When you find $20 in your jeans you forgot was there, it’s win. Even if you don’t believe in karma, luck, or any other breed of metaphysical sentience, your rationality clocks out for its afternoon break. Someone out there has pinned a blue ribbon to your chest and given you a thump on the back. “Today, you get the prize.”
Why, you might ask?
“Oh, just because you’re you. And you deserve it. Let’s leave it at that.”
There’s a bounce in your bones when you stroll out the door.
Money is nice and all, but the company of Andrew Jackson isn’t the high. No, the high is the sweet but fleeting moment when you’re walking among the profligate. Hell, I didn’t need the cash to begin with and then I forgot I even had it. Maybe my prospects aren’t so bad after all.
Ah, yes. This must be what it feels like to be rich.
The buzz wears off as soon as you fold the bill in with all the others in your wallet. It’s not free cash. It was Plain Old You who had to work for it, and Plain Old You who put it in your pocket. Now Plain Old You will put it towards a grownup need like your heating bill or the busted garbage disposal you’ve been putting off replacing.
That said, it’s a relief to know you weren’t worried about money — at least not that money — from the moment you absently pocketed it all the way until now. The added bonus is that you didn’t need it in the meantime. Now you know you really can save a few bucks each month. You really can stash a little more in the someday-fund.
You really can dream.
This happy surprise happened right here in my kitchen today. Only it wasn’t jeans. It was an envelope that had landed at my parents’ house addressed to my previously married self. It was from a bank whose account I drained — or thought I had — when I patched together the 20% down payment on this condo. I sliced open the flap and pulled out one thin page. An end-of-year tax document told me I had earned $10.35 in interest in 2014.
Sure, $10 is a nice surprise.
But interest on what?
After rooting around for my old login and password, I discovered that the account is alive and well. It ain’t sending anyone on a cruise, but it’s there.
Is this what it feels like to be rich?
Maybe a little. Rich and lucky. Not roll-the-dice lucky. More like blessed-with-kindnesses-I-can’t-grasp lucky. It’s as if yesterday-me — with the support of the loving circle of family and guides and friends — offered up a gift to today-me. Because she had so much help and love, she didn’t need that bit of cash to survive the chaos of her life. And instead of treating herself to some luxury with it, she tucked it away for a future self she hadn’t even met yet.
Maybe she knew I’d need it eventually.
Maybe Plain Old She just wanted to provide Plain Old Me what little peace of mind she could.
Now I get to do the same for a someday-self. While I’m not sure yet what form this will take, I want her to find a stash of unexpected riches tucked into a forgotten fold. I want her to experience that buoyant moment of feeling rich. It’s unlikely she’ll be rolling in wealth, and for that moment, she’ll feel flush.
To some extent, she’ll be flush, because all her previous selves loved her enough to squirrel a little away for her to cultivate the life she wants for herself, her family, and her community.
Imagine all these iterations across the continuum of the self. Each finds a way to pay it forward, a few dollars at a time, one year to the next.
In a decade, maybe Plain Old Me will be looking out onto a garden in her own back yard. Maybe she’ll be packing her Plain Old Kiddo off to college debt-free.
Maybe she’ll find that she’d pocketed exactly what she needs.