Things money can’t buy

Note: This was a post that I wrote for a local student magazine a few months back which I think would be useful to share here too. Enjoy!

Thomas Bayrle

Whenever I step into a classroom, the first question that I get asked is this: which profession in the design world makes more money: animators, graphic designers, or illustrators? Or how about multimedia artists or videographers? My reply was that there’s plenty of ways to make money – lots and lots of money perhaps. Not all of them are in the design industry. But all of it comes with a price. Heck, sometimes jobs that make the most money aren’t even legal, and you can bet that they’re dangerous. So again. There are plenty of ways to make money – not all of them are good. So herewith the question beckons: why all this talk about money first?

I can understand – I was once a student myself.

I was once so poor that I had to split a plate of economy rice with my friend. For those who don’t know what economy rice is, it’s a shop where they have 20-30 different kinds of side dishes that go with rice, ranging from meat dishes to vegetables, to other condiments. It’s popular with students because it’s fast and cheap – just grab a plate of rice and scoop up whatever you want and go to the counter to pay for what you’ve scooped. Back to the story: we had RM2.00 between us left for food. We went up to the lady in the restaurant and showed her the coins we had left and asked her what we could have from her array of dishes. I wasn’t sure if it was pity, or understanding – but she scooped what ever was left over from a few dishes and gave us each an egg to top it all off. We were thankful for the meal and conveyed our thanks to the lovely shopkeeper – whom we fondly patronised for as long as we studied there.

We weren’t flush with cash. We didn’t have shopping malls. And we didn’t even have McDonalds around each corner (this was in the year 2000). Money was tight – purchasing art supplies, books and endless trips to the printing house made sure of that. Whatever was left we scrimped on food. Bread was a staple at the time too – when we’re running out of time and cash, nothing fills you up faster than a roll of chocolate bun with a sticky black pseudo-chocolate filling with a side of lukewarm water.

It’s all very different now, of course. You have malls, left, right and centre. Fast food kiosks as far as the eye can see. Gourmet restaurants abound; and you’re spoilt for choice. Temptation in its many forms that clue you in on what money represents. And that’s just food. Let’s not even wander into the fashion industry, or the giant virtual malls that reside within the internet – one that offers a gateway to everything and anything your heart desires; open and available 24/7 with a mere click of a button and a working credit card.

I don’t blame you at all for thinking that cash is king. Money buys you lots of things. It buys you good food. Rad clothing. Fun toys. The best equipment and art supplies. And all these things make you happy. It’s a rather straight forward equation. Or is it?

The thing about money though, is that it doesn’t buy you freedom. When you’re doing things purely for money, you’re a slave to it. And it becomes your master. You’ll find yourself slaving away for him, in exchange for something that won’t be able to buy the things that truly matter. Things like love, friendship and time.

We’re living in a time where we constantly consume. We don’t create as much as we should, and this is a shame; because if we’re not creating, we are most likely consuming instead. Our eyes are fixated on screens while our wallets are empty. Our hearts grow heavy with greed; an endless, bottomless pit that desires more, more, more. The indescribable emptiness that spreads across our chest even as we move from one novelty to the next. One day we’ll find ourselves wondering what happened along the way that made us lose more of ourselves, little by little, piece by piece.

We’re all essentially broken – in fragments and bits, scattered around us in the people we love, the places we live in and the experiences we’ve yet to discover. Gathering those pieces and putting them together is what makes us human, and it’s what makes us special. We’re made up of everything, and yet we’re nothing. Money is merely an enabler and not the destination.

Do the things you’re good at, and the things that you love. Pick up the fragments and pieces of yourself through the work you do, so that you may put yourself back together. Figuring out how to do it is the best part about growing wiser. In the beginning you will be poor. You might have to share a plate of economy rice with a friend to get by (I hope not). But you’ll do better. The trick is to get better at the things you love, and to be nourished by the things you learn and the experiences you pick up along the way. Always endeavour to leave a mark. So much so that other people start to notice and respect you for what you do, and why you do it.

And you’ll realise along the way that the “why” isn’t always about the money.

It rarely ever is.

[Illustration: Thomas Bayrle]

9 Replies to “Things money can’t buy”

  1. Geraldine says:

    This is a great read, thank you!

  2. Mike says:

    It is a very good advice to students young or old. Brings back old memories. Cheers

  3. Sarah says:

    Amy, you should be president of the World. This should be read by everyone. student or not. THANKYOU!! xx

  4. Ruby says:

    I love love love your writing! It’s so true that real nourishment comes from non-material sources. Keep the inspiration coming 🙂

  5. Sandra says:

    Thanks for this super-inspiring read, Amy!

  6. Cheryl says:

    What a great read, and just what I needed to remind myself of. I’m three days away from leaving a very well-paying, corporate design job to try to get back into the freelance world. I have about two years’ worth of savings as a safety net, but I’m 55 years old, and not sure what will happen (and really, does anyone know?). But I do know that I’m tired of waiting for retirement to start doing the things I want to do, to create, to take photos, to draw, to not have to force my biological clock to create at 8:00am when I’m barely awake!

    Will I be successful? Don’t know. If success means making more money than I was, mostly likely not. If success means having a much simpler life not defined by a corporate clock, by having my effort be in direct proportion to my own profit, and being able to work on my back porch on a spring day, surrounded by my pets, then I would say I’m a success. 🙂

    Thanks for the article. Well done!

  7. Nubia Keil says:

    What a great read. I love your story, I totally agree with your views. So inspiring! Thank you for sharing the article, I love your writing!

  8. ne says:

    Yes.. we buy and buy non stop. It is sad as our economy is based on debt and spending.

    An old book calls “Small is Beautiful” by E. F. Schumacher is a good read., but we don’t want to be come a socialist or communist country too with the elites telling us what is good and what is bad for us.

    Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and many politicians are fake. They fight Climate Change in name only. In their private lives they fly on fancy private plane and live in multiple huge houses with air condition and light on fully on 24/7

    Love your blog

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