that there is going to be a dish of potpourri in every bathroom.

To get home, I had to drive past the local rich kid school as well, which will take just about anyone’s breath away. Anyone who’s spent the last eight years in public school (and the years before that were in a tiny local Hawaiian private school–not comparable). I went to Starbucks and got some coffee with all that affluence burning my eyes and still playing back over and over, taunting me.

I’ve never felt poor, really. Because I’m not. I’ve realized that I have financial limitations but it never really occurred to me that regular people could have practically no limitations. But yeah, I felt pretty aware of my limitations after driving through there. I was just thinking “Cool. I’m glad you get to see this view every day on your way to school. I’m glad you get everything you want. I bet it’s nice.”

I talked about this with a friend yesterday when we were driving in my car. You can’t blame their parents, obviously. If your kid wants something and you have the means to give it to her then why wouldn’t you? I would do the same. I’m not bitter about rich kids, haha. I’m talking more about the clarity of the gap that was suddenly very obvious to me.

The stress of all the things I listed earlier can get pretty heavy after a while. It’s a pain in the butt to have to think of all the things I’ve yet to pay for with money I don’t have. Money that nobody has. And I have two sets of parents. Sometimes I can’t help but feel frustrated about that. Why isn’t there any money? Why can’t I buy my own prom dress for once? Why can’t I visit all the friends I’ve had to leave behind over the years? Why can’t I even consider going on the trip with my school to Spain, or Italy and Greece with my former art history teacher? I could easily sit down and pout and whine about how I don’t get anything, but that would be a complete bald-faced lie. But I don’t get everything. Who does? Some people do, apparently.

I was watching “If I Can Dream” yesterday. If you don’t know what it is, go look it up on Hulu. It’s an interesting show; it follows these people living in this house together on their journey toward fame in Hollywood. Or something… Total mind-spam, but if you’re looking for something that makes you feel nice then watch it. Anyway, there’s this one guy on the show who is trying to become an actor, and on his little bio section he talks about being raised by only his mom, and how they were poor but he learned to disregard it. He learned that you don’t need money to have fun.

And I KNOW you’re thinking duh, Alex. You learn this kind of stuff on Barney when you’re five. But up until yesterday those words were just words. I’m not sure why they resonated so clearly when this guy said it, but they did. I was brushing my teeth when he said it and I just stopped and looked at my computer screen and then at myself in the mirror. I don’t need money? I don’t need money. Sure, you need it for basic things like food and clothes and toothpaste, but you don’t need extra stuff. Because it’s just stuff.

So here’s my revelation:

I don’t need money to look good, and I don’t need travel to feel cultured. I made a short list of a few things I want to accomplish this summer, all hardly requiring money:

  1. Read all the books on my reading list: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3351610
  2. Paint something nice.
  3. Make my own dress.
  4. Have a wilderness adventure.
  5. Get a killer tan.

It’ll be great. I can’t wait, as you can tell from just about every blog I’ve posted in the last few days. I know that I’m contradicting myself when I say to enjoy what you’re doing now, but I do mean it. You can yearn to be somewhere else as much as you want, but that’s all in the abstract. What really matters is the concrete, the here and now. Because that’s the only thing you really have control over, and what you do with the now dictates what you will do in the future.

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