I don't know when people started thinking that I'm rich. Maybe it's because of my shoes – I never go cheap on the footwear. Maybe it's because of the watch my uncle gave me – it's really quite nice. Or maybe it's because of my snobbish air – sorry, no, I don't watch The Buzz. I don't know what it is, but for some reason, people think I am rich even though I'm living off a writer's salary. In our country, where most people struggle just to get by, this is something of a big deal.
The thing is, I'm not rich – at least not in the way that they think I'm rich. I think I'm doing okay, but if you look into my bank account, you'll quickly realize that I'm not rich at all. I'm not being humble either. There's not much in there. Here's the thing though: I do think I'm rich. There are days when I feel like Bill Frikkin' Gates.
Lifestyle: Quality over Quantity
On the top of my list for reasons why I think I'm rich is this: I live well. I live in a nice enough house, I eat good food, I have nice stuff. The big surprise here is that you can choose to live well without spending a lot of money. The idea is to choose quality over quantity.
We live in a country where the ideal is to live in a big house in an exclusive (expensive) village with a fleet of cars and a small army of helpers. Instead, I chose to go the other way and live in a small two-bedroom condominium. You can't squeeze much in 110 square meters.
But if I may toot my own horn, the condo, which my wife and I designed on our own, looks mighty fine. My living room has Tiffany Blue walls, a Danish sofa, and Philip Starck's Louis Ghost chairs. As I write this I am sitting in another designer (knockoff) chair surrounded by a bookshelf overflowing with books I love. Yeah, it's not a mansion with gold taps and a garage full of sports cars, but it looks nice and the fridge is full most of the time. I couldn't ask for more.
I don't believe in having a lot of things because there's only one of me, and I only come into contact with a few objects a day. But those things I do come into contact with are things that have quality. I write every day, so I splurged on Moleskine notebooks because they really are the best, and they help me to think. One computer in the house (the gaming one) has to be cutting edge. (My laptop meanwhile is a 5-year old MacBook because hey, it still works.) In general, plastic is banned, so you won't find Orocan things, Crocs, or other cheap crap in my home. As the German saying goes, "I can't afford cheap things."
My wealth isn't in the acreage of my estate or my expansive collection of Louis Vuitton luggage. It's in fewer things that mean more to me than any luxury can.
"Wow, you're a writer! You must be rich," people tell me. Or sometimes they don't say it out loud, but I know they're thinking it. I get this a lot, and no, it doesn't mean "Wow, you must be rich because you have earned a lot from writing, like J.K. Rowling." It means "Wow, you must be rich because you can afford to do something that barely makes minimum wage. You must be getting your money from elsewhere, you spoiled rich bastard."
I choose to take this mild insult in stride. After all, I did actually get to where I am through my own sweat and tears. I can't give everyone my resume and my list of achievements, so I just shrug it off.
I've noticed that far too many people are enslaved by money and things and the life they choose, forced to work in jobs they don't hate enough to leave. Meanwhile, through a handful of smart decisions and dumb luck, I somehow managed to end up on the other side. I am free to do whatever I want in life. I am pursuing my passion, and I do think it will make me rich one day soon. Still, if this writing gig doesn't work out, maybe I'll decide to pursue my old dream of becoming a rock star, or a bull fighter. Who knows?
It's a little counter intuitive, but my freedom in life came from a number of very practical decisions: things like choosing the right partner in life, and choosing to have a financially secure future. These things I mentioned are constant work, mind you, but they're well worth it. Put in the language of inspirational books: it's the bedrock of security and the foundation of love that gives you the courage to jump off cliffs and fly.
My wealth isn't in the size of my bank account; it's in things you can't count. Like freedom, and independence. And on the other side of the coin, there's security too, and peace of mind.
Health, Family, Blah Blah Blah
The third and final reason I think I'm rich is one you've heard before. Wait for it... Here it comes... I have my health and the love of my family.
Yeah, yeah, I know. I used to hate those cliches about a person's greatest wealth being their health, or their children, or their marriage. A younger version of myself would have thought, "These people have obviously never heard of Cristal and cocaine-fuelled binges while jetsetting around the world!" And then I got old and discovered how true those health and family cliches are.
When you reach 40 and you look around and see your friends growing fat and sick – or worst of all actually dying – you're thankful for every moment you get to spend with your kids, your wife, or with your parents. In the past few years, I've quit smoking, taken up running, and well, I didn't want to quit drinking, but drinking quit on me. I've never been this healthy in my life. This is precious to me now.
My wealth isn't counted in the millions. It's in smaller numbers. 1 beautiful wife. 2 beautiful boys. 1 baby on the way. 7 years happily married. 15 years dating.
I also don't have a million happy days. But I've had more of them than I can count. If that doesn't make me rich, I don't know what does.
Photo credit: A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Hatte Painting by Georges Seurat, distributed under a Creative Commons - BY 2.0 License