Note: To any of my friends that read this, try not to take the piece too personally.  These are just my thoughts flowing free.

I can't count the number of times that friends, acquaintances, or strangers will say things like, "You've got a digital camera?  What kind is it?  How much did you pay for it?", and when I tell them it's an Olympus 3.3 megapixel and is a $500 camera, they seem to be in awe.  The fact that I have a kick ass computer setup throws people into a tizzy.  Now that I have cable modem, suddenly I'm some sort of internet god.  I have a nice house, nice car, and a nice home theater setup.  I have a sizeable collection of DVD's and laserdiscs.  Except for the house and car, I'm in debt to nobody.  My bank account isn't overly huge, but it's quite ample.  I pay my bills in full every month, including the credit card...except a couple times last fall during my gun, tattoo, and computer upgrade spending frenzy.  I'm putting myself through school with help from the GI Bill.  Generally speaking, I don't mind footing the bill when I go out with friends to the movies or a nice restaurant if someone is a bit low in the funds department.  My bar has a nice assortment of quality liquors, and I buy good beer (Sam Adams, Guinness, Becks, Spaten, etc).

Having my toys doesn't bother me, but it seems to bother other people.  Why else would they bring it up?  Especially when they bring up the topic with the preceding sarcastic statement of "Gee, it must be nice to have...".  Concerning so-called high tech devices I don't have, "I can't believe you don't have TIVO", or "When are you going to get DirectTV?" seem to be other comments that I've been getting recently.  If you really have to know, I don't plan on getting TIVO or DirectTV.  They may be nice additions to my arsenal of home entertainment items, but I don't feel the need to get them right now.  With that in mind, that's what I thought about cable modem and a subwoofer for my home theater  just a few years ago, but now I'm surfing the net like a monster, and shaking the house during the invasion of Normandy with Saving Private Ryan.  I currently have a 36" JVC television, but I'm always asked when I'm going to get a 16:9 HDTV.  Well, I'll probably get one in about five years when the FCC's broadcasting regulations require TV stations to transmit in that format.  Plus the prices will drop dramatically from what they currently are.

With all these comments that I get, people must think I have a money tree out in the backyard.  Either that or I have $100 bills flying out of my ass.  Believe it or not, it's neither one.  It's just a simple thing called fiscal responsibility.  I don't spend more than what I bring in.  Not too difficult.  I have a set budget, and all my bills are accounted for.  I take out a portion for a weekly spending allotment.  Everything just stays in the bank.  If I see something that I want to get, I'll work some overtime in order to pay for it.  Just a few years ago, I was working three jobs to pay bills.  That wasn't my choice, since I had to replace a piece of shit car.  You don't have to be a financial genius to budget your money.  You don't have to make $100K every year to afford nice things.  I'm going to school to get my degree in Computer Science and I do have future plans.  Those plans involve more knowledge, more skills, better jobs, and in turn...better money.  I'm in the process of bettering myself personally and financially so that I won't have to ever ask people for a handout.  That may sound like I'm too proud to accept a gift from somebody, which I am not.  If someone wants to make my car payment every month, that'd be great.  I won't ask them to do it.  If someone want s to buy me a nice steak dinner at the local Hereford House, that's their business. 

I've literally been down to nothing, eating bread and Ramen noodles, drinking water and being jobless for three months.  It's not fun.  I'm not going to bother others with my tales of woe, and cry on their shoulder.  If anything I was motivated even more to be job hunting.  I was raised on hand-me-downs, Kmart shoes, government cheese, and being on the reduced lunch program at school because we didn't earn enough money.  I refuse to live like that again.  It's quite humbling to have friends tell me that I've made something of myself, and that I probably won't have the dreaded "mid-life crisis".  I have accomplished quite a bit, and I've moved up a few rungs in the ladder of life.  From unloading trailers and throwing boxes around in a hot warehouse or delivering pizza for minimum wage, to working with high end computer systems in comfy climate controlled environments for, well...quite a bit more.  There were certainly incremental steps between those jobs but I always found a way to advance to something better.  In the words of The Fixx, "One thing leads to another".

Now after all this happy talk about being self-sufficient, the one thing that has really annoyed me was my best friend's soon-to-be-ex-wife constantly bitching about how I was such a tight ass in the money department.  I was cheap.  This was also the same psychotic bitch who happened to see my checkbook lying around showing a sizeable balance and made remarks about it.  That pissed me off for two reasons.  One, just the fact that she felt the need to look at my checkbook.  Number two, the reason I had that dollar amount in my bank account was due to my mom's death in 1997.  Not exactly my preferred way to acquire money, thank you very much.  I used to hound them about paying back a measly $150 that they borrowed at one time.  For whatever reason they couldn't, even though both of them worked decent paying jobs.  After a while, it was fun to see her get all mad because I wanted them to pay me back.  At one point, she even had the nerve to insinuate that I was the bad guy in the situation.  In other words, I have all this money, yet I'd like to be paid back.  Lest we forget that I'm not the one who needed it in the first place.  Oh well.  In talking to my friend, everything's taken care of.  Now that they've split up, I was recently more than happy to lend him money knowing that I'll probably never be paid back.  The reason: so that he can divorce the Paxil-addicted-psycho-wannabe-vampire-bitch.  I feel as though it's my patriotic duty. 

Just because you're doing well in life, others may show signs of jealousy.  They may not do it on purpose, and it may be subtle.  You may have the means to buy a new BMW, while your friends are still driving a beat up old station wagon.  Does that mean that you should drive something less flashy so you don't feel like you're trying to show off?  Hell no.  Buy it and enjoy it.  The bottom line is this.  Don't apologize for being successful.  Personally speaking, I don't consider myself successful to the point that I would like to be one day.  I'm just fine where I'm at in life right now.  One day, your friends will be on the right long as they work at it.  If they don't, then let them wallow in their own misery.

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