God teaches us in interesting ways. I was going to talk about Romans 2:5-8 and the importance of taking scripture in context. It was going to be a really strong academic post explaining a difficult passage of scripture and warning about the dangers of cherry-picking verses. Honestly I was really proud of the post that I was planning to write. Maybe I actually will write it someday. However, this morning, as I prepared to write my wonderful post, I ran into a guy… we’ll call him Julian… I’ve never actually liked that name, but it will work. Anyway, Julian was a middle aged guy studying for some IT exams. Julian and I got to talking about life, and what I do, and about money. Wonderful, wonderful money.
Julian was recently laid off from his job as an electrical engineer, and as we talked about what I do for a living, and the kind of living I make, he was shocked at how little I have to live on. Julian pointed out that the unemployment he was getting (a percentage of whatever you made at your job) was a little over my average monthly income. He was really very nice about the whole thing, he kept telling me that he didn’t mean to insult me, and that he was glad that I enjoy what I’m doing, but he was shocked at the state of education professionals in the US.
For those of you who don’t know, the average college instructor (right around 70%) is an adjunct who makes between $15000 and $25000 per year with no benefits. Most instructors have a good amount of student loans that they generally can’t even begin to pay, and many of them do their jobs for love, not for the money. It’s not unusual for adjuncts to have two, three, four, or even five jobs and to work 60-100 hours per week or more. Most people don’t know that, and I’m not surprised that Julian was shocked.
I was a little surprised at my reaction. At first I felt humiliated, I often do when I’m talking to someone about how little I make, and when he pointed out that I probably don’t make enough to even think about getting married or having children I agreed, even though I don’t actually agree. However, as we were talking I realized something. Even though Julian wasn’t happy for me, and couldn’t understand what I was saying, I actually was pretty happy. I’m not going to lie, I’d like to make more money, but I’m content with what I have. I can generally pay my bills, God always provides in hard times, and there isn’t much that I really need. Honestly, I’ve been realizing over the past year that there isn’t really much that I really want. I mean, there are things that I wouldn’t mind having, but the difference between ‘wouldn’t mind having’ and ‘want’ is pretty astronomical.
Ultimately, the thing that I don’t think Julian understood at all is that my happiness doesn’t come from having things. It doesn’t come from the standard of living that I enjoy, which is certainly below what he is used to, it comes from something else completely. I’m still learning joy, and I’m not going to say that I’ve mastered the lesson yet. However, I am learning it, and this is something that I am very, very happy about. It is a lesson that I’ve been needing to learn for a long time, and actually learning it is a very good thing.