Wealth is defined as: “an abundance of valuable possessions or money.” But is that truly the only way we can live wealthy lives? I believe wealth is more than money and materialism. To me, wealth is much more abstract than numbers in a bank or stuff in a house. Perhaps I just haven’t found the word I’m looking for to describe how I am wealthy. Or perhaps, I just value something a bit different than most people.
Here in the United States we are conditioned to be consumers from a young age. We are taught to want the biggest, newest anything and encouraged to seek jobs that bring material wealth. We glorify those who flaunt their monetary status. I have never understood the fascination with the monetary wealth. What good is a multi-million dollar house and designer clothes if you still hate yourself when you’re alone? What comfort does money bring you in the middle of a lonely, sleepless night?
I dislike western culture’s idea of wealth for many reasons — the biggest being the myth that without money, it is impossible to live a fulfilled life. Unless you work a good job or have a solid career — you can’t have lived a happy, satisfied life. We don’t deliver eulogies on the subject of a person’s salary. We don’t remember them for the stuff they owned or the car they drove; we remember the person they were.
I have known deep in my heart for many years that I am not a typical American. It has taken me a long time, but I am okay with the fact that I’m not like most of them. I couldn’t care less about the Kardashians. I don’t care if my clothes came from a thrift store. I’ve never stood in line for the release of the newest Iphone. I’m not hung up on my dress size, or that my car is almost 200,000 miles.
Because no one will remember me for that. My students won’t remember that I only had 2 pairs of shoes. They don’t remember my recycled outfits and bad hair days. They will remember how I challenged them to be better. They will remember how I accepted no excuses. The people who know and love me, the people who enjoy my presence the most will never care if my black-on-black didn’t match or if my eyeliner was $2 or $20. To me — wealth is so much more than how new my clothes are or what model year my car is. Wealth is more than what I paid for my house or how much my gross income is.
I want wealth of knowledge. Wealth of experience. Wealth of love. Wealth of happiness. I want the kind of wealth that allows you contented, peaceful sleep. I want the wealth of having traveled the world. The wealth of good conversation. The wealth of enduring friendships. The wealth of having made a difference.
When I think of wealth, I often think of the words of Bob Marley, who was once asked if money and possessions are what make you rich. “Possessions make you rich? I don’t have these kinds of riches, no.” he replies. He seems genuinely surprised that anyone would define being rich as stacks of money or worse — things.
“My richness is life, forever.”