Somewhere in the dark recesses of my youth rest the expectations I once had of beyond high school. I figured everything out fairly early in life. Grow up, live on a tropical island, own a ragtop Ferrari and stock my cupboards with fine chocolates. Long-term health and dietary concerns were of no importance back then. Neither was money. I knew that most adults stayed healthy and also bought what they wanted. I did not know how those things happened. I just knew they did. I was also looking forward to no more curfews and less rules to obey. I was heading into a time when I would just relax and savor every freedom in this grown-up world.
Starting college, I had a rude awakening about all-things adult. Money from my summer jobs rented me a studio apartment not far from college campus. Carrying 18-21 credits a term, I simultaneously worked several part-time jobs just to stay afloat. I was the poster child for cliché broke college students. There was no room in my budget for expensive chocolate, nor did I have a Ferrari. I could scarcely afford fuel for my beat up old puddle-jumper car. I ate little more than Taco Bell and Top Ramen most every day. It did not take long for reality to smack me right in my leaving-adolescence face.
Contrary to the ideas of my youth, adulthood did not arrive with the promise of anything easy. It was one huge expense after another. The bills just kept coming. The only thing that got easier with time was strengthening my resolve to ensure my future was not as difficult as earning that first degree. Failure was not an option.
Months turned into years of juggling jobs, studies and trying to eat enough to stay a few pounds past starving skinny. My life was wrought with so much work that I was barely surviving. White-knuckling it to my college graduation, I put on a cap and gown for my second substantial scholastic achievement. Proudly, I walked across the stage to shake the Dean’s hand and receive what I viewed as the holy grail of all possessions.
Now 47 years old, I have plenty of other time-passing accomplishments left in the wake of my adulthood, including a second stint in college and a worthy professional career. At face value, those early years of hardship paid off pretty well in the context of middle-class. In the bigger picture, I had debts with karma that could not be paid with money.
Somewhere between immaturity and who I became I had an epiphany about my true purpose. That changed everything for me. I began to measure success by how I treated others and the relationships that I established. I now know my life is rich because of the people I love, and those who love me. No amount of monetary compensation can buy what is most important today.
Considering the road to here, I wish I had a genie to grant me one wish. I would abolish money in our world and reset the focus on true wealth so that our actions result in human connectedness and world peace. Maybe then our children’s children might have an easier go of it.
Had someone asked me years ago what success meant to me, I would have responded in dollar amounts. Thankfully, time, maturity and experience changes us. Back then, I did not understand the question. I was not grown up. I was only on the cusp of adulthood.
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