#UnpopularOpinion: I Don’t Believe Chasing Money Will Make Me Happy
Words are as simple as they are complicated. We grow up believing what we see, hear and perceive. This includes a plethora of constant stimulation from school, playgrounds, activities, sports, music classes, dance practices, birthdays and a whole lot more. In between the constant stimulation, there is downtime for eating, sleeping and studying. This would sum up the childhood of many across the globe. As someone whose parents worked and built everything they have, I remember often coming home to just my sister for company. Amma ji, our help, would have prepared lunch and we’d watch cartoons while we ate. This was the norm; I suspect the better part of my first 16 years was mostly spent like this.
Mom usually came home around 4 pm and needed time to herself. My mother is an educator and works incredibly hard so I recognised her need for space and would often provide it, unless my sister and I had a stupid argument about food or TV. 4 pm to 7:30 pm was playtime. Out in the streets learning lessons on our own skin. In the streets, no one had money. The only currency was skill and sports. For example, some kids could climb trees and jungle gyms, and some of us could not. At 10 or 11 years old, this was one of the first real disappointments of my life. I realize now I was just a fat, weakling child whose arms couldn’t hoist all that baby fat up to hang, where as my skinnier friends found it almost too easy to swing around inside the M shaped jungle gyms. I struggled to climb up and hang on while the others literally monkeyed around me. I’d be good and nervy for a few seconds, and then a combination of gravity and my frail arms would drop me down 10 feet on my face. Yet I knew hanging on to those bars was physically possible to do, and I was learning that being unhappy is not a permanent state. “Things” can be moved to become happy (“things” here referring to my fat ass).
A similar thing happened when I was once buying GI-Joes. If you were a young boy and didn’t play with GI-Joes you missed out. Literally anything you could imagine could happen but only if you had enough GI-Joes. Having one or two was okay but if you had 12 to 15 and a few auxiliary vehicles, you could create endless crossover stories. Once at a toy store, I begged my father to buy me more than one GI-Joe at a time. He asserted that I must not be greedy, and must learn to be happy with the toy I was getting. As a 7-year old, I was heartbroken because I could not get my hands on a couple of extra toys. So I sulked and pouted and acted bratty. This was my first bitter taste of material unhappiness.
After the jungle gym incident, at 11 or 12 years of age, I decided to start playing cricket in order to get fit, and become skilled at a sport. As encouraging as my parents were, I was an unbeknownst brat as earlier established. As soon as I got even slightly good at the game, I decided I needed an upgrade in equipment. And so, for my 13th birthday I was allowed to buy a new cricket bat. Of course, after many minutes of testing bats and air batting in a number stores I decided on a top of the line SS Elite Ton cricket bat. This, at the time, was a piece of hardware that players in the Indian team were using, so naturally I had to have it. My grandfather had taken me shopping and being the kind and loving man he was, he gave in to my petulance and agreed to purchase this rather expensive piece of equipment. I was ecstatic, over the moon and jumping for joy, all at once. Upon reaching home, my father was none too pleased with my expensive purchase, impressing upon me the value of money, and that granddad just loves me and could not say no. Again the message reinforced was be happy with less, and buy within your means. Parenting is those pearls of wisdom parents pass on to us to justify their own rationales. But, it is not an absolute reality. We kept the bat but the joy of the moment had been significantly deflated.
Since then, many such instances have reinforced a culture in our family of not living for the material, which I have embraced fully. For instance, Mom always taught us to not fight about food. ‘We share everything in this family. Even if we have less than someone else, don’t look to them just to be unhappy. Find happiness in what you have.’ Statements like this always made me happy, all for one and one for all. While some may find copious pleasure in things, brands and flashing lights, not everyone believes happiness resides in a designer handbag or a new Rolex. Ambition is a necessary potion for happiness but ambition for its own sake seems to result in the destruction of the very planet. Climate change activists like Greta Thunberg are right; greed and ambition have destroyed the planet.
Coming back to our original point. Being happy. While as a child, one hears ‘be happy with what you have,’ as an adult one is told to make more money. The switch is so drastic that it almost always catches me by surprise. A constant need to prove oneself coupled with inane insecurity of society and social media showing you the things you ought to have. Look to the saints, the god men and the babas - they know something we all realise far too late. The obvious lesson is there for all to learn, and that is, you don’t need much to be happy. The truth of the universe is not in material things. Find something real and it will make your whole.
The past generations had a different struggle, in the history of time. They think our generation is one that is complacent. But, it is crucial to know the differences between being happy, being content and being complacent. I agree that ignorance is the enemy of effectiveness but maybe we can redefine what effective is. Money and Happiness are not always one in the same thing. Yes, money is a necessity but killing yourself and the planet just to make just make more useless shit, more profit and unending stuff... Is that really what makes you happy, or is it being in nature on a mountain or a beach or a park with your loved ones? Think well. Act kindly. Live happy.
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