OPINION: Money Can’t Buy Me Love (But it Certainly Lets You Choose Your Own Form of Misery)


Take a moment and think about success. What do you see? Being an executive at an important company? Owning a giant mansion for your family? Maybe you see yourself owning an expensive car and living on the beach. Whatever you may see, theres one thing thats missing from all those mental pictures. They are alike, in that they include things that either create or cost the one magical force that makes the “world go ‘round”: money. Of course money is going to be involved in one way or another, but the point is, when you hear success, most people automatically come to the idea that it involves large sums of money. Something you don’t normally see in many of people’s ideas about success, is a smile. It’s a very simple thing, a smile, yet why are so many people missing this simple sign of happiness?

Sean Bean as Ned Stark from HBO television series Game of Thrones brooding over a pile of cash. Promotional HBO photo edited by Nick Bramante and James Mazarakis.

When you take a look around in America, you see that not a lot of people are happy and successful, it’s either one or the other. There are a few exceptions of course, there are people that are “successful” and have achieved this by doing what they love, in turn making them happy about their life. But really when we stop and think about it, what does it mean to actually be successful? The sad truth is, in today’s society, people associate being successful, with being wealthy. Those, are two very different things. When I picture being successful in life, I picture being happy. These are two things I associate together very closely.

If success is supposed to come in the form of money, then why are many wealthy people, whether it be celebrities, business-types, or royalty, usually surrounded by tragedy? This is because of the strange properties that we as a society have given these green pieces of paper that our whole lives practically revolve around. Everything from eating, to having fun, to even getting an education, usually costs large sums of dough. And lets face it, nine times out of ten, it does not matter how lucky you are, if you don’t have the cash to back it up, you’re not getting very far in life. Right? Or at least that is how we’re trained, right from our very own births.

Our lives, from childhood to our ancient years, are dominated by pieces of paper, printed with ink, dipped in acid. It seems much of the old values in life, simple ones such as happiness, being content with life, and being the best you can be, have been corroded by this very acid. When you are a child, you own a piggy bank to save up money for the next new toy or piece of clothing you want. As a teenager, you desperately search for a job to pay for the new iphone, or maybe your first car. Then college begins, and you get massive amounts of money in loans, to pay for your education. Once you get your education, you use it to, what else, make money. With all this money you make, you put some aside for your family, so when they need it, they can also make money.

So based on this thesis we build our lives around, we regularly associate money, with being successful. However, this is not the case. All the money in the world can not save someone from a case of depression, nor can it mend a broken heart. Success should instead be measured, by how a person lives their life. If someone is happy and content, as far as I can tell they are pretty successful. Some things in life can not have a price set on them. In this perspective, a middle class man, who has a loving family and a home can be much more successful in life than someone who owns millions of dollars, but has no one to spend it with. The reason we may be stuck in this sort of happiness-drought, may be because we focus so much on these green pieces of paper rather than our own minds and souls.

And if you are someone who needs proof, all you need to do is look outside your small bubble of security in life. Lets face it; America is a very wealthy country. If you own any kind of smartphone, you are rich. If you have the internet, you are rich. Even if you have so much as steady warm water, heat, and a ready supply of food, you are rich. There are some people in the world, that have never even held a cup of coffee, rather than a smartphone in their hands. Some of these people, who have nothing but the clothes on their backs, still manage to retain their happiness. “But how?!” you may ask. “How can they be happy with nothing?” The answer is very simple. These people do not rely on money to create happiness, because they always had to make their own joy without it.

“While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.” – Groucho Marx

This plague does not only shape our society, but it is ingrained in our very culture. As a response to economic distress, money has become a goal for students to be successful. Our lifestyles differ from those of the past because such a large part of our tenure as high school students is spent on raising money through fundraisers and related events. Yes, this was true of the past — but not to this extent. In order to achieve anything, from making art to playing music to existing as a member of the National Honors Society, you must first be “successful” in your ability to make money.

Let’s face it: it takes a toll on us. Many students and parents are simply unwilling to pay for fundraisers unless they are innovative or illicit (since the once-simple method of selling candy and sweets conflicts with the School Nutrition Act implemented in 2010). As fundraising becomes an asset to success, it weakens as a reliable system. Claiming concession stands at football games and being the first to try new fundraisers becomes something of a war that draws bitterness between classes, clubs, and such groups within the school.

Perhaps the most alarming side effect to this secret religion is the nature of the institutions that students run in schools like Malden High. The student council, which is time after time filled with competent, intelligent individuals, is reduced to nothing more than a fundraising team. Leaders are forced to spread the idea that teamwork and unity are necessary to make money, to buy things, and to achieve this “success story” our society has circulated. And this is in no way the councils’ faults — after all, they have no choice. In this economy and social community, we need this money to carry out our very basic duties.

The councils are not alone. Clubs, and activities — even some sports — need to spend more time fundraising than producing valuable work or achieving goals. Fundraising quotas for organizations surpass $100 per student in many classes and activities, forcing students to use their valuable study time to raise money.

It’s such a shame to see talent and leadership damaged by how many pieces of paper our children can scrape up among themselves. It distracts them from real goals — finding themselves, learning the tribulations of life, and being able to appreciate what they have. Yes, money will always be a problem, more so as any given person grows older. But this is more than any other generation has been asked for.

Money is not essential to mankind’s existence; believe it or not a daily dose of vitamin currency is not needed to survive, nor did humans rely on wild dollar bills roaming the land thousands of years ago for food and clothing. We worship money because we chose to. There are more important life lessons to be learned then how to make quick bucks. We must learn how to become leaders, not just by numbers, but by heart and persistence. We must learn how to be passionate human beings. We must learn what makes us get up every morning and learn how to keep those matters close. Money is big, but passion is bigger. If that’s not “how life is”, tough. So the next time you are asked by expecting parents or a friend who has lost hope in you, “What are you going to do with your life?”, just remember that as long as you are happy, the rest may just fall into place, and if you die a happy man or woman, you are more successful than someone with millions of dollars but no joy ever will be.

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