For a very long time I believed in collecting my pennies and stashing them away for a rainy day. As the years went by I often found more and more difficult to spend money.
As I waited in the checkout line I wrestled with the decision to spend a few dollars on a sandwich at the local deli. I berated myself with questions like “Why didn’t I pack a lunch?” or “Why didn’t I remember to bring my thermos full of water?”
Every six months I would sit down and review our expenses and balk at my husband as I reviewed the food categories. “How did we spend thousands of dollars on lunches?”
I came up with ways to save. I started packing all of my snacks and drinks. Then moved on to packing leftovers and sandwiches, but after a week or so of following the frugal rules I would fall off the bandwagon.
Now that I stay home with my son I understand why I couldn’t stick with brown bagging it. It is those lunches that I miss more than just about any other aspect of the working day.
Sitting at corner tables in dimly lit restaurants my co-workers and I would complain about management, discuss the latest news and catch up on stories about our boyfriends, husbands, wives and families. I miss the camaraderie and companionship that we shared in those moments.
For the first six years of my career I worked in D.C. My office was within walking distance to a bunch of restaurants and metro accessible to many more. Regardless of the weather my co-workers and I would venture out to grab a bite to eat together.
Since I decided to stay home with my son a lot of people ask me if I miss work. While I don’t miss the hour-by-hour tasks that make up a work day I do miss eating lunch with my co-workers.
I can remember so many specific meals and the people I shared them with. There was the time my 50 year old co-worker told me that I was taking work too seriously. As a 25 year old I wanted to prove my worth and my talent. He told me one day I would have children and leave the working world behind. He said all my desires to ‘be right’ were being wasted, that work wasn’t that important and that once I was gone no would care. He was right on so many counts, but at the time I was to naive to see or understand them.
There was the time my coworker and I talked about her desire to have children, the man she hoped to marry and the dreams she had for their future. She emptied her heart over slices of pizza and it saddens me to know they are now divorced and childless.
Or how about my friend who told me she was coming to terms with the fact that her young son was dying of cancer. I can remember that moment as if I am reliving it right now. As we sat eating tacos on a sunny spring afternoon I wanted to console her, but struggled to find the words to do so.
Those lunches cost me a few dollars here and a few dollars there, but despite long hours, days, weeks and years in the office those lunches are the most memorable.
It’s just another reminder that life is not about saving money. It’s about connecting with the people around you, even when forming those connections means spending a little bit. Those moments may have emptied my pockets, but they certainly filled my soul.