Use Money to Avoid Regrets
Recently, I had the pleasure of celebrating the life of a truly remarkable person whom I had never met. I accompanied someone to a gathering to honor one of his friends whom had passed recently (unrelated to Covid).
It was a surreal experience meeting with people again, especially total strangers. But it was a reminder of what we’ve missed in the past year when we were all locked down. Everything about the night seemed different. We were talking about someone we actually knew rather than politicians and celebrities we had never even seen, let alone talked to. We talked about nostalgia and trauma, memories and dreams. I mean, I knew everyone’s political position in about five seconds but it wasn’t heated. The mood was sad but a little joyful. And, of course, I used the night to think about money, but also life and career and community.
Say What You Need to Say…Now
The decedent’s sister said he was lonely for a really long time and he was completely alone when he passed. A lot of people thought about reaching out, but they never did. They all thought that there would be time in the future.
What was even more tragic was that this guy had been chronically ill. And yet everyone thought there would be more time. The person was a terrific musician and everyone there really felt that he listened well and made everyone feel special. So sad that no one told him this when he was alive!
A while ago, I remember this girl being confused when I told her I had written my will. She asked, aren’t you still young? It got me thinking – what is the correct age to write one’s will? There is no penalty for being “too early” but there is certainly a huge problem with being “too late.” We are not guaranteed even one more day. Say what you need to say now. Too early is better than too late.
During Covid, I heard from a lot of people who were only going to venture out when “it was safe.” I know several people who have lost someone close to them, completely unrelated to COVID. Even now after people are vaccinated, I can see there is no “when it’s safe.” And I fear that people will never venture out again because they’re too afraid of the minute chance of COVID infection that they forget that there are other illnesses that are coming for us. One of those illnesses is lack of time. The other is literally every other illness in the world.
Use Money to Buy Time
I see my family for a week out of every month. The way I have rationalized it is that the worst thing would be not to see my parents and something happening to them. My parents aren’t spring chickens anymore and my mother was involved in a (minor) car accident earlier this year. My own car was hit by a deer in January of this year. If the deer had gone even one second earlier, I would not be here writing this. Again, people forget that Covid is not the only thing threatening our lives.
People say the only thing you can’t buy is time. But it’s not necessarily true. You can build up a financial cushion so you can take time off from your other responsibilities if you need more time to be with someone. You can pay people to handle time-consuming responsibilities for you. You can use money to travel to see loved ones. You can build up F-U money so that you can feel secure taking a lunch with someone during a weekday if that’s the only time you can find to meet up. Money can buy time if you use it properly.
Use Money to Find A Calling
I wasn’t in DC so I guess it’s not that surprising that no one at the gathering asked what my job was. And I had no idea what anyone else did.
Too often we’re obsessed with our career as identity. But it’s a really restrictive identity. If I identify as a lawyer, I can guess the stereotypes associated with it – argumentative, snobby, greedy. They’re not characteristics one wants to lead with. And even if they’re true, they’re not the whole story.
Most of the people there were musicians and music was what held them together. I’m not sure law holds people together in quite the same way. There was a lot of reminiscing about jam sessions and gigs. And it seemed like a beautiful pursuit for many of them. It was a common topic that brought them together, kept them together, but that they didn’t hold as their sole identity. I want that.
Use Money to Find or Create a “Third Place”
Nearly all of these people had met at the same old music store. They reminisced about it, long since closed. It was a place where people just hung out and jammed, better at creating rather than selling music. But what a legacy it had!
It was that “third place” that we all look for. The place that’s not home, or work/school. It’s that other place where you can just be yourself, or a different version of yourself from the other places. During Covid, I’m sure all of us were longing for a third place. Heck, even a second place. I miss going to the office.
Pre-pandemic, my place was the gym or church or my parents’ house. For others, it may be a social club or someone’s house or a bar (like “Cheers”). It’s something we should all look for anew now that things are opening up. Not only do we need identities outside our job but we need places to express those identities and people who can know us in these new identities.
Use Money for Community
I thought this group was particularly close-knit because of how much they shared of the trauma going on in their lives. My friend said this group barely knew each other before this night. I think that during Covid, people had no outlet for sharing their thoughts and feelings and this meeting was just the camel that broke people’s backs. It was an opportunity for everyone to share with others. It’s something that has been sorely missed over Zoom meetings.
Recently, I was at an in-person gathering for a group that has met only virtually since the pandemic began. One of the leaders tentatively asked if people would be willing to meet again in person and every hand raised. People are craving that connection and I hope more people take it.
Conclusion – Use Money to Avoid Regrets
It’s weird to plop yourself down somewhere and just feel acceptance, and that’s what it felt like to be at this gathering. It speaks a lot about the people and to the collective moment we’re all facing.
There’s nothing wrong with chasing money, so long as we learn to chase other things. We have to chase our dreams, we have to chase each other. I’m hoping, as many others are, that post-Covid, we’ll be different. In many ways, we already are.