In my twenty-three years of living, I’ve never thought more about that saying until I started work at a 5-star luxury golf resort in Nova Scotia, Canada at the beginning of this summer. Ever since I stared my first job at the age of sixteen (R.I.P Blockbuster Video) and started earning my minuscule paychecks, money has been as much a part of my life as water and the occasional need to bathe. I’ve worked in restaurants, retail stores, ski hills, festivals and even as a travel agent on a big-girl’s salary, plus commission. But it wasn’t until after I rolled up in my 2004 Chevrolet Venture with my best friend and our entire lives squished into our seven-seater van and parked beside a shiny red, brand new Corvette convertible did I realize I’m definitely not in Kansas anymore. I stood out like a dick on a cake.
Here’s the situation. I had, at that time, ninety-seven dollars in my bank account. I’d just spent the last six months working for a bi-weekly paycheck of roughly five-hundred dollars, all of which I spent on snowboarding trips, groceries, alcohol and Tim Horton’s Maple Iced Capps (if you haven’t tried one, you’re missing out). After travelling for three weeks from one side of Canada to the other in a beat-up van, sleeping in Walmart parking lots and eating nothing but juice and Doritos, I was down to my last dime. Suddenly I’m standing inside a golf resort where some of the wealthiest people in the country spend their weekends throwing money around, drinking until they can’t stand and playing endless rounds of golf.
And boy, do these people have money.
I’m a server. It’s my job to wait on billionaires. I smile when they ask me to please get them a side dish of melted butter for their one and a half pound lobster when I need to take a bottle of three-hundred dollar wine to another table and print two other tables their bill. “Of course sir, I’d be happy to run downstairs to our other restaurant to get you that beer we have on draft, even though we have it in a can five feet away.” And let’s not even mention the nit-picking of the dining room set up – though I will say this: does a guest really care if the near-invisible label at the bottom of their wine glass isn’t facing them when they sit down? Is their ability to drink their six-hundred and fifty dollar pinot noir from the south of Italy deterred by the position of the wine glass?
This is the difference between people with money and people without money: people without money aren’t bothered with the packaging, as long as the product works in their favor. But people with money have the freedom to judge. They have the freedom to ask for whatever they want, and they expect it to be done right. They have more freedom than those of us without money. And isn’t that what life is all about? Freedom of choice?
I probably will never be a billionaire. And one day I’ll need money to have a house and a family and a retirement. But I will never complain if my wine glass isn’t facing the correct way. Because I’ve discovered a way to be penny-less and free. My secret? I appreciate the things that money cannot buy. Like sunrises. And hiking with my family. And warm summer nights laughing and drinking with friends I’ve made on the other side of the world after a hard-earned day working. And arriving in a brand new place in a brand new country with ninety-seven dollars in my bank account and endless, unimaginable possibilities.
So yes, money is a part of our everyday living. It’s unavoidable. It’s our way of surviving. But the truth is … money doesn’t make the world go round. It’s already round. We might as well forget about it for a little while and open our eyes a little wider to the things that we’ve been given for free.