Funny thing, money.


Was chatting with some friends in the past week and the subject of money comes up. It’s not a bad thing, money, and in the context of the conversation we both briefly reminisced as to how we used to make more than what we were making these days.


And here, if this were the typical navel-gazing column typed by some grandpa I’d wind into some thing about the times we’re in and back when a dollar was a dollar or something like that, but no, no, this will not be one of those.


As we were chatting it went into how we had conducted our lives in such a way where money was not as important as it once was. In turn it brought something to mind I’ve had rattling around in the back there, and wanted to share. It goes like this: Few realize how money has a cost, which is to say “Money isn’t free.”


I used to be a big shot. Corporate title, luxury trappings, and making money - as would be suitable for a big shot - hand over fist. It wasn’t quite rockstar life, but it was well up in the top of the middle class, a realm of expensive cigars and expansive dinners. Life was good.


Well, “good,” let’s think about this for a minute. I was making good money, fer’ sure, and the work wasn’t all that demanding, it wasn’t like I was chopping down trees for framing houses or anything. I was in the software game, selling systems to people and overseeing others who had the same task, and the only demand was to keep selling. Spreadsheets were studied, projections were made and, depending on what conclusions came from the study and ensuing projections conversations took place. In some cases they were conversations, two or more people articulating a view toward a central understanding, and so it went.


At other times, however, the understanding was not quite as, shall we say “beloved” as other times, and then conversation went out the window. Shouting took place, screaming even, as the call was made, loudly, for those numbers to become something more worthy of civil conversation. Life, at those times, was not quite as good. No, no, in fact life at those times had a weight, a heavy weight, tied to one’s neck. Those conversations - if the reader will tolerate some frankness here - sucked.


But the money was good. When you’re some guy sitting in a position like this, thinking about taking care of the family, the house, the stuff, well, got to take the good with the bad. At least the money’s good. Light an expensive cigar and roll with it.


Then my heart quit. I won’t bore you with the details here, I’ve covered it before after all, but anyway, that. And you’re laying in a hospital bed and you’re thinking about getting back to work with your bad heart and you begin to wonder if the money’s worth it. If the stress of another bad report will be one step past what the ticker’s willing to put up with.


Then the economy went in the tank - the Great Recession of ‘08 - I was one of the first downsized victims, and there it was. Time to find out. Like a lot of people who took the head-kick in that era I assumed I’d be back to big bucks in no time, and like a lot of people in that era I was not.


Sad story, right? Wrong. Best thing that ever happened to me. Again I won’t bore you with the details (we’re getting low on space here), but it gave me a chance to calm down, get off work at 5, go to church on weekends, have a reason to get out of bed other than make happy spreadsheets and … newspaper editor, weekly, Van Buren County Democrat.


Life is more on my own terms these days. Granted, the money’s not like it was - no more imported cigars, leave alone tossing money like a drunken sailor at the restaurant bar - and … I don’t miss it. It turns out the cost of money could be measured in the cost to self, that the things, the trappings, had a weight, a heavy weight, you couldn’t measure.


At least I couldn’t, not ‘til I was done with it. The money, it turns out, cost more than it was worth.