I grew up in a home that was filled with love but lacked financial security. I don’t want to say we were poor. It never felt that way. I never went hungry, I always had warm clothes, I wasn’t denied anything I needed. But when I looked at most of my friends’ lives, it was clear that mine was different. The suburb I was raised in was fairly middle class; two cars in the driveways of detached homes with treed yards.
However, unlike my friends, my family didn’t take vacations with any regularity. I remember a couple camping trips, which were fun. I got a paper route at the age of 10 and started working after school at 14. I didn’t get a car or even the promise of car insurance when I turned 16. I knew that if I wanted post-secondary education, there would be little assistance from my parents apart from a free place to live. My parents rarely fought but when they did, it was usually about money. With shame, I admit that I resented them for the trivial things I didn’t have, especially since I realized at a young age that the people we knew who seemed to have no money issues showed the likelihood of having other more serious ones that we didn’t. To my young eyes, this usually looked like married adults who didn’t seem to like each other. I was terribly happy my own folks didn’t look to possess this sort of strife.
More than most of my friends, I was given a fairly long leash. My parents were as supportive as they could possibly be. Looking back now, I actually feel pretty lucky. I thought a winter vacation to Florida was what I was missing. However, I’m sure not being able to ride my bike all over North York, or hop on the subway and head downtown to visit novelty shops and record stores, or be allowed to take the morning off school to line up for Duran Duran tickets would’ve been missed MUCH more. I’d like to think that this is how my parents showed their trust in me. I shudder to think about all the times I betrayed it, but that was the commodity I had in spades. Having survived through this, I want my own children to have the independence that I had. Times have changed, there’s no doubt. The bad guys have new tools. But I have an open dialogue with my kids, unlike what I had with my parents, and I feel like they know that they can discuss anything with my wife and I. In fact, we demand it.
So where am I going with this personal history lesson? It’s not just a humblebrag leading to tell you where I am now.
I have all the good things, family, a career (or four) that I genuinely enjoy, a safe comfortable house that I share with the bank, in a neighbourhood I love.
Along with this seemingly charmed life, comes the crushing-at-times financial trappings that are unavoidable in a big North American city. Likely due to my upbringing, I appreciate what I have so much. My gratitude meter’s needle is stuck at max. That I still have both my parents, who worked and stressed so hard to provide what they could, plus a great relationship with my brother, makes me feel ever luckier. Topping it off, it makes me really appreciate what my wife and I have accomplished ourselves – which is more than our parents could. Knowing that after my husk empties of energy, my kids get something that gives them a leg up in life makes me feel like I’ve already succeeded. Add all these together, and I feel rich. No matter what our household budget reports.