Are you an APLS?

Hello, my name is Abbie, and I am an APLS. 

When Green Bean first posted about APLS, I thought, no way, not me.  I feel like I do my best to live sustainably, however, there’s still a lot more that I can do.  Nobody’s perfect.  But that’s not why I felt like I wasn’t an APLS.  It was the A-Affluent.  “I’m not affluent” I exclaimed.  Then I followed Green Bean’s link to the Global Rich List, thinking it would be fun to see where I fall.  This site tells you where you stand in terms of wealth out of everyone on the planet.  I encourage you to visit and see where you fall, you’ll be surprised…

I apparently am in the top 0.99% of the world’s wealthiest people, based on my salary as a school teacher.  (Don’t tell the folks who already think teachers make too much money!)  I was in shock.  I think of myself as a middle-class person, not poor, and certainly not rich.  I know that I’m very fortunate to have a family that supported me and showed me how to be independent, an education, a job that I love, and a husband that is an equal partner financially.  In reality, compared to many of the other teachers I work with, I make much less money than they do because I’ve only been teaching for 6 years.  Ed and I do not live extravagantly by any means, although we did just spend every dime we ever saved building our house over the last two years.  But we rarely go out to eat, we don’t go on vacations, we don’t have the fanciest furnishings, my car is 11 years old, I don’t have the nicest clothes or shoes or purses, we can’t just buy any little thing that our hearts desire, we don’t give each other extravagant gifts, and everything we do own is based on our own sweat equity and the sweat and generous gifts of our families.  So there’s my reasoning for thinking we’re middle class, based on the assumptions I have learned about what it means to be rich in today’s Connecticut society.

This is where I step back a moment and realize that my affluence globally is not based on Connecticut standards.  Our state is a very wealthy state, and the cost of living is very high.  So let’s think about those complaints that I just listed about us not being affleuent.  We rarely go out to eat, but we are never hungry.  We don’t go on vacations, but we have been on vacation many times in the past.  We don’t have fancy furnishings, but we have a safe, beautiful, private home.  My car is 11 years old, but I have a car.  I don’t have the nicest clothes or shoes or purses, but I have clothes that fit and are functional and occasionally stylish, many shoes that fit and are comfortable and occasionally stylish, and a few purses including my cheapo one from Walmart that I use everyday.  We can’t buy any little thing that our hearts desire, but we do buy a lot of things that are not necessities.  We don’t give each other extravagant gifts, but we give gifts that are handmade, meaningful, and from the heart.  Our home is built on sweat equity, but we have supportive families that were happy (although probably not all of the time) to help us build.  In global terms, we are very rich.

My rationale for thinking I’m not affluent brings me back to childhood.  We would often have friends over to play.  We would typically swim in my parents’ pool, which is beautiful and big and built by my dad.  After a swim, we would usually take a walk around the farm to show our suburban friends what living on a farm is like.  We’d walk through the apple orchard and peach orchard, pass the pumpkin fields and vegetable fields, stop in to see the Dapple Gray Percherons (draft horses) Bob and Duke, pass tractors and dump trucks and trucks, visit the petting zoo at the farm market where there were typically goats, a calf, a miniature horse, chickens, turkeys, and bunnies, and most likely run into cousins, grandparents, aunts or uncles along the way.  Our friends always inevitably thought we were rich and expressed how jealous they were of our lives.  “No!” we would protest.  “We aren’t rich! Living on a farm is hard work!”  We lived simply, and I remember wondering what it would be like to be in air conditioning during the summer, watching TV all day or playing video games instead of working on the farm or in the farm market.  I was even jealous as I thought of my friends sitting inside their warm houses in winter as my brother Jonathan and I carried wood into the basement to stack by the wood-burning furnace.  I always thought they were rich, since they didn’t have to do those kinds of chores.  Now that I’m grown up, I realize just how fortunate we were and would not dare to change my childhood in any way.  I realize that my friends were right, we were rich.

In the same way, I realize now that I am affluent.  I’m affluent globally in terms of how much money and stuff I have, but I’m also affluent in the same way that I was during childhood.  I’m affluent in ways that cannot be expressed in dollars and cents.  I get to share my life with my wonderful husband.  I have family and friends that I get to see on a regular basis and who are interesting, exciting people with all different viewpoints and outlooks.  I get to experience owning my own home and having hobbies like gardening, cooking, sewing.  I have an education and a job that I enjoy, and I feel like I make a difference in the lives of young people and in the world.  I will no longer allow the people in my state, the media, or our society in general to make me think that I am not as rich as they are.  I will think globally, and realize just how affluent I am.

