Being a high school teacher is a very special job. Teenagers, though often frustrating, hormonal, and cranky, are also some of the most free thinking, open-minded, and energizing people you’ll ever have the pleasure of being around; most days, I feel that it’s my great privilege to play a role in their growing-up process.
One little life lesson I like inject into their nubile minds whenever I can has to do with making choices, and it always goes like this: I give out an assignment with very specific instructions, and some
smart ass young scholar will ask, after some petulant moaning and groaning, “do I have to do it?”
My answer is always the same: no. After a moment of shocked silence, I follow up with my patented and, by the end of the year, oft-repeated refrain: “you don’t have to do anything, except face the consequences of the choices you’ve made.”
*cue eye rolls*
While my favorite one-liner is undoubtedly trite (before you make fun, remember that I’m molding young minds so you don’t have to) it’s hard to deny that it’s pretty fucking true. We are all free to do whatever we want to, no matter how despicable, reproachful, or repugnant that action might be, and the only cost is the consequence of taking that action. This is not to say that a consequence might not be harsh, or constrain our future ability to make choices. But that doesn’t mean we’re any less able to make the initial decision to do or not do something.
This is taking a heavier turn than I had initially intended, so let me cut straight to the point: you don’t have to care about money. You don’t have to save or pay off your debt or track your spending or make a budget. All of these things are optional.
Of course, though, you’ll have to face the consequences if you don’t.
Something about this realization – that I have a choice when it comes to how I treat my money – is very freeing to me. It’s almost comforting. I’ve mentioned before that I hate saving, right? Well, every time I make a deposit into my savings account, I like to remind myself that I don’t have to do this. I can spend this money on a trip or a trinket or a sweater for my cat. I don’t have to save it. I can do whatever I want.
The thing is, as much as I don’t really want to save, I even more intensely don’t want to have to face the consequences of having nothing in savings. I don’t want to be broke. So I do it, I save. I turn in the assignment, as much as I goddamn want to blow it off. Because the consequence of not doing the thing I don’t want to do is so much worse than just getting it over with.
But still, even though I huff and puff, it’s my choice, what I do with my money. I choose to care. What about you?