These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about life, my role as a family bread-winner, and my family's future. I know I am not a perfect human being. But, I strive to be a better person each and every day.
One thing I have always noticed about me is that I often find myself against 'what is considered as normal' in the society. I often get labeled as 'un-something' in a lot of things. While I don't worry about labels, I worry that my energy often gets depleted in fighting this mis-perception. How can that be, I ask.
Here are some of the salient points about me that I think fuels this mis-perception.
I have always been a quiet and reserved person. Because I was quiet, I chose study over play. Even though I did extremely well in my high-school exams, not many people believed in me.
Many people in my extended family thought that I was not up to the task in college. Many thought I was making a huge mistake going away from the family. In reality, I managed to attend a very competitive, one of the top engineering colleges. I even managed to come to the US to pursue graduate school and now have two MS degrees.
I was raised by two frugal parents who never saw a lot of money in their lifetimes. As a result, I am a frugal person. Don't get me wrong, we spend money, and a lot of it. But, we spend it on things that matter the most to us and satisfy our needs (as opposed to our wants).
I do not own a personal smartphone. I have one provided by my company and we get by with that. We use Tracfones as our personal cell phone. We use Magic Jack as opposed to expensive landlines or Vonage. We do not subscribe to cable, but enjoy a ton of good programming on Amazon Prime. We shop online and shop only when there are sales or clearances. We do not go for branded items except when it makes sense. We drive two fully paid off decent cars. We save and invest regularly. But, many people don't see the big picture.
We bought a medium-sized, decently priced house. We're currently in the 10-year mortgage and are planning to pay it off in two years. Some people I know have bought bigger houses with small down payments and with 30-year mortgage. BUT, in exchange for a larger mortgage payment, we're securing our retirement as well as education for our kids.
I often worry about the long-term future of our family and our financial security as I believe you are mostly on your own. I base all my decisions with long-term in mind not just for us, but also for our kids. This means, I often end up saying no to things that drain money. People often say, 'are you going to take all your money with you when you die?'. When they say this, they are often hinting that I should not pay much attention to long-term and spend what I have on instant gratification.
As you can see, I often do things that are contrary to what many people do. I am fortunate to have a wife who shares my beliefs in a number of things I do. But, we often find ourselves into getting indirect pressures based on what other people we know do. So far, we have resisted these pressures. But, discussing things through takes times and energy. This is where I feel that going against the cultural norms is hard.
America is a great equalizer in my opinion. Regardless of who you are in your home country (rich, poor, politically-connected, or un-connected), when you come here everybody starts off on an equal footing. It gives you an opportunity to start fresh with a blank slate. It is up to you what to make of that opportunity.
America gives you the freedom to chart your own path. I have certainly chosen a path that I think is best suitable for me and family. I think this is what people mean when they say America stands for freedom. It is really about freedom of self-expression, freedom of religion, and freedom to pursue happiness through your own path.
If you are reading this post, you probably hold similar views (or not). Otherwise, you wouldn't be coming to this blog that is mostly focused on stuff that seems boring. Thanks for reading and please let me know your two cents.