Less Money, More Happiness

Would it ever make sense if I say, "at this point in my life, I only want to make enough money to get by?"  I mean, it's tiring always thinking, always worrying, always comparing. But depending on what kind of family you grew up in, an idea like this is nearing taboo. I grew up in a first generation immigrant family. My parents never made enough money to get by. My brother and I watched as the lines on our parents' faces cut deeper and deeper from years of worry and hard work.

"It all would be worth it in the end," my mother would say, "if you two do well in school, get a good job and make lots of money."

The ideal has always been for me to get a job in Wall Street as an investment banker and make millions. But they had never expected me to be married at 23, move back to Asia, have kids and become a stay at home mom. The years of lectures and support from my parents that would surely lead me onto the path for glory and success went down the drain. My dad had taken this disappointment like a blunt force trauma. They were disappointed but they thought I just needed some time to do what Americans call "soul searching". Even 5 years later when I thought it possible to start working again, they still held out hope. Hoping that I would continue the American dream.

While I am grateful for all the life experiences I've had walking towards my parents' dream life, I know I cannot be happy living in it.

"You will have happiness and family once you have a career that makes lots of money." My dad had always taught me.

There is even a saying in Chinese saying that roughly translates to, "all will go badly for the husband and wife who lives in poverty." How can I argue with a centuries old maxim? 

But I don't want to argue. Not anymore. Nor do I want to justify why I continue to disappoint and defy my parents' good intentions. I felt I've already wasted too much time chasing something that I don't want. Now I just want to spend my time doing things that I've always wanted to try but never had the time or courage.

This all sounds straight forward and maybe even a little whiny. But I assure you, this is a long and arduous process. And it continues to be a struggle everyday. Recently, I've found a job as an English Teacher.

"You? A teacher? Can you teach? How much money can you make as a part time English teacher?" Many have questioned as I make this transition. 

Here is my answer, "yes, me, a teacher. I can teach, that's why they hired me. Don't make big bucks but it provided me with the opportunity to try and learn something new."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I don't need money to live. I'm just saying I don't need tons of money to make me happy once I figured out what actually makes me happy. Freedom makes me happy. Teaching makes me happy. Writing makes me happy. Traveling makes me happy. watching my kids grow makes me happy. Eating makes me happy. While some of these things may not require lots of money, it does however, require time. I'm saving the time that I spend on making more money (working more) and instead use it on doing things that gives my life meaning. As an economist would say, I think I have reached a parietal optimum.  


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