(Art from fanpop.com)
In response to The New York Times article “650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing.”
224. “What Are Your Attitudes Toward Money?”
Here are a couple of dollar bill paragraphs and a wallet always full:
We are what we eat. And I’ve consumed this movie dozens of times: “No, sir, I have no experience,” the protagonist says at an interview. “But I’m a big fan of money. I like it. I use it. I have a little. I keep it in a jar on top of my refrigerator. I’d like to put more in that jar. That’s where you come in.” (Wedding Singer, 1998.) Not only is this line funny, because the protagonist hasn’t ever chased money before, but he realizes that money is something that must be given to him; it doesn’t come from inside: unlike his songs, or his love. Without a doubt, I empathize. Don’t fake, but write, right?
Then again, there’s a cost to everything: even following your dreams. I’ve lost significant people for having chosen the intangible over a life of cold hard cash. I could have worked in sales, at radio stations or in Dubai. But I stayed to live with family, incurred student loans to study my passion. I don’t feel selfish; I feel like I’m doing the best I can to give back what I can. Yet not everyone agrees, or cares. How heartbreaking is this scene when reminded of the film’s ending? Silly Love Songs, Moulin Rouge, 2001. He does die a lonely penniless writer, and all for one happy day. Side note: This Luhrmann scene mashes the lines “All you need is love,” and “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs.” But what’s wrong with that?
I’ve heard this, and still believe it, in all its forms: “And after all, if you do really like what you are doing…you can eventually become a master of it…the only way you can become a master is to really be with it; and then you’ll be able to get a really good fee from whatever it is.” (Alan Watts, 2013.) I will stick to my dream. Sticky. Even the bear puts up with a few bee stings to get the honey. What are you willing to get stung for?
Another attitude reinforced time and time again: no matter how desperate the sitution, from somewhere, the money will come. Or as my grandfather says: “De algún culo va sangrar.” It’s a gem I tie to my wrist like an heirloom.
Sometimes I find myself being stingy. Then I remember Week 6 from The Artist’s Way: “For those of us who have become artistically anorectic–yearning to be creative and refusing to feed that hunger in ourselves so that we become more and more focused on our deprivation–a little authentic luxury can go a long way. The key word here is authentic. Because art is born in expansion, in a belief in sufficient supply, it is critical that we pamper ourselves for the sense of abundance it brings to us.” (Julia Cameron) When faced with a decision (from serious to silly: Should I apply to this program? Do I submit to this contest? Do I go out with friends? Do I buy a new plant? Should I buy this box of Pop Tarts?) I have to ignore the part of my brain that says “It’s too expensive; what if you don’t get in?” Because, to be honest, $100, $20, $18, $5, $3.50 bucks is not a lot of money when compared to the sense of abundance that comes with treating your inner child, your creativity. And I will get in. Would you pray with me?
When I think back to the moments in my life of greatest happiness, I recall sitting in a town square with my buddies after a night out; I remember waking up and seeing a lover’s face lying next to me; I relive that night lying in a sailboat’s sail where I looked up at a balmy night sky and saw myself in a purple Milky Way. Did money have anything to do with that?
The best metaphor for my attitude toward money came during the Lollapalooza fest in Buenos Aires last year–Friday, Jack Ü headlines. They’re on the biggest stage, waving the flag of the province and laying stupid good beats. We’re center, right; thousands of fans jumping and bumping. Boom, boom, next to a stereo. Things break up. The guy next to me asks, “¿Son tus amigas?” He’s half my height, around my age, and leading his shirtless gang over a shuffled cloud of dust and powder to the front. “Sí,” I tell him, looking away from his neon neckless for a second to see Sara and Maggie with their arms up, eyes closed at a dr-dr-dr-dr0p. When I turn back I don’t find the neon ones. I pat my pockets. Don’t find my wallet, either. I yell, say fuck it, and continue to dance. The thought, “This cannot ruin my once-in-a-lifetime concert experience,” loud in my head, giving way to music to enter my soul sooner rather than later…And the show ends on a high. The flood lights come on. I stay past the exodus to comb the ground, maybe it fell. But I am not the only one on his hands and knees, cell phone on flash light mode, looking around for a missing wallet. Our backpack, by the way, that I was using to hold all our stuff, was slashed at the bottom too. Luckily nothing else was missing…Maggie buys us some midnight french fries at Pepino; Sara pays for the bus ride back into the city. We sip the last swigs of my flask after sharing with the other people on the floor of the collectivo with us. All is right…First things first: Saturday, we check the Lost’n’Found. Guess what I find?
My wallet. The pesos were gone. But it doesn’t matter how much, I figured, I would have spent the cash anyway. What I really cared about was still inside: My Texas driver’s license, my shooter card, all my plastic, a rubber, two fortune cookie fortunes (1. “Look around; happiness is trying to catch you.” 2. “YOU ARE ARTISTIC AND OTHERS CAN RELATE TO YOU.”), my favorite word that week written on scrap paper along with a lucky number (“capicúa; 1001″), a newspaper cut out from the astrology section with a drawing of a cartoon lion grinning real big, and a photo-booth picture of my parents
I was so struck that those thieves would have left these thing, let alone the wallet, a gift from my mother. But then again, what’s it worth to them?
Money builds nations and economic systems. Those things are tight. But I’ll value over that things that cannot be taken away, or at least things that find their way back to my heart and make me happy.