Monday, September 20, 2010

Can Money Buy Happiness?

A close friend of mine had written a status message on her facebook account. Whether it was one of those ‘encrypted’ type of messages directed at a particular person, or just frustration in general, it got me thinking a lot about life. She wrote, “Apparently, an income of $75,000 a year can buy you happiness.” Oddly enough, her status message came at the right time, as I’m sitting at my counter in the kitchen sipping coffee, getting ready for the day and sifting through what other people are up to over on facebook. I left a comment. “I know a few people who exceed that & some of them are miserable souls. There’s a quote, ‘Happiness is not having what you want; it’s wanting what you have...’ author unknown.” As I’m typing away, I said to myself, “What a hypocrite I am. How can I ever give advice about this when I need it myself?” It’s good advice, but nonetheless, a hypocritical one as I thought about the previous day.

Madelene and I occasionally drive around aimlessly hunting for open houses on Sunday afternoons. Our plans fell through on a previous intention on another location due to construction problems and beyond, so we were out on the prowl for a new nest. Our condo is great for the two of us, however we want more property, more bedrooms, more family coming over and possibly starting our own one day. Let's face it, my uterus isn’t getting any younger. My mind was set: I refuse to bring up a child in an apartment. As we pulled up to this smaller sized colonial house, tucked back from the road for enough privacy, I had a feeling of “home”. With the market being the way it is, this house couldn’t have been worth more than $300k. I started thinking differently, as I opened the door and saw the inside. My heart sank. The realtor greeted us inside, staring back at my new BMW with dollar signs in her eyes. I insisted that my wife keep quiet about her employment with BMW, just so realtors would take us seriously.

She walked me down this adorable corridor, bypassing two living rooms on each side to show me the focal point: the kitchen. This wasn’t any typical kitchen to cook your TV dinners in----this was the ultimate ‘cooking show’ kitchen: granite countertops with a huge island in the middle along with four beautifully handcrafted cherrywood stools. There was a six burner stove, three large ovens and a refrigerator that could hold enough food for an army. Adjacent to the stove was a door leading out to its gorgeous deck that could hold up to fifty people if need be onto a landscaped backyard that was the size of a football field. Total privacy. This “small” house had five bedrooms, cathedral ceilings, skylights in every bathroom, an elaborate stone fireplace and a beautiful finished basement that was more of a rec room. The details of every single inch of this house was just amazing. Someone loved this home. I took the tour twice, as she handed me a paper with the list price of $500,000 dollars. A half a million dollars for this “cute” home. And that’s just what it was---cute, nonetheless, "home".

After reading the listed price about 3,985.729,598 times to see if my eyes weren’t playing games on me, the realtor asked, “Are you working with another realtor?” For some reason, I didn’t hear anything. I just stared at her. Again she asked, “So, are you working with someone?” For some reason, I wanted to cry. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that if I were to buy something, it would be through my sister who’s a real estate broker, but even so, if I were to buy something close to this, I’d need a helluva lot more money to come up with anyway. I just told her we were looking around for now, and thanked her for her time. As I walked outside, I felt empty. I kept remembering times when I was growing up at home on a large property with family and friends always coming over. Most of the events were held at my parents’ house because they had everything: a huge yard, a pool, two huge living rooms and five bedrooms. It was a house meant for a family. It was a house meant to “live in” - not to just to hang your hat for the night. It kept me awake for hours, until 6am rolled through like a bastard, slapping me with a dose of reality.

I must have slept for one hour, finding Madelene curled up next to me waiting for the alarm clock to go off. She woke up and said, “It’s gonna be a beautiful day!” As tired as I was, I got up, showered, finished work and got a surprise visit from an old friend. We went driving around, enjoying the beautiful weather and even visited with my parents who she hadn’t seen in years. It was then I realized that no amount of money could buy me the happiness of waking up next to Madelene, spending time with my old friend and visiting my parents on a Monday in the late afternoon hours. Not many people have that opportunity. There was no amount of money spent, no thought of financial worries --just pure happiness. Little things in life like that are the ones that make life worth living for. Imagine having all the money you wanted, not being able to wake up to someone you love, or having an old friend visit you on a beautiful afternoon. Life would be pretty dreadful if money was the only motivating factor.

It’s not about the big house you live in, but who you come home to. Or, it could be the passion you have for your career, while most people hate their line of work. I do believe that happiness begins inside the mind. Sometimes it’s genetics, and other times it’s circumstances. I came across a few inspiring quotes that helped me a lot.

“Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances.” - Benjamin Franklin

“Happiness is not a matter of events, it depends upon the tides of the mind.” - Alice Meynell

“Attaining Happiness is an ‘inside-job’.” - Author Unknown

“You can begin to shape your own destiny by the attitude that you keep.” -Michael Beckwith

And remember, your self-worth isn’t about what other people think of you, it’s about how you enjoy your life and what makes you happy. “Success” means many things to many people. For those who think success means only money, then they really haven’t succeeded in gaining that sense of enjoying the little things in life. Everything has to be bigger and better, and most of the time, they’re usually never satisfied with anything. Through experience I have learned that having too high of an expectation can lead into depression. It took a while to learn it, but I did. At times, I get that “I want I want I want” pangs, but it’s definitely getting better. I just have to refocus and notice the things that are priceless; the things that money can never buy: faith, love, family, friends and a passion for life. This apartment isn’t looking so shabby after all.