7 months ago for day 45, 2020 with 622 words.

Minimum Happiness Needs

Tech Twitter blew up with yet another ridiculous thread about salaries, with an overrepresentation of highly-paid US jobs. I have a lot of opinions about the US and why I would never move there, so I mostly just mute threads like that as much as I can - I find the work culture of the southern neighbour especially harmful to my well-being. Income disparity in the US and the pressure to measure one's value in dollars doesn't sound like the way for a happy and fulfilling life.

I can't un-see some of those numbers and compare them to where I am. I understand that a lot of those people have been in very privileged situations - being born in the US for a start and not having to overcome a language barrier. And that it's the disparity that's driving their income in the winners-take-all job market. But the disdain I have for those more fortunate is also not very conducive to happiness, since there will always be someone who has more of something, as the number of dimensions and possible outcomes is endless.

Instead, a healthy, helpful exercise would be to focus on the minimum I need for a happy life.

I need food, shelter, clothes, sanitary products, a mode of transportation, a place to go to every day (a job, a school, a volunteering opportunity). In the worst possible scenario, I can pack my bag and go back to Europe, getting all of the basics covered within the social system.

I need family and friends. I need my cats. I need to cover the basic needs of my dependants. I need to pay the basic bills - rent, electricity, water. I need Internet and a cell phone plan, or access to those through other means.

I need nourishment - for my body through healthy food and exercise, for my mind through learning and entertainment. I need resources to spare - either time or money to pay for someone else's time. In dire need, the only thing I need to spend money on is food, as I already have running shoes, hundreds of books, and resources for at least a few hobbies (two ukuleles, kilometres of yarn, working iPad, and a set of watercolours).

To cover all of the above, I need less than half of my current net salary. I'd need even less if the rent was lower, more if I were single. Everything else is either savings or icing on the cake.

There are things I could shift my attention to more. Creating more instead of consuming. Learning and nourishing my hobbies instead of comparisons. Growing my skills and awareness.

I have so many more opportunities that I thought I'd be able to achieve, given my starting point. Instead of rushing through it to achieve ever more, ever bigger, ever so impressive, it would make me happier to just be.

Having more money would give me peace of mind not because I need more, but because I'd be able to support my family better. If I had a spare million dollars, I'd give it to my parents to pay of their mortgage, take care of my grandparents, and not have to stress about the job market ever again.

If I had spare ten million, I'd probably not be worried about having kids. Which may sound silly, after all I'm making more than enough for my needs, but given the doom and gloom that social media is full of, I often feel like I'd need much more to not worry about their future.

I think another useful exercise would be to identify what I need less of. Like social media.


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By Alicja

drawsplainer, ukulele player, immigrant

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