I used to live full time on a beautiful lake in middle Georgia. The view from the house was simply gorgeous (that is the view from the upper deck above) and the sunsets were breath taking. You would think that the first thought every morning was to look out the glass doors and gaze at the lake as the morning sun began to sheen across the water.
But it wasn’t.
My first thought was, I have to get to work to pay the mortgage and that job was 65 minutes away.
You would think after a two plus hour commute, that my final thought at the end of each day would be contemplated as I sat on my dock, listening to the gentle lapping of the lake against the rock wall along the shore of my property and the sporadic splash of a fish that would interrupt the soft chorus of the woodland creatures and insects.
But it wasn’t. I rarely got down to my dock.
My final thoughts were expended within the darkness of the four walls of my master bedroom, as I lied awake in bed, wondering how I could make more money. There was always that pressure, the pressure of finding new opportunities and the time to implement them.
Time was the real problem because opportunity is all around us.
Time was my biggest nemesis because I had four jobs. I held an IT management job forty hours a week that also consumed another 15 hours of commuting time. I served as the music director of a local church, which included playing the piano and organ for all the services as well as leading and conducting the choir. If that were not enough, I taught an online IT class two nights a week. That would not have been prohibitive other than the fact that the students were located in California and the studio I taught from was in Georgia. Class did not end until after midnight my time. And then, just for giggles, I worked for a well-known IT guru performing a multitude of tasks to make his life more efficient, probably so that the first and last thoughts of each and every day were not about making money. Who knows, he may have emailed me my assignments as he sat on his own dock somewhere, listening to the lapping of the waters of his own lake. Come to think of it, I also remoted in now and then to an IT server farm in Perth, Australia where I did maintenance on this company’s datacenter out there.
So I guess I had five jobs. I’m not sure. They all seemed to run together after a while.
None of those jobs were overly strenuous. They weren’t like nailing shingles to the roof of a two-story house in the hot Georgia sun as I did one summer in my mid-twenties. I actually enjoyed each of the jobs, especially the music gig at the church. It was just the consortium of all of them together, week after week, month after month.
And why did I work these four, scratch that, five jobs?
It wasn’t to retire early. It wasn’t to start my own business. It wasn’t to pay for the cancer treatments for a loved one.
It was to pay for stuff. Stuff that if I died, I couldn’t take with me. Much of the stuff consisted of things I didn’t want anyway. During my marriage my wife and owned two houses simultaneously, well, we didn’t own them, the bank did. The bank held the deeds; I just worked five jobs like a slave to pay for those deeds sitting in some bank vault in some far off city somewhere. I did use those houses. I used them to lay on my bed at night with my heart racing trying to figure out how to work a sixth job in order to pay for them.
Some of that stuff included a fancy SUV. I forget most of the other stuff; after all, it was just stuff. Stuff is forgettable. The kind of stuff you remember is special moments like when I took my daughter and her best friend bar hopping in their favorite college town one night, or one glorious afternoon I spent hiking the cliffs of Moore with my girlfriend, gazing out at the north Atlantic and watching the waves crash against the east Irish coast.
Those are the kinds of things that worth working for, maybe even working two jobs for at one time.
Just not five.
But today I am free of most of the stuff that consumed my life, and thus free of the burdening obligation to pay it all.
There are still times that my first or last thought on a given day concerns money. Old habits are hard to break. But I make a point for at least one of those moments each and every day to center around something beautiful about life.