Wednesday, September 22, 2010

If I Had $1,000,000

Once in a while, I like to take the old “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” question quite seriously. To be more precise, I like to think of what I’d do if I had enough money that I didn’t have to work to live at whatever standard I see fit. It’s not an easy question to answer, if you take it rather seriously. Truth be told, I wouldn’t want to be too rich. That would bring problems of its own. But there are times—right now, for example—when not having to work sounds pretty good.

So what would I do, beyond the obvious “get out of debt, buy a house, get some new clothes and a decent car” hoopla? I used to think I would continue to work on my Ph.D., though perhaps happily taking it at a slightly slower rate. Now I’m not so sure. It depends on the moment, but no longer do I think I’d have to be working on the Ph.D. in order to keep from getting bored. I used to think that’s what I’d need to do. Remember, I’m trying to be completely realistic here, and the fact is, I wouldn’t want to spend every day lounging around or traveling Europe or anything. That’s what you imagine, but few of us would really enjoy that being our lives. I know I wouldn’t. I would want to be working at things, but a Ph.D. isn’t all there is. So how would I like to fill my days? Aside from being more involved in the childrearing—and believe me, I recognize that as being to some extent a disadvantage of having plenty of money—I would work on writing and playing music, I would hope to read a lot of interesting stuff without worrying so much about critiquing it, and I would hopefully do lots of service and humanitarian deeds of various kinds. I would live near a temple and go frequently. I would hopefully write a lot, though without the worry of having someone read it and critique it. I would write about my life, my thoughts, and yes, philosophy, but without the pressure. Sounds lovely.

I would travel, but not that much. At least not for a while. It’s difficult with kids, and money isn’t going to change that very drastically. I would splurge on hiring babysitters so Melanie and I could date quite regularly. I would have to be super careful about not eating out too much, because it would be a temptation if you had plenty of money. Instead, I’d have to see if Melanie and I could take cooking classes together somewhere. We could have a great time honing our culinary abilities together. That would be a neat way to bond, and we could buy great ingredients with all the money we’d have. We’d laugh and smile a lot as we cooked side-by-side in our lovely, spacious kitchen. Somewhere in Washington state, perhaps.

I’d watch plenty of movies. I’d buy plenty of CDs. I’d listen to music at a more leisurely pace, not just as background entertainment while I’m reading articles or writing essays. I’d actually just sit and listen to it, focused on it, on a nice stereo system. I’d have people over—my little sister, for example—who would like to just listen with me and talk about it afterwards. Hopefully people would bring and share music with me, too.

I don’t think I’d want a pool. Maybe there’d be a temptation, if someone else could be paid to take care of it. But maybe it would be more fun actually going somewhere to swim occasionally. Maybe that would make it more special. My schedule would be flexible enough that we could probably go whenever we felt like it, so it wouldn’t be too big of a deal not having one in the backyard. No, as far as home-based luxuries are concerned, I’d like a nice home theater, an awesome game room (with a billiard table, air hockey, and some old school arcade games), and a recording studio for my music. I’d have plenty of musical instruments, too. I’d very much look forward to my children getting older and being able to play with me. It’d be awesome to have us playing as a band together, and we might just play cool enough music that my kids wouldn’t feel like it was nerdy or embarrassing to jam with their dad.

A few times lately, I’ve found myself feeling quite speculative about what my future holds. Getting a Ph.D. in philosophy, the obvious goal is to land a professorship gig at a decent research university, where you’ll teach a couple of classes a semester, have graduate student TAs do all the grading for your undergrad class, and spend a good amount of time researching—reading, writing, and publishing. Is that the life I imagine for myself? Sometimes I don’t know. But I think the reason I don’t know is because it’s just hard to imagine that really being my life. I’ve always had a hard time imagining myself really doing things, but usually it’s not as bad or as serious or as daunting in real life as you imagine it to be (whatever it is). I always found it hard to imagine myself in a Ph.D. program, and I didn’t always feel like I was cut out for such a thing. But now that I’m doing it, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, really. So maybe that’s how it will be with becoming an actual professor and writing and publishing articles of my own. It’s hard to believe, but it might just be the way life is at some point. That being said, I sometimes picture myself doing something less prestigious, at least by many standards. Sometimes I picture myself teaching at a state university somewhere not very large—probably in the Midwest, for as generic as I imagine it—having a good rapport with my students, but not being anyone high and mighty on the philosophical radar. I imagine life being relatively quaint and family-centered. I imagine not being a workaholic. I imagine having weekends that feel like weekends. And you know, I find myself quite charmed by that.

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