Life is more than just a collection of solid financial decisions.
I live in Brooklyn, New York. Allow me to be a stereotype and kick this thing off with a bit of irony.
When I started this article, I was employed. Half way through, that changed.
I thought that would alter the way I approach the fact that I currently have no savings. As I got through the meat and potatoes of this exercise in self-evaluation, I happily (alarmingly?) realized that I still have no true regrets as to the paltry state of my bank account.
What's more, my sudden "funemployment" has now offered me the opportunity to really take stock of my situation and I've arrived at the conclusion that I wouldn't have changed a thing about the way I've approached life. And here's why:
I went to a great Catholic school. It was expensive. It was beautiful. I learned to write well, played football, made some life-long friends and had a totally fulfilling adolescence — awkward acne, social skills and all. I grew past it. But despite the price tag (thanks, parents!), it was a priceless experience.
After that, I went to college (Hofstra University), and played football there. I learned to bartend and (finally) acquired some social skills. I studied writing, world history, and received a premier liberal arts education. My mother was an employee, so my education was largely paid for (again, thanks parents!).
I made a group of extremely wonderful friends with whom I skipped class and played Halo constantly. I was a terrible student, but learned to have a passion and to care deeply about things that mattered to me.
I had to go to school to learn that I didn't really care about school, and with that, I learned to care about so many other things.
Hurricane Sandy hit shortly after my time at Hofstra ended. I was living with my mother in Long Beach, bartending and waiting tables, spending cash as quickly as I got it. I didn't care about saving money; I cared about doing pull-ups and dips on the boardwalk, drinking beer, and spending my day's off, sun up to sunset on the beach.
Sandy absolutely wrecked everything we had. We were in a great duplex on the bayside of Long Beach; our garage housed nearly all of our belongings, pictures, bikes, old tokens of years past. Next to our house, there was a mechanic's garage. All of the oil seeped in and the storm waters caused several sewage pipes to burst. Our garage was filled to the brim with oily shit water. Everything we had in there was compromised.
And by everything, I mean I had one bag of stuff left. That was it. We crashed at my aunt's house in central Nassau County, Long Island. My mother, a few years fresh off a divorce, wasn't exactly killing it with her savings. I was fresh out of college and had zero dollars. My aunt was kind enough to take us in.
I landed a job at a beautiful hotel in Manhattan, saved up my first three paychecks and got an apartment in Brooklyn. I've since been building and growing my career, continuing my writing, and living paycheck to paycheck in the greatest city in the world.
I did this all while rarely going above $1,000 in my back account. There's a lot of expenses that go in to moving: first and last month payments, a truck to move, purchasing new items for the home. I had to spend everything I had to get my life back together. It never would have happened had I begun saving obsessively and trying to balance a check book that, let's face it, would never be balanced.
I don't come from wealth. My father gave us a beautiful home, made sure we never missed a meal, and ran an extremely successful business. That said, he was up at 3 AM every day on his truck doing the work.
This small version of life is what I think about when reflect on having no savings and no regrets. I don't want to talk about the fun stuff I've spent money on or the expensive bar nights or trips I've taken. Rather, I've become comfortable to finally say out loud: yes, I'm a young man who hasn't saved and could give a flying, triple axel f*ck about it.
I couldn't have purchased that Hurricane Sandy experience at a store. You can't buy the implicit lessons you learn from your blue collar father who broke his back everyday so I could have a hot tub and go to Catholic school.
You can't buy experience and life lessons and virtue doesn't walk hand-in-hand with the amount of zeroes in your bank account.
It's not about your trip to Los Angeles or Miami or to wherever you were Instagramming and geotagging. It's about what you did when you were broke, when you were at the bottom.
I've been at the bottom and, frankly, I miss it some days. Especially those days cranking out calisthenics and smoking looseys with my buddy Mike on the boardwalk in Long Beach. Or working a bar shift and making just enough to get a six pack and a dutch. We'd head to my buddies garage and shoot the sh*t until 6 AM some nights.
If you've got the right attitude, you're already on your way up and your savings don't matter. My bank account has seen better (and worse) days and in the long run, emotional intelligence trumps all.
I've been so fortunate to learn from extraordinary people in extraordinary places during extraordinary circumstances. Not once did anyone stop to think about that extra dime or two they could've saved.
So I sit before you, unemployed, with no savings and no regrets.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it (I can't, since, you know, there's probably going to be a drug test for my next place of employment).