Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Pecuniary Anxiety

I am poor.

I have friends who started out at pretty much where I started, perhaps from a worse start, and they are far wealthier than I am.

It is painful to be in this situation. Perhaps if they'd "made it" - by rolling around in millions and millions - I'd be more philosophical. Such spectacular success is usually down to luck.

There was no luck in their stories. Not great luck anyway, just the usual run-of-the-mill lucky-to-be-alive luck! My friends are not "rolling in it"; they are self-made comfortable people. They may have passed the million mark, or they may have not (they won't tell, and it depends on the currency), the important thing is: they don't need to work anymore.

My sample of comfortable friends _chose_ to go after money from a young age. Within a year or two of their graduation, they'd angled for the high-paying jobs in the wealthy sectors, and in due course, with careful monitoring of their expenditures and savvy decision-making, they reaped the gradual rewards.

I was seen as someone with possibly more potential than them. Perhaps each had excellences that I could not match, but they certainly expected I was going to be very successful.

Unlike them, I chose a zero-paying initial career path. Afterwards, I chose to be a low-paid academic.

I did so because of my upbringing. Both my parents prized education and saw that its value was in civilising mankind, not in money-making. So, when one of my friends went after a well-paid job only for its money, I scorned his behaviour. And my father attacked me for not scorning him enough!

As it dawned on me that I was not getting the career I'd expected, rather than change it, I dug my heels in even more. It's paradoxical; it doesn't make sense except in my head.

But it hurts now. I sit with my peers and they're talking about their villas, their cars, "100 dollars - you know - nothing," and then they stop themselves.

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avantcaire said...

why does it hurt now?

a feeling of inferiority? you chose a different path and comparing one's output to others' based on money seems unfair. we tend to do it in part i think because it is quantifiable whereas other measures of success and achievement are not.

the focus on monetary measures of success is difficult to avoid in contemporary society but i can't help but feel it warps our true sense of value, achievement and self-worth.

but then that may just be my personal copout for i can relate to your emotions in this post.

avantcaire said...

i'll add that the link between monetary success and happiness is tenuous at best.

Ahmed said...


Thank you for your comment, and your commiserations. ;-)

I think the worst thing you can say about making money is that you went after it deliberately. I have always found that distasteful and unwise.

And yet I am aware that to pretend that you are not interested in money, only for money to come your way, as if you never wanted it, when all the while, in the recesses of your mind you did want it, there is hypocrisy there.

I plead guilty to having this hypocrisy. That youthful thing of thinking you're the best and things will come your way because you're great, and you don't really have to sweat or demean yourself and show that you really, really want money.

avantcaire said...

i don't share your disdain for overt monetary ambition. if anything i admire the candor involved. i do think it shortsighted though. money in itself will not equate to happiness. growing up in dubai this inequality was glaringly obvious.

the interesting backstory to all of this is our 'competitiveness'. more so than the amount of money, it is the relative amounts of money / success achieved by our friends and peers that causes these feelings of inferiority.

Ahmed said...

You hit the nail on the head with your diagnosis of my post as a story of competitiveness: relative performance with respect to friends and peers. None of my friends (unlike, perhaps, yours) are big-time millionaires, and yet I am troubled.

The way in which we go after money reveals character, I think. Much like our approach to sex reveals a lot about us.

Some people openly acknowledge their sexual desire, while others shy from revealing its true depth. Some will reveal it but do nothing about it, while others will take all action necessary. Some will abide by certain rules, while others adopt an anything-goes approach.

We all need money; it is like air. But in its pursuit, we reveal our character.

Plus there is that thing that the ancients understood well: fate, naseeb, kismet. You've got your character, its desires, and the life it is exposed to, the choices it makes, and the outcomes - continuous story rolling until death.

On re-reading my post, it seems the story is that of lament that the character is the way it is, and the fate is - so far - what it is.

And the reason I had the laments is because of that competitiveness thing you mentioned. And also because of need. (I have been looking at making some substantial purchases and I found that I could not afford them.)