August 29, 2008- I have submitted this post to be part of the September APLS Blog Carnival, which will be hosted by Green Bean.



Filed under Home, Sustainable Living

9 responses to “Are you an APLS?

  1. Wonderful post, Abbie! The Global Rich list is an amazing eye-opener.

  2. Absolutely beautiful, Abbie. You sum up so perfectly, so eloquently what it is to be truly “affluent” – both in the global financial sense and in the life sense. The other thing you do – that I never thought about – is address how the rest of the world tries to make us think we are not rich. I’m sure you have read, as have I, that “keeping up with the Joneses” is now keeping up with folks on TV or celebrities. We, as a country, try to emulate those folks. Your last couple sentences are so right on in that they both acknowledge what the media and society does and deny them the ability to do it any longer.

    Great great post. I’m working on another Affluence post. And will definitely need to link to this one.

  3. farmersdaughterct

    Thanks Joyce, I agree.

    GB- When I sat down to think about it, my feelings of not having enough money come from TV, movies, etc. Especially commercials: Buy, buy, buy. My family and friends have never made me feel that way, and I’m tired of it. I’m going to enjoy what I have and how I live. Last night, while sitting on the couch crocheting a gift for a friend, I just enjoyed my time and let go of all the pressure to buy an expensive gift. It was liberating!

  4. Abbie,

    Beautifully said! The “Global Rich List” was a real eye-opener for me, too. It looks so different when we think globally as everyone is so used to comparing themselves to their immediate neighbors.

    Thank you for those kind reflections on your childhood on our farm. I vividly remember Dad’s familiar words as he dumped yet another load of wood for you and your brothers to carry into the basement: “Do you like hot baths?” He always made you see what you were working for. What was most heartwarming for me to read was “I’m affluent in ways that cannot be expressed in dollars and cents.” To me, that’s the best form of affluence, as long as you have enough to get by. Thanks for those reflections!

    And, yes, I was QUITE surprised that we teachers would rank as “Affluent” on the Global Rich List!

    Keep up the great work!


  5. I used to think of myself in the affulent category… when I was living in Calcutta… but upon my reintroduction to the States, the pressure from the world around me took hold. While I was working in research it amazed me that no one ever had “enough”. Growing up in a family where we did all our own work from the lawn to the house to the kitchen, it blew me away that you could hire out for this stuff and be in your 20s.

    And that’s the point, the “stuff” that you can hire out for, can provide the greatest moments of your life if you allow them to. I like to hang my laundry and make my own bed. I think that Matt really doesn’t mind the quiet time he gets while mowing. Your last paragraph is what really matters in life, not the salary.

    Now, if I could just include a copy of this blog when I pass out payroll next week! Thanks for the deep thoughts!

  6. farmersdaughterct

    Laura- I agree. Some people feel the need to show others that they’re above things like mowing the lawn or cleaning their own house. It’s one thing if you’re busy or hired the kid next door, but it’s another if you’re doing it as a status symbol.

  7. well said – it really is a matter of putting things in the larger context., isn’t it?

  8. I had the same reaction when I read the “A” for affluent in APLS…but then thought about it, and yes, I AM actually affluent—compared to the rest of the world. Though I live in a shoebox sized apartment in San Francisco, I do have the luxury of saving money and spending on silly things I don’t need—all without having to worry about my bank balance. And that’s not something a lot of people in the US can even say…

    The more I think about it, the more the “affluent” title seems not just appropriate, but also necessary. When we look at our condition compared to the rest of the globe, we see just how much more responsibility we have towards our planet. I can’t expect the same standard of “sustainable living” from myself (a girl who needs to budget for that nice electronic gadget/shoes etc.), and from someone else living food scrap to food scrap. So here’s to hoping that more people realize their own affluence, and recognize the greater accountability they consequently have.

  9. Great post! We have to remember that our affluence is what gives us the opportunities to enjoy time with our families, have hobbies, and work together in the garden. Many of the people who aren’t affluent in this country and world, have no voice because of it. They are taken advantage of and cannot even enjoy the non-material joys like spending time together, for fear of their lives. You’re so right Farmer’s Daughter, we have the good life! Let’s be thankful.

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