“What do you make?”

I met with our financial advisor on Tuesday. I had avoided her for two years–not easy to do, given that we live in the same town–but I was successful in leaving my job, launching a business, and returning to another institutional position without ever looking her in the eye.

I told the story quickly: “Family needs–big dreams–generous friends–life-saving surgery–remembered I like having money to pay all my bills and, lucky for me, I like working for institutions too!” She high-fived me at the mortgage-only debt we boast, and she suggested a few creative ways to develop a more robust emergency fund for the future. We assured one another there would be no emergencies, of course–that was so last year. And then she asked how I feel about what I make in light of the cost of living in our area, the relative wealth of our neighbors, and my own historic earnings.

With two part-time jobs, I earn about what I did at the age of 25. Ouch. I am far more personally and professionally capable than I was then, and I believe my influence is significant in both settings where I work, but I have become fairly adept at avoiding the “What do you make?” conversation.

The truth is, I make so much more than what you’ll see on my W2. For starters:

  • make a difference. The focus of both my part-time jobs and all my volunteer work is peace and justice, the both-and prospect of a more loving future.
  • make music and art with the time I have carved out for being with creative people in my community.
  • make people cry (in a good way) and feel again and want to be better people….at least this is what one church member said when she walked out of worship last Sunday.
  • make friends who challenge me to be a better person–and through them and because of them, I am.
  • make lunch and dinner most days, avoiding the trap of family dinner by restaurant or drive-thru. When we manage to be together at the table, we say a simple grace, play “question of the night,” and fill our gratitude jar with post-it notes about all the good we’ve witnessed that day.
  • make my health a priority, regularly consulting with doctors and specialists on how best to live long and well on this earth.
  • make the tip-off at almost every basketball game. Both my kids play, and cheering them on as they live their dreams is my first and finest call.
  • make love to the one and only person who has shared my bed for almost twenty years. (Insert children’s eye-rolling here.) I am wildly in love with my husband, a love that we choose and nurture every day. We have taken turns making our family a personal priority. Both of us have taken stop-outs from work to raise our kids while the other raises our income. This give and take has shaped us to be complementary forces in this game of life and love, and I would not have it any other way.
  • make sure I can sleep at night. I engage in ethical work for ethical organizations. Despite the size of my paychecks, I give money and time on a weekly basis to organizations and people I believe are part of the better nature of our world–and I make sure I remember that I live with abundance, wealth, and privilege.

How do I feel about what I make? I’m so glad you asked.

And you? How do you feel about *all* you make? Ask a bigger question, get a better answer.

© 2015 Jennifer L. Sanborn. All Rights Reserved.

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