This I Believe

Heather - Grand Rapids, Michigan
Entered on August 19, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

Quality of life trumps standard of living. This is not a new idea, but forgive this poor college student for thinking it so. As a person in their early twenties, I have been given many disapproving looks for my refusal to own a television. I have missed the punch line of many jokes that were in reference to pop culture trivia and have had to smile and nod my way through each and every burst of laughter that followed them. I’m not complaining, I’m simply saying that trying to be a bad consumer can be challenging sometimes. I choose not to watch TV because I don’t want to be programmed by my own electronic device to buy more things, or to be ashamed of my humble standard of living.

As most college students, I have very little to work with in terms of monetary resources – that is something I have little control over, but might I venture to say this isn’t such a bad thing? Having much less has taught me to enjoy life more. When I have the money to eat at my favorite Indian restaurant, it tastes all the more satisfying because I’m not able to eat there as much as I would like. Because I don’t own a lawn, I usually am all the more tickled by the feel of grass under my feet when I go to the park. When I finally reach my destination, after traveling in my almost ten-year-old car that has no air conditioning, and I feel that first wave of air conditioning wash over me as I enter a building, I’m reminded of how much of a luxury indoor climate control is. When I finally have a functional kitchen that is larger than a closet, I’ll feel like I’ve been given the keys to a castle.

The truth is there is sometimes more pleasure in being poor; the things that might usually seem so mundane and ‘built-in’ are suddenly crescendos of delight. All of the things I REALLY need – the love of my family and friends, stimulation, laughter, art, music, a place to call home – are things that I already have and appreciate. These are the things that add to my quality of life. Everything that comes after that is just unexpected icing. If pressed, I would guess that most people really seek quality of life, but somehow we get mixed up and confuse it with standard of living. Its reassuring to know that some of the most important things that add to the quality of one’s life has nothing to do with APR rates and budget deficits. Again, to many people this might be a simplistic and somewhat cliché idea, but to someone who is learning to be one of those elusive creatures they call adults, I have found this to be quite freeing. Being poor has allowed me to see that quality of life trumps standard of living almost every single time.