Twenty frozen bananas cascaded out of my freezer the other day. As they ricocheted off my feet and skittered across the kitchen floor I was reminded of something I have known at various times in my life, but sometimes forget. You can feel deprived during times of excess and you can feel like a king even when you’re eating clearance bananas from Saar’s Marketplace.
I have been broke for more years of my life than I have been flush, so I have the skill of living on the cheap. I let this skill lapse when I was working my corporate job and using $5 bills for personal cleansing, partly because I didn’t need it and partly because thriftiness, while not always more time consuming, does take mental energy in the form of decision-making and planning, and while I was working the corporate job mental energy was in short supply.
But, the minute I decided I wanted to stop working so I could go to airplane school my cheap gene woke up. Fast forward to last week – in search of affordable cherries and not knowing where to find my closest pop-up-tent cherry vendor, I went to the cheap grocery store. Not only did I find (bargain) cherries, but I found a huge bag of bananas for $2.50. Twenty bananas, to be exact. Ingredients for one month’s worth of weekday smoothies. Score!
When I hatched the plan to give up a high salary in exchange for my aviation dream, I worried that I would feel deprived, but what I’m finding is that instead of feeling pinched, I feel challenged and engaged. Instead of missing the ability to buy fresh yellow bananas and Nordstrom outfits with impunity, I marvel that I get to spend every weekday in a building full of airplanes. I hate to say this, because it sounds clichéd, but I am starting to wonder if the purchasing power was a consolation prize to make up for the misery that was my day to day life.
These days, figuring out how to make my reasonable but not infinite budget go its furthest seems less like deprivation and more like a fun game that I have the energy for because I’m not overworked. I admit I’m a little gleeful every time I vacuum up all the marked-down coffee on the clearance rack at Safeway (which I then cold brew, so it still tastes great) or find a metric ton of bananas on final sale.
I do realize that I’m making a game of a state that, in its extreme form, isn’t fun at all, but is an exhausting, draining grind. I have a lot of respect and sympathy for people who are truly impoverished, but I’m finding that the distance between poverty and abundance is smaller than I used to think because it’s not just about the money.