I used to be rich

Growing up is tough. Like when you’re a little kid and you have to beg your parents for everything. “Mom! I want some new action figures! Mom! Take me to the comic book store!” and, I shouldn’t assume everyone had the same childhood as I did, but my parents weren’t the type to drop whatever they were doing to satisfy the demands of their snot-nosed little son. Before I was old enough to get a job, this meant waiting desperately for some sort of a special occasion, Christmas, my birthday, one of those automatic days where I was entitled to presents.

Now I’m an adult, and yeah, I guess if I really wanted to, I could buy whatever I want. You know, within reason. If I don’t have the cash, just put it on the credit card. Theoretically speaking, there’s really not too much that’s off limits. But at what cost? Am I really willing to put myself into unnecessary debt because I want something that badly?

And so I don’t know what’s worse, being a little kid and having no sense of money, or being an adult and knowing all too well the true cost of material desires. I think back though, and there was an exception to this, it was a period in my life right after I got a job but before I had any bills to pay. It only lasted for about two years or so, but man, I was a god amongst men.

I started working at a restaurant when I was fourteen, scooping ice cream and making cappuccinos at a place a few towns over. After an eight-hour shift, the boss would give me sixty bucks, cash. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but to a freshman in high school with absolutely no responsibilities besides doing homework and working at this restaurant two nights a week, this job meant that I was rich.

Like, really rich. I remember the first time I got paid, I went from having absolutely nothing in my pockets, ever, to having sixty bucks. I might as well have been carrying a grand. The day after my first shift, I rode my bike to the park to play basketball with my friends. Normally, we’d all be lucky if we could pool a dollar and a half together to buy a soda.

But like I said, now I was rich. I took everybody to the pizza place and bought a pie. It was incredible, all of that cash, just burning a hole in my pocket. And that’s how it went for the next two years or so, before I bought a car, before I wound up throwing all of my money into a 1991 red Dodge Stealth.

The car gave me an even greater sense of freedom, but it was just a taste of what lay ahead, bills, insurance, gas, repairs, tickets. I still had money, but now when I went to the comic book store, I couldn’t just buy every new release without consequence. I’d been living the past two years never in want of anything. If I even remotely saw something that I liked, I bought it. But little by little, the adult world sucked away my surplus of money.

After school it was rent, and then cell phone service, and healthcare premiums. Whatever, everybody has to pay bills, so I’m not going to go through all of the things that I currently have to save my money for. But nobody prepares you for how it’s really going to be. I think back to when I was fifteen, when I had stacks of twenties in my underwear drawer, how I couldn’t imagine a time where I’d be even remotely close to having to stick to a budget.

I had no idea how good I had it. Maybe it’s a pattern, always looking back and waxing nostalgic. Maybe ten years from now I’ll look back upon right now as the best time of my life. I don’t know, I just remember going to the mall and buying like twenty new CDs. I think this summer I bought two albums on iTunes. What happened to my priorities?