Beth Meadows


Money, Part 2: Retirement Living

Beth MeadowsComment

I will never retire.

Well, maybe...

We all daydream about what life will be like "on down the road," but I realized something a little surprising recently.

When I envision my future, I always see myself working in some capacity. Read in between the lines and what this means is that I don't see myself ever really retiring. 

THE VISION: One day, I shall have long gray hair, be dressed very smartly, working around younger, kind and talented people. I think of Grace Coddington or Iris Apfel as my older female role models.

I will own a business (or two) and make artwork, jewelry, and design clothes. I will sew impeccably, and the spaces in which I live and work will be bright, white, and clean, the atmosphere calm.

I'll probably wear a lot of Eileen Fisher.

Not only is it fun to imagine what the future will be like, it's also really valuable in terms of right now.

If you really believe you'll never retire, it motivates you to think about life right now more day-to-day. This is a good thing for my anxious heart that resides in our fear-mongering society. Just think about all of the insurance packages one person needs to buy (so they say). Health, car, house, flood, earthquake, business, general liability, business, phone, computer... Geez, Louise!

Don't get me wrong. It's very wise to plan for the future, but the fear of the unknown can really suck the joy out of today for most people. And for me (Artist on Tight Budget), it only incites terror because I'm not able to save as much as I "should." 

I subconsciously decided a long time ago that instead of working non-stop to save up or putting things off until "life slows down," I live today, right now, doing and supporting as many of the things (people, places) that I value. How I live today is how I want to live when I'm old. There's nothing virtuous about this- and I'm not saying it's for everyone- but it helps a person with sensibilities such as myself sleep better at night. 

And really when I say day-to-day, I mean week-to-week. I've learned it's more manageable to view doing all you want seven days at a time. So on top of paying bills and surviving as an adult, which is a full-time job in and of itself, here are a few things I make a point to accomplish or do each week, if not everyday:

  • cook meals for myself
  • talk to my family on the phone (because they are far away)
  • make plans with friends that don't just involve going to a bar or eating (two things I LOVE with all my heart BUT typically aren't memorable)
  • exercise outside: walk, hike, run 
  • write
  • make artwork
  • spend time on a hobby (currently sewing)
  • plan small trips and vacations
  • read
  • sit still
  • do nothing
  • stare into space
  • hold and pet cat (all day, every day)

This way of life changes everything. It transforms "what we are supposed to do" on its head. Retirement then is no longer this big thing that we wait for, that takes away from living a fulfilling life right now. It's also not something we need to stress out about if we're unable to save a lot right now.

If I'm saving a little each month and living each week well (working, playing, resting), I can live this way until I die, right? 

It may not be a full proof plan. Life is full of unknowns and I really know nothing about how adulthood works (so maybe don't listen to me), but this realization does at the very least help me worry less, which is good when your main pursuit in life is as fickle as Art, God bless it.

I don't know if things will pan out how I'd like them to, but I now view the time and energy I spend in my studio as an investment toward that long gray haired vision I wrote about above. This helps me worry less about living unconventionally- the up and down life of an artist with no benefits package protecting me from all of life's potential harms.

While we wait to see if the visions of our future selves pan out, let us retire to our porch swings, drink in hand, to stare at the light through the leaves, the fluffy neighborhood cats playing/fighting, the people passing by. Make your future old lady or man self proud. Cheers.


Money, Part 1: Show Me the Money

Beth Meadows1 Comment

I spend a lot of time looking at glossy magazines and Instagram accounts of supermodels and fashion designers because this is what I make artwork about. Every now and then I ask myself if I shouldn't pick a different subject matter for the sake of my emotional and mental well-being. If someone were to ask (no one has) I would tend to say that most women should NOT look at supermodels' Instagram accounts on the regular. But I do, and it's stirred up an interesting mix of emotions within me. 

Since college, I've prided myself on being thrifty. Literally, I've mostly bought clothes from thrift stores. I love second hand things, giving them a new life. You may know that I even created and ran a shop that helped people recycle home decor and building materials for five years. I have been the happy recipient of probably thousands of dollars worth of food and items that others didn't want (I would love to know that number by the way- the monetary value of all the things I've received for free).

I've never had cable, and I didn't have the internet for a long time. I never cared how much anyone I dated made. I never had a job that paid particularly well. I was just so NOT materialistic, guys.

Then I started to become fascinated with fashion and design, and it didn't take me long to realize that I was in fact SUPER materialistic but just too broke to do anything about it. My virtuous way of life was shattered, and I didn't even get to have the leather purses or gold jewelry to ease my pain. 

I've been studying the fashion industry for several years now, and it was the gateway drug that led me to to pop music, rap, then country (?!?) I had never before allowed myself to be immersed in this culture. Deep down I knew I had liked it all along, but I had friends that wouldn't approve and so I snubbed my nose at it, too.

Today, I happily scroll through Justin Bieber's Instagram and see all of the exotic places he travels, the decadent and outlandish clothes he wears. It's like a needle to my vain. 

At the same time, I currently have a job that allows me time to listen to podcasts, and so I've been listening like crazy. Several times recently, I've heard famous people talk about the lack of happiness at the top- Money truly doesn't buy you happiness.

You know I know this. I do. Everyone does, right?

I'm currently working on many internal things in my life I've long neglected which is helping with so much of the external, how I relate to the world. I'm drawing closer to friends and family in a way that I never have. I'm taking care of myself better than ever and would go so far to say that looking at fashion magazines has actually helped me care for myself better in a lot of ways. I'm making goals for myself and working toward them. I'm becoming more disciplined and engaged so that I can live a life I'm proud of. The past is still being dealt with and the present isn't perfect, but I'm pretty sure one could call me content. It's new and good. 

But... BUT...

There is a part of my heart that is encrusted in diamonds and gilded with gold and it wants every pretty thing. For whatever reason (I blame my swank lineage) I have champagne taste, but I don't even have a beer budget*. I barely have a coffee budget. 

There are times, many times, I just really want to have so much money I don't know what to do with myself. If we admit we're materialistic, isn't that the dream? I don't want anyone to tell me that it's lonely at the top. I want to know it for myself. I want to make so much money that I can book that $10,0000 a night penthouse Airbnb. Like freakin' Beyonce. (Don't worry, I'll invite you all) I want to love everything I put on because it's beautifully designed and tailored. I'm not satisfied with rich celebrities merely telling me this lifestyle can't buy happiness. I want to know that it can't. Just for, let's say, a year. Send me on this mission so that I can tell the world money can't buy happiness. I'll gladly do it. 

And then I'll happily go back to my cable-free, quarry swimming East Tennessee life. 


*My grandfather told me once, "You can't have champagne taste on a beer budget." I think he knew I'd struggle with this one.