Degrees of Difference

Money is something we hear about all the time, whether it is because we are making a purchase and hearing a total, reading articles about billionaires and how they made it, quotes about how money can’t buy happiness, and the list can go on and on. It is a battle for me at times, I go back and forth from being content with my salary to wishing I made more to wanting no money at all (despite that being quite unrealistic).

Last week I got brunch (seriously if you are ever driving through the northern suburbs of Chicago, check out the Shanty, I swear you won’t be disappointed!)  with my childhood best friend. She’s the total package: exotically gorgeous (long wild curly blonde hair, green eyes, tall, and you get the point), very intelligent, funny, and down to earth. She graduated in May and now works as an environmental engineer. She worked incredibly hard for her degree and dominated in a program where she would tell me she was typically one of three girls in her lectures. When she got that job offer, I was so proud and happy for her. Upon devouring our food she began telling me about some of the opportunities and recognition she has already received. But then the conversation took a different turn when she said, “okay, I’m just going to tell you how much money I am making…” and proceeded to declare her already increased salary since she started just months ago. It continued into her telling me how much her boyfriend was offered for the job he will be starting once he graduates and how she plans on making more than him once she starts receiving bonuses. I kept relatively quiet aside from the initial “Wow, that’s really impressive, congrats”

Don’t get me wrong, she has worked hard to get to the point she is at. However, she was sitting across from someone who is in the creative side of business and does not make the salary of an engineer. While I was saddened that she let the conversation take that turn without any initiation to find out her salary on my part, I self-reflected and wondered if I made the same salary as her, would I be bothered by her lack of humility or would I join in the bragging and boasting?

I certainly can’t answer that. But what I do know is the type of person I recognize myself as and what is important to me, and money and competition is not at the top of that list. In a book I recently read called, ‘The Blue Sweater‘ the author, Jacqueline Novogratz, early on in her career left the life of Wall Street to go to Africa to build loan programs and much later in her career turned down an opportunity to do work she was passionate about that would have given her a six to seven figure salary to do something she was more passionate about and that would bring her greater happiness. That is incredibly inspiring and her actions show what is truly important to her.

While I someday want to have a life path similar to that of Novogratz, I also know that there are ways to use money and status for good and to promote change. A strong case for that is Meghan Markle. A post she wrote on her blog, The Tig, she talked about the controversy she gets about how she can do more for other people and sympathize with those who live in poverty when she part of the 1%. She acknowledges that her career has given her not only the opportunity to provide for herself but has given her the opportunities to go overseas and help and see those in different living situations and become a global leader and citizen. She eloquently talks about how she lives in two different worlds and how she has made the two positively converge.

So, I would like to say I know what I would do in the situation of my friend, but I don’t. I really do hope that someday in the near future I have actions which will prove what my real motivations and passions are so I don’t just have to speak of them. Because as the well know phrase goes, actions speak louder than words.

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