I’ve been searching my brain trying to find a way to write about this in a way which will both interest you and inform you. In most of my writings, I usually take a step back from the desire to write and focus on the purpose of writing to begin with. This time is slightly different. I need to write about a couple of things and these next few blogs could come crashing bitterly down in style for the sake of the insatiable need to focus on the topic at hand. So I hope you bear with me as I try and hash out a few delimmas I struggle with.
The first in this small line of character flaws is my greed. I have this thirst for more. It’s actually alarming when I think about the repercussions it could have both now and in the future. But to get where I need to go here, I first have to go backwards in time. I need to tell you why I write to begin with.
I can’t remember when my school English papers took the leap from comments like, “poor” & ”needs improvement” to “excellent!” & “Wonderful!” but I do remember why. For a long time, I considered English essays to be a cumulative assignment. What I mean by that is that the teachers merely gave them out so you could regurgitate those things they got paid to cram down your throat. Another system of grading your individual grasp on the concepts taught day after day. As such, there was always a “right” and “wrong” answer. You knew what the school system was looking for, and if you wanted to pass, you better kiss their collective asses to make the grade.
At least that’s what I believed in the beginning. Perhaps that actually is the purpose of elementary and middle school essays, but in high school (under the condition of a good teacher) they were looking for something more. I thought I had the system figured out just enough to pass. But to my educational detriment, I was wrong. My English teachers wanted me to not just learn, but apply and think. There was no reality in what I had to say. No personal application or still lingering doubts. Just the facts as I was told them. So my essays were often unsatisfactory in the eyes of my teachers. It wasn’t until I learned the fine art of pity that I understood the real reason behind a good grade. I began inserting tidbits from my life into my essays to convey the fact that I understood the why behind what I was writing about. Some were true, others false. My style hadn’t changed an iota, only my adjustment to the grading system had diverted.
Then my life began to unravel (at least in my hormone confused teenage mind). I wasn’t popular. I was over weight. I had acne. I didn’t have a girlfriend. I was picked on. I was awkward. I thought I wasn’t good enough. I made bad grades. Etc.
You see, in high school I became the go to guy to talk to about your issues. I was the guy who somehow got every girl to open up about their problems. They’d come cry and talk about it with me and feel better and disappeared until they needed a listening ear again. As a result, I became the introvert and allowed everyone else to dump on me. I thought I had no one to talk to. And I felt my verbal skills weren’t up for the task of explaining everything inside of me. But I was asked to write an essay, I forget what topic, and all of the sudden my pity stories disappeared. I began connecting with the concepts. I understood what the writers felt and more importantly I understood what it meant to me on a personal level. I became excited about the idea that I wasn’t alone and not only was I not alone, the individuals we consider to be the greatest writers of our time identified with me. So I began making the connections and inserting my enthusiasm and ideology into my writing. My vocabulary improved, my grades improved and so did my love of a subject I once thought “too irrelevant”. I joined Journalism 1 and later Newspaper for this reason. I wanted to soak it all in. I still do.
And believe it or not, it’s all thanks to the English teachers who failed me. Who pushed me to see past the low number in red ink resting on the page. Who pushed me to understand that it wasn’t about parroting them, it was about becoming me.
How, you may ask, does this apply to my greed? Well, for a long time, I remained focused on the reason for the popularity of my writing. I kept churning out truths about myself, however bitter they were, and hoping to keep the small amount of fans I had crowding around me. I wrote one blog in particular where I put it all on the line. This particular blog, hindsight being 20-20, was full of an inflated ego and all but said that I wrote for the attention. I listed all of my character flaws using their scientific names and thought it to be a humorus take on those things I should have been working on rather than writing about. I briefly touched on my excessive greed at one point:
"PLUTOMANIAC / HYLOMANIAC (obsessed with money/posessions)
Thats right. I'm greedy as hell. I agree with the phrase, "There is NOTHING money can't buy." (eccept love, regardless of whether or not I believe in the emotion or not) If I wanted to sleep with a hot girl who'd never give me a second chance, all I'd have to do is name the right price. It could be a nice car, a shot at stardom, chemo for their mother...It doesnt matter, almost all mortals would sell their soul for certain things. All I have to do is offer her what she wants more than anything and shes mine.
And on another note, I am obsessed also with jewels. I'm currently purchasing many loose jewels from various sites. Emeralds, rubies, sapphires, diamonds and more are currently on their way (or will be in the near future) to my waiting hands. I have a minor obsession with gold, gems and riches. I'd be one pimped out king I can tell you that. Heavens streets lined with gold sounds just alright to me.
I also can't stop spending money. CD's, DVDs, random crap. I buy it all like a fucking rat. I don't know, theres a certian satisfaction to saying, "I want it." and then two seconds later its yours. (but mind you this particualr spending spree is temporary...I'm just in my indulging-in-my-first-paychecks phase."
Looking back, I can see it was more to fill the blog out then actually parody my own flaws. But perhaps the more disturbing thing about that infantile tidbit is that, at the time, it was totally true. I believed it. Money was the almighty, all powerful tool to use in virtually every task. What occurs to me to be even sadder, is the fact that it's still true for a lot of people today. But there was a lie in that personal definition, it wasn't just temporary. I knew when I wrote it that I wasn't going to change. And once more it was to my own detriment.
You see, at the time I lived at home with my parents (both pre and post divorce) and even though my mother was charging me a meager rent and nothing more, somehow I was still living paycheck to paycheck. I had NOTHING in my savings account. So when the time came to make costly repairs on my truck, I had to get a loan and have my dad co-sign. $3000 in debt to the bank later, I had the repairs on my truck finished and used the left-over money to pay back the loan. However, after the extra money went back, I was on my own with the payments, and still spending without consequence. In fact, my truck was on the verge of breaking down once more and I had -$300 something in my Wells Fargo account.
