I never worked overtime, or sought spare time jobs to make more money, seeking blue skies above to doing work, indoors, and I relished my poor beer pockets without ever really developing a rich champagne taste.
Those ambitious lads of my childhood who entered finance, medicine or law, worked 24-7 towards a salaried lifestyle that flew them first class, to luncheon meetings and purchased them mansions in the sky towers of Manhattan.
I became a college instructor teacher who received a meager pittance, but I relished my bankers’ hours’ 9 to 3 job, but deeply longed for the respite of work in each academic year, with a ten week vacation, over the summer.
I ate up all of my sick days and personal days taking escapes in the sun at the beach, and creating three and four day weekends at mountain lakes sites.
Others had many days, ‘in their bank’ saved up, jealously.
Work was onerous and exacting, freedom was a hiking-in-the-woods relief from fluorescent overhead lights and the grinding grading of incessant exams and papers.
I have retired and have a modest home and property, and as for wanderlust, I have long found that armchair travel is the cheapest kind of travel, content to read brochures, than take inoculations, to explore the world.
In later years, it got worse.
With no more drive to give more radio interviews or symposium presentations that could deepen my coffers, or work part-time jobs, I preferred the poorer sidelines, to reject nervous popularity and through writing, seek relaxed anonymity.
Why was I, a person who cared little for “success”, measured in riches?
An experience I had as a teenager, a homeless runaway at seventeen, running from a divorced household of violence and police being called by the neighbors, became a core influence for my new slant on life, one of just getting by, rather than working hard towards earning luxuries.
It was Christmas time in New York City and I was seventeen years old, broke, free and wandering.
I had exited the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West, where I had feasted for hours, for free, on museum mind-eye -candy, while my stomach had rumbled with hunger and now back on the street, had found that it had been and was now, snowing heavily.
I wondered worriedly where I would sleep, that night.
The smell of fresh roasted chestnuts, sold to any passerby from a kiosk wagon, in a blizzard of snow, wafted my way.
I had no money in my pockets, but salivated at the smell; chestnuts were a seasonal treat I had enjoyed at this museum site when I had an existence within my cantankerous parents’ deep pockets circle of influence.
I would ask my parents, and they would fish in a pocket for loose change and I would relish those hot chestnuts’ taste, a symbol of bounty and childhood pleasure.
Now, I was alone on the streets of Manhattan, and had no money.
The snow covered man who stood behind the kiosk wagon was small and dark, mittens with holes for the fingers and red scarfed.
I decided that I would come closer to inhale those fumes, in hunger, as a childhood memory token.
Close enough to taste them, I noticed that on the side of his steamy wagon hung a piece of cardboard with a blue magic marked message, one that profoundly and most oddly influenced me, for the rest of my life.
“I don’t want to conquer the world, and I don’t wish to ever be rich; I don’t ever want to set the world on fire;
I just want to keep my nuts warm.”