I was born in and grew up in a reasonable well off family. Not a rich family but not a poor family. We always had a mortgage, at least until the latter stages of my parents’ professional careers.
Yet, true Belgians we are, we also had some real estate. Some.
I wasn’t the rich kid in school nevertheless I was able to attend a slightly more expensive, top school in the country. Not a private school but one of the elite schools nevertheless.
I wasn’t the first one with a car, but I always had pocket change to participate to most extra-curricular activities. Read: booze after class on Friday. Yes, I also smoked. Pocket change was even sufficient to attend the odd concert, and I got to see The Cure, David Bowie, the Smashing Pumpkins and several more before I graduate secondary class1.
After school, I quickly joined the professional world first, then the nomadic life. Working has been a staple in my life and ever present. My parents are to
blame thank for that as at young age they taught me to save and if I contributed to extra chores, household tasks they would reward me as well. That may have been via chipping in for that Midi-stereo tower I wanted or later when I eventually bought my first car, by chipping in again. I had summer jobs during school breaks too. The concept was simple: if I wanted something I had to save, if I worked additionally, they would fasttrack my access to it.
Party hard, work even harder is a pillar in life.
Once chosen the nomadic life, I have worked both in IT (online publishing and before that security) as well as in bars. Party even harder!
It — working — has allowed me to travel most loved corners of Europe, while working, and live in and work from multiple countries. I’ve lived an interesting life and money never was a real issue.
I had a lavish life and life style. Hard earned but enjoyed too. Sufficient to make most jealous. Never meant to, I had an ataraxic tendency since long, but sufficient to nevertheless.
Until not that long ago, when a private crisis struck me rather hard. The crisis was long and hard enough to wipe out all savings and pretty much reset life at the bottom of the ladder. Almost as I was left with still more than many have.
Thanks to crypto, slowly but surely I was able to rebuild and from zero life could be enjoyed again, rather quickly. In a different form but it was good nevertheless. All required was available, Maslow was satisfied, complete with reasonably fast internet as well.
“Life is 10% what happens to you, 90% how you react to it”
Charles R. Swindon
But life didn’t end at those hurdles. Little more than a year ago, without any savings available anymore, I was struck with a medical crisis. Resulting in being hospitalized, without insurance, for the better part of two weeks. It would subsequently take me another almost three months before I found a modicum of pace in life again and felt capable to perform at close to normal levels.
I was now living from month to month, pretty much hand to mouth. Additionally, I was forced to move but things were fine. I should have panicked but I didn’t, I had started to find myself, or find a slightly different me.
The bull run had long subsided and the bears were waking up. Slowly but surely the crypto markets were hitting bottom and things started to hit crunch level, that especially after the medical expenses incurred last year. Yet, despite everything, I have managed to constantly still help people left and right, with the little I had and earned.
Of course, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition and when the last crash happened earlier this year I officially joined the brigade of people who don’t only live hand to mouth but who struggle to make ends meet.
Yet, I became the richer person for it.
Discovering True Riches
In last few years I have gradually downscaled. Usually I did this before crunch time, before needing to panic. Obviously, it has helped keep panic at bay.
Before my last move I had already moved to an area without much disposable income. Most people owned their house there, or at least the family would — leading to typical “extended family compounds” — and poverty wasn’t visible in that area of Metro Manila. That isn’t to say that there weren’t people with bill arrears or debts. Hence why the extended family compounds more often than not.
I shared my reasonably fast internet connection throughout the compound I lived in. Often I also got few bottles of “Red Horse” for evenings together, hanging over drinks and generally enjoying life. In as far as people found true joy in life, most bogged down by a life imposed by advertising and peer pressure for luxury — always running away from the next bill.
And, of course, the compulsory dopamine addiction powered by small screen devices and social media.
When I moved last time, I moved to a local area most locals would prefer to avoid. A “poor” area. This area is not yet true poverty, but “wealth” is limited to very, very few families and it is safe to say that it is the entry to the world of the unbanked.
There are side alleys on any side street here. They are the entry to the world of “trike drivers”. These people who work 12-14 hours per day and take home less than $2.
Family planning is an afterthought here. Aside from the still ridiculous influence of the Catholic Church2, most people here just can’t afford contraceptives.
It is that simple.
Fixed internet is an exception here. Cars are very few and not even every family has a 125cc bike. Less than half of the families here have TV, and when only free air channels. The actual side street I live in doesn’t have fiber internet available and it looks like this year’s plans of free internet across the city may also skip this side street3.
Ergo, most people here buy mobile data when funds allow. So do I, although working online, I keep topping up every time my data has been consumed. I now understand why many people don’t update their apps, data is expensive.
Life When Poor is More Expensive
After life kicked me royally hard in the balls in recent years, I am financially floored. Yet, I am the richer person for it.
One of the things I discovered, despite hardship is that the world which advertising — and money — impose upon us is NOT the world of happiness. It is the world of directed happiness, imposed happiness.
It is a glamorous illusion.
I always knew this, I never was really materialistic. How could I possibly have been as somebody traveling and/or regularly locating? Only what fits in my backpack truly matters4.
But the reality of living this current life has increased awareness. Increased awareness of what we all know but don’t care about. Don’t wish to know, remember, and definitely won’t allow to bring us a healthy perspective.