So one night as I was driving my girlfriend home, God decided it was time to quite literally kick me in my ass. Nearing 1 a.m. on an October night, my truck was struck by a drunk driver. The front end was totaled and my girlfriend was scared to death. As I pulled her out of the truck and walked her to the side of the road, I noticed that the only injuries she had was a bloody nose from the airbag. I was shaking and my glasses were gone, but I too was fine. After the authorities took care of the driver and the mess and I made my way home, I worried that my financial situation had just literally taken a huge hit.
A few days later, I found out that the other drivers insurance company was going to claim responsibility and pay me nearly $6000 (almost $1000 more than the truck originally cost me). I took the money, cashed it and paid back my bank loan (for repairs on a truck I no longer had) in full. The remaining money went towards a down payment on a car (yet again with my father as a co-signer) and the sense that I was quite apparently given a blessing in disguise.
But somehow all that I had endured still hadn't shaken me deep enough. I saved enough money and moved out of my mothers house in July of 2009 into an apartment with my girlfriend. I began spending my money more like an adult, I paid my share of the bills and spread out the due dates enough to manage. However, once the bills were paid, I immediately went and spent the rest of the money on whatever I wanted. So I kept aquireing comics, DVD's, music and books. I would go out to eat rather than eat at home. And just like that, I was back to living paycheck to paycheck.
So it came as no suprise that when I lost my job at Garden Ridge in early January of 2010, I had no backup money to keep my half of the financial resposibilities accounted for. As I struggled to figure out what I was going to do, I got a call from my dad. He told me that when he cashed my savings bonds to pay for the classes I took before at the local community college, there was always some extra left over due to interest. He had been saving that extra cash and was going to let me use it to maintain my bills while I found another job. Almost immediately afterwards my mother called and told me there were openings back at the place where I used to work, Spansion. After a month of waiting for the job to offically start, I found that I had a new job and still managed to keep everything from falling apart, despite my fears.
During my time between jobs, my girlfriend had to pitch in and pay my half of the bills at one point. Before I lost my job, my dad helped me get a new laptop provided I keep up with the payments. After a month at my new job, I went out and applied for a loan under my own name to cover those personal debts. I was approved (at a rate of 16.9%) for a personal loan of $1600 and paid both my father and my girlfriend back in full. I felt it to be a responsible act, moving all of my personal debt squarely on my own shoulders and no one elses. But I was still left with not alot of money as it would take a few weeks to acrue enough money to feel secure. And the worrying began anew.
You may find yourself asking, "What part of this story do you find significant enough to write about it?" I changed. Not during the cash-in-hand transactions. Not when God slapped me in the face, twice. But between jobs. How so? I changed because I talked to my couisn Jamie on facebook. You see, Jamie was sent to jail when he was younger for robbery and following his release became a preacher in College Station, TX. Now, to most people, (even myself at one point, I’m ashamed to admit) a jailhouse convert to Christianity sounds like every other similar scenario. We all seem to assume that their conversion lasts only a few months outside of jail then dissipates when they reassimilate back into culture. But not my cousin. He's got something I’ve never heard before in a Christian leader, conviction. I BELIEVE every word he says. Honestly? I wish he preached here more often, I’d actually contemplate going back to church on a regular basis. But I digress.
During my time between jobs and into my first week on my new one, he sent me, free of charge, a few CD’s of different sermons he gave. One in particular, had me feeling really convicted. During his sermon entitled ‘Jurisdiction’ he mentioned the parable of the talents told by Jesus in the book of Matthew:
"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' "
When I heard his explanation of that passage, I got the message loud and clear. From time to time I would put it out there that I was having a hard time finacially, but hardly anyone ever gave me any money. It all clicked when I heard Jamie's sermon. God gives to each of us according to our ability. It's only when we prove ourselves faithful over what he gave us, does he grant us more. I hadn't been a good steward or a 'faithful servant' over ANYTHING. How on earth could I expect God, let alone anyone else, to reach out and help me? Wasn't I just going to go get a tank of gas and spend the rest on frivolous items? Of course I was, I knew I was.
So I changed my tune. When I needed money for gas and had none, I did what I had never justified doing before, I sold my stuff. I sold the movies I no longer watched, the video games I no longer played, the collectables that just sat in a dark corner and the childhood collection I now couldn't care about. I sold over 20 DVD's, 12 supernintendo games, the silver dollars my father gave to me and the baseball card collection I was so proud of as a child. For all of that I got almost $75 and made it through. I bought my tank of gas and went to the grocery store and bought sandwich materials for the upcoming work week's lunches. It hurt, but I was doing it.
And do you know what happened on Friday April 9th? After I picked up my weekly paycheck and depositied it and the money I had been saving (a combined $600) into my bank account, I headed home. I had just deposited $600 and covered a negative balance of $25 and wasn't going to touch it until I was sure I needed it. So as I pulled into my parking space, I got out and walked over to the mailbox to see what was in there. Bank statement, bill, junkmail and a check from Garden Ridge (my previous empolyer) for $525 and change. The letter included with the check stated that between the months of Feburary and July of 2009, they didn't pay me correctly and were correcting their error. All of the sudden I had a new job with decent pay and over $1000 in the bank in a matter of weeks. I guess I was faithful with a little.
You see, my greed is an all encompassing disease. Even though I've witnessed so much in regards to my ability to overcome it, it still is something I struggle with day in and day out. I want it all. It could be mine at the swipe of a card, the push of a button or at the tap of the 'enter' button on a keyboard. I slip up still, as a matter of fact, I slipped up today. But the thing I have to realise is that I DO have it in me to keep this positive trend going. All I have to do is be faithful with a little.