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.