Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Grass Does Look a Bit Greener

Envy is a funny thing. Well, not funny ha-ha, but you know what I mean. We used to live upstate, in a rather depressed area. I was working as an elementary school teacher, and in that area, it was very common for people to either not work at all, or work at sporadic, low-paying jobs. The major industry in the area had left quite a few years ago, and people either left to find other work, or stayed and tried to make the best of things. Therefore, as a teacher, I had one of the higher-paying careers in the area (thus making all of us teachers beloved by the community, obviously...).

Fast forward a few years, and we moved down to Westchester. The Professor began teaching college, and I stayed home with the kids. It's a really good life. My kids are wonderful, I have a great husband, we live in a lovely area by the water, the schools can't be beat, we have enough to eat, we own an apartment that we like, we're able to save for retirement and the kids' college, etc. If I could stay in my own house with my own family, things would be fine. Because going outside around here invariably causes problems.

Just after we moved here, I was driving to the store, and got a bit lost (a very common occurrence for me, I'm afraid). I ended up on some back streets and was stunned at the size and grandeur of the homes. We're not talking just nice houses here. These are absolutely beautiful places to live (admittedly they're on postage stamp-sized pieces of land, as land is at a premium here). When I finally found my way home, my first question to The Professor was, "So when did we become the bottom-feeders?" We live very close to New York City, so the vast majority of people in this area are either lawyers (you can't throw a stick around here without hitting at least one lawyer, which is certainly never suggested, for fear of lawsuits) or in the financial industry. The amount of wealth floating around is staggering. My children have playdates in some of these homes, and I admit to being somewhat embarrassed to have their children over to my 4-story walk-up apartment (although the kids are always fascinated to visit an apartment house and climb the stairs - always fun to see how the other half lives, I guess.)

These feelings are my problem, not anyone else's. I think it's wonderful that people are able to have these things, most of which I'm not even interested in having. I am not one who spends her life trying to keep up with The Joneses. However, it's hard to keep plugging along trying to save money on tuna fish in a place where wealth and conspicuous consumption are so very conspicuous.


Bezzie said...

Ah but there's a price to pay for that success. The roots of that green grass aren't always healthy. And when the grass does turn brown for whatever reason, it's us bottom feeders that can roll with the punches that life doles out in the financial department better than the green grassers.

grmybmy said...

Right on Bezzie! And, I do believe that I schooled MN to be a good roller, although I'll never think of her (or us) as bottom feeders! Grmybmy

The Professor said...

Well, I wonder how secure some of our neighbors in the financial industry are feeling these days...

It has never been a vice to live within your means, nor is it a virtue to live beyond them. We can only take pride in our family and our work on our own terms. No grading ourselves on the curve of conspicuous consumption. Easy to say, but hard to do. Plus, rationalization though it may be, living smaller is greener. How sustainable can a McMansion be?

You keep doing what you're doing, MN. I'm proud of you.