Because it would be too bubble bursting.
All human beings seek the happy life, but many confuse the means – for example, wealth and status – with that life itself. This misguided focus on the means to a good life makes people get further from the happy life. The really worthwhile things are the virtuous activities that make up the happy life, not the external means that may seem to produce it.
Having nothing it is impossible to save. I spend more on mobile data every month, using two devices, than I would on fiber internet. Yet, funds are not available to pay the required connection fee and additional deposit for this so-called unsafe area.
I can not save from buying wholesale, benefitting “buy x get x” deals because funds don’t necessarily stretch that far to allow pack deals. More so, I have no fridge either thus I can not store fresh food either.
Not that in this bear market a fridge is within the means of the possible, any low energy consumption fridge would equate to almost three months of rent.
The current harsh El Niño? Like millions other people I live through it without A/C. Which is actually a positive because it means I contribute less to climate change.
I am the richer person for it.
Poor People Live Differently
One of the first things which struck me upon arrival here was
the amount of low level dealers the joy kids experienced when playing.
Kids aged two to fifteen constantly sit and play in the alleys. Sing together, throw hoops, basically they do what kids do.
None of them have a mobile device.
Kids here are not encumbered by technology. Kids have no need to be on Facebook nor are they angry at their parents because they can not play with their mates. Play FIFA 2019 with their mates I mean, of course. Their parents have no problem with the cost of the latest console, or latest game. Those are non-topics, non-issues here.
Life is simple.
Poor people have different issues than you and I — than I had at least. They live from day to day. Birthdays are portmanteaus in life, they are main events year after year.
A college degree?
Unaffordable to most. Even if education is free, many families can not afford the expenses which come with it. Whether that be long commutes or even things as simple as pen and paper. Remember, they buy piece wise, not bulk.
Aside from the cost higher education would impose on them, that’s a luxury which in their minds — uneducated themselves — would set them financially back as soon as the child is legally allowed to work. Work and bring money home, put food on the table and possibly finally repair that corrugated roof.
Yes, this is the world the Guardian generally refers to as where they live under corrugated roofs.
Doing the laundry here means to most sitting hours over a basin and scrubbing the laundry with a brush. Then it is hung out over old cables utility companies didn’t remove. A different approach to a smart laundry system.
The Problems of Most Aren’t Problems
It has been years since I last drank a lovely siphon-brewed Sumyaki coffee or an Ethiopian brew. But poured up at the right temperature and ground thinly the local $4/kilo Barako is a nice brew. A very nice brew actually.
It has been months since I last had a copious and truly healthy meal. A usual, greasy meal with rice is $1 for me nowadays. I have enriched my food palette vastly though.
I am lucky and the place I live has running water, the family three doors down the street doesn’t. The unit I occupy is as large as their “house”, yet they are seven.
The experience of living here has brought a healthy perspective. A humbling perspective.
I don’t care anymore for that $7 coffee. It leaves me cold. Just like the latest trendy brew from your preferred franchised store.
A treat for me is a nice “Buy 1 Take 1” cheeseburger at $2 nowadays. A birthday party for the family three doors down the street is four liter bottles of “Red Horse” for $6 in total.
The continuing bear market is hitting hard and has long stretched beyond crunch level5. I should probably join the chorus of the “Steem maximizers” and milk every possible trail. Get a free WordPress with SteemPress and maximize that Steem-UA level. Contribute to Utopian and share2steem. Obviously, crosspost everything to Whaleshares, Cent, Publish0x, Akasha, and whatnots. Not to forget hunt every day and also write to SteemSTEM. Maybe even publish twice a day
shitdesigns quickly made in Canva.app.
But I wouldn’t feel honorable doing such.
Maximizing my share from the pool for everyone never was my thing nor will it ever be. Call me stupid.
Nevertheless, I have dutifully accumulated considerable stakes of tokens and continue to do so. Mostly unlisted tokens, of course, because today we buy in to and contribute to a future with crypto.
Some day some of those tokens will be listed. Some may even achieve considerable value.
It will allow me to distribute to those currently still not connected. Those for whom crypto is merely a dream, an untangible buzzword. Let alone could they vie for one of those valuable dTube upvotes because data is expensive.
“The only wealth which you will keep forever is the wealth you have given away.“
Distribute to those who currently have no running water in their house and shower outside, at a neighbor’s further down the street.
This is the real life for billions of people. Those sardine boxes in towers of 40-50 floors high, measuring 50sqm with 2 bedrooms are not an aspiration. Nor inspiration.
Today my struggles are real, the belt is tight and I may yet have to downscale once again in the near future.
I have been lucky because I never was materialistic nor can advertising influence me6. Combined with daily exercise living poorly has learned me that we, most of us connected and contributing here, are rich. Maybe you just don’t realise it.
My current situation isn’t enraging or desperate, but humbling. It may be unfortunate but… I am the richer person for it.
- K12 for you, yanks. ↩
- The Philippines are statistically one of the leading Catholic countries. ↩
- Limited, only 30 minutes/day. Not “free” as such. ↩
- Laptop, tablet, phone, clothes, a book. Yes, a physical book. ↩
- $STEEM at $0.72 would allow me to cover everything at my usual posting frequency. ↩
- Ironically I even once worked for an advertising agency. ↩