Dept. of Personal Assessment
Avoid envy of others’ lives with the right financial accounting
There’s a financial way of thinking about one’s life I’ve had for years, but I like my most recent way to refer to it: pre-paying.
Everyone, in some form, has bought into a slice of life. For better or worse, you pay more or less for what you enjoy, and your job compensates you more or less, based on where you are and what you do.
The idea is elements of your life which are easy, inexpensive, or gratifying for you is indication you’ve pre-paid them.
Example: do you hate rush-hour driving and prefer to podcast your way to work on public transportation? If you live near light rail where housing costs are 10–20% higher, you pre-paid the convenience of an easy commute.
But let me back up and get at why thinking in such puerile economic terms is more useful than ever to help you be more appreciative of what you have.
Envy of others’ lives is more available than ever before.
My uncle Mark first pointed up the subtle ease and danger of comparing yourself — a singleton — to many.
At the time, in the quaint age of pre-history, before Web 2.0 ushered in web content immortality and social streams, the medium which most effectively aggregated editorialized moments of one’s acquaintances was the school yearbook.
Hundreds of happy faces with quotes of humour and aspiration, dozens of both candid and staged photographs of events steeped in camaraderie and accomplishment.
Everyone’s best life, curated.
He pointed out the trap of inadvertently comparing your one life to the high points of hundreds.
Fortunately a yearbook’s power may be mitigated if you slow down to flesh out its subjects.
For example, a friend might appear so happy-looking in a group photo as to be FOHMO-inducing (fear of having missed out).
Yet with a yearbook, that FOHMO reflex could be tempered by remembering a more complete story, such as one including the pain of his parents’ senior year divorce and of his drug-and-alcohol-exacerbated stumbles…