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The Haves & the Have Nots

"The haves and have nots" a common reference to the wealthy (the haves) and the poor (the have nots), in regards to financial wealth that is. Clearly one can have an abundantly wealthy life that lacks financial freedom while on the other hand, one can swim in their endless flow of money and have a poor life indeed.

Since I didn't grow up with the privilege of financial security, it was always easy for me to accept my financial status throughout my entire adult life as enough. Beginning in my early twenties I always felt like whatever I earned at the time was a welcomed abundance because it was always more than what I had access to in my childhood. I truly think this constant satisfaction with whatever financial state I was in throughout the years kept me from ever wanting to keep up with the Joneses because I knew they were likely to never be satisfied.

As I began to work through my professional life and started to collect successful career accomplishments, I realized more and more how financially fulfilled I was despite the potential to earn so much more. In my twenties, I worked insanely debilitating hours that certainly paid off but beginning in my thirties, just around the time I became a mom, I had this idea that working towards more time was more valuable to me than working towards more money. I didn't want to miss out on my children's early lives and was willing to earn less money to have more time with them during those precious toddler years. Now, yes, it is easy to say this when I have a financial cushion and do not have to stress about finances. I can also confidently say that most New Yorkers I know would have never stopped at the point I did because of their innate need for more money and financial success. Yet what I am also saying is that there is a way, at most financial levels, to realize that somehow we mostly have enough money (yes, most people don't realize it but they do) yet so little time to enjoy our lives. So we get tired, or fat, or depressed, or divorced, or drink ourselves to sleep, or drug ourselves into numbness. The numbers for all these ailments are staggering. Would the statistics change if everyone made the time for a daily walk, a quick read of a great book, regular quality time with their kids or spouse? I believe they would. I would even put my money on it.

As we approached our mid-thirties I convinced my husband to join me in the pursuit of a life with access to more time together as a family. Had we continued to work at the pace we were working we would have easily tripled (if not more) our bank account and assets. But for what? Why do we have this need for an endless amount of cash even if it means we put our family aside, set our mental and physical health aside, move our dreams aside, and let life pass us by? Why do so many of us New York City folks willingly marry investment bankers and powerful attorneys who work endless hours signing their lives away just to own a five million dollar apartment that merely gives a taste of all the other material goods awaiting those who work their lives away?

Time. Everyone's time is limited in this life but some people have the conviction to live their life fully and make the time to live their best lives while the have nots lack the ability to notice that life is whizzing by and finally realize it in their final days as they sit in front of their fireplace, in their mansion, with their doting staff around, that they spent their life working to attain recognition, materialistic accumulation, money, and respect while they have not lived at all.

More, more, more. I see it all the time. The need to acquire more, purchase more, brag more, compete more... For what? Didn't Covid teach us to have a deeper purpose in our lives, to have more compassion, to have new perspectives and approaches to living? Yet so many are still not reading the signs and have not detached themselves from meaningless materialism, have not stopped associating their self-worth with their net-worth, have not realized that at some point it is more meaningful to work less even if they earn less in order to live more.

Through my lens, and I know I tend to often look through unconventional lenses, but hey, looking at things differently has helped me lead quite a different life over the years, "the haves and have nots" was never a matter of wealth versus poverty to me. I always picked up on the subtle, and not so subtle, cues of how many people who seemingly had the most really had so little, and I knew I never wanted to be like them. When I listen to people speak or read their memoirs or watch their lives unfold as a friend, I never look at what they have or have not in a financial sense. Instead, I look at and listen to what they have to offer in their wisdom, experience, or life lessons. A person's financial success has never ever been of any interest to me. Living in New York City since 1998, we have met extremely financially successful people. Never, ever, ever, did I bat an eye. Because I knew that I had something most of them could never buy: time. That is, time to live my fullest and richest life before the big clock stops ticking.

At a certain point in your career track, early on while you are still young, make time to enjoy your life. Assess your values and goals. Are you working your ass off to make mortgage payments each month? Sell the property. Don't be a slave to a house. Are you working endless hours to maintain your high-level title and extravagant lifestyle? Think about your title of Mom or Dad and how you play the most important role in your child's life. They grow up fast. You don't want to miss it. What's on your list of things to tackle "one day"? The only day is this day, so don't push checking off those bucket list checkboxes too long.

Life is about creating memories, servicing others, transforming, evolving, impacting, experiencing... not acquiring "stuff". If you are lucky enough to gain fulfillment through your job, embrace that while also being mindful when you get stressed out and when it requires you to put the people and things that you love on hold. Check-in with yourself often and reassess.

I hope that by reading this you can ask yourself if you are a have or a have not. Do you have time to enjoy the things you love? Do you have time to spend with the people you love? Do you have compassion for others? Do you have time to serve others in your community? Do you have time for adventures and new experiences that will shape you in new ways? Do you have time to do absolutely nothing so that you can figure out everything?

Make time. Please, please, please make time. I am continuously baffled by how so few people have changed during the era of Covid. This pandemic is a HUGE call to change. Change your life, your perspective, your habits, your thought patterns, your gestures. Live your best life and help others live their best ones too.

Start today by realizing that you have the time to do one nice thing for yourself AND one nice thing for someone else.


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