Zach and I got married almost six years ago, the first week of my senior year of college. He was a lumberjack and I was going to school full time while working about 35 hours a week at a string of boring corporate jobs. We were living in 400 square feet in an apartment complex where our neighbors were arrested for trying to kill each other in the dirt parking lot with screwdrivers to the jugular.We went days without eating much more than a rice with salt and a $4 jug of red wine poured into coffee mugs. When we ran out of toilet paper, we used Kleenex. When we ran out of Kleenex, we used paper towels. When we ran out of paper towels, we used coffee filters. At the time, I was finishing up my senior year of college, writing my thesis about the various interpretations of demonic possession among local Christian denominations, and working at a law firm. About nine months into the job, I was called into my boss' office.
"We have a serious problem with you," he said. My heart started pounding.
I didn't know what to say. In the nine months I had worked there, I had never had a review, much less a complaint of any sort, but all I was thinking about at the time was how much I could not afford to lose this job.
"Yeah," he continued, seriously irritated. "You're stocking the refrigerator in the break room with the incorrect proportions of soda? I KNOW I've told you that it should be 40% diet and 60% diet caffeine-free. You're doing it, like, 50-50. What, are you too stupid to stock a refrigerator?"
At that moment, shaking, I vowed to myself that so help me God there would come a time in my life when I wouldn't have to work crappy jobs like this one. At some point in my life, I wouldn't have to call Zach before I bought a cup of coffee to see if that purchase was going to put our checking account into the negative. We obviously needed income, but the last thing I wanted was to become a sell-out and spend my life chasing money and new cars and a bigger house. So I got out a notepad and made a list. What's my definition of success? How will I know when I get there? Here's what I wrote down five years ago:
1. I wanted for us to be able to pay all of our bills - on time, all the time.
2. I wanted to be able to buy groceries whenever we needed them.
3. For years, we couldn't afford "expensive" things like fresh fruit or vegetables. I probably went six months straight living off of 17 cent Ramen. I wanted to be able to buy whatever sorts of food I wanted.
4. I wanted to work at a job because I liked it, not because I hated it but was really desperate.
5. I wanted to travel more. And, by "more", I meant "constantly".
6. I wanted to feel safe where we lived.
So that was it. No Lexus, no three-story house in a posh neighborhood, no president of the PTA or whatever. A week or two ago, we had a good friend from out of town stay with us. I was going through the cupboard for ingredients to cook with, and of course I pulled out the truffle oil and waved it under our friend's nose.
"Oh my lord... smell this!" I said.
"Truffle oil," he said, examining the bottle. "Isn't this, like, liquid gold?"
"Not too bad, actually," I replied. "I think this bottle was 13 bucks or so." And then I smiled. I have a job that I adore, which enables us to actually pay our bills. I've traveled a ton in 2010 already. I live in a safe and wonderful neighborhood. I can buy groceries whenever I want, I don't have to wear pantyhose to work, and the only person at work who ever calls me a dumbass is myself. Now, don't get me wrong - we're hardly luxuriously wealthy. We still rent our house and both of our cars are at least ten years old. But, I have fancy condiments in my house. I can afford to spend $13 on a single ingredient. And I am so much of a nerd that I huff truffle oil in the kitchen.
I am so happy and so content with this life of mine, and I am amazingly grateful to everyone who shares it with me :)