The last time I was fully employed with a decent-paying job was during summer break while I was in graduate school -- 9 years ago. I was a computer programmer and the job suited me very well. I was charged with making an application to measure water run-off, and I pretty much worked at my own pace, on my own time (a dream for me -- that's about the only way I *can* work). I remember being exceptionally proud of the final product. It was a serious challenge and I think I did an excellent job.
This was also the last time I had anything close to a "disposable income." It wasn't much -- I had a family to support, but I figure I had about $20 a day with which I could do whatever I wanted. Do you know what I spent it on, by and large? Fu-fu coffee. Fu-fu coffee is my name for the fancy-ass drinks you get at coffee bars: pumpkin lattes, mochas with a shot of peppermint ... if it was sweet and creamy I probably tried every flavor. Oh -- and because it was summer chances are it was iced or some sort of frappe. It's amazing how quick you can run through $20 a day if you hit the coffee bar more than once.
Talk about frivolous! The next 9 years I had to actually live on $20 a day. Try securing food and shelter on $20 a day! That's what the government expects you to do on SSI. But when I had "money" all that "disposable income" was poured into sweet frothy foam. And maybe a few cookies or a scone. I could say that was evil or senseless, but I know all too well why I did it.
It filled an emotional void. I didn't feel appreciated by anyone, and buying a fu-fu coffee was my way of appreciating myself. It was like filling up the gas tank of a perpetually needy ego. (I'm sure I told myself I needed the caffeine for the intellectual challenges of my work, but I know now that's bullshit.) Not an ounce of that coffee enriched my life or made me a better person in any way. (Well, maybe the time spent in contemplation, but I could've gotten that for free at the library.)
Now, as I sit in abject poverty, I contemplate all the useless crappy-ass junk my fellow Americans buy with their "disposable income." And I know they're about to get a giant wake-up call. I just happened to get mine early.
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