When I was a little girl, my grandparents used to clean a Chinese restaurant at night called The Rickshaw. It was hard work and often a thankless job, but like clockwork every day at closing my grandparents would arrive, cleaning supplies in hand. They had their routine down to a science, so a five year old in tow would make little difference. I would gleefully tag along and eat fortune cookies until I was sick. The mysterious psychic cookies came in a giant box with plastic wrap that seemed to never end. Cracking them open, I would eat one half first before reading the fortune inside and finishing the final half. This is the only true way to eat a fortune cookie, otherwise your fortune will never come true you see. This is something I was taught as a child from my grandparents. I was meticulous about the art of eating a fortune cookie in the correct manner, I wanted all my fortunes to come true. I used to save my favorite ones in my wallet, waiting until the day they came to fruition. Looking back on it, I wonder sometimes if it had more to do with my lifelong anxiety then it did with my childlike awe. Either way, the memory brings a smile to my face.
After I’d eaten myself sick with fortune cookies, I would begin my treasure hunt for the night. My grandmother would present me with a brand new purse, while filling my head with stories of all of the money others had found in the weeks prior. I was full of anticipation and excitement just thinking of all the wonderful things I could spend my treasure on. Sticking my little fingers in each pay phone change return, shaking the vending machines for any lost change and searching the restaurant booth cushions were among some of my favorite treasure hunting rituals. It seemed that the treasures of The Rickshaw were never ending over the years. It wasn’t until I was about 9 years old that I finally caught my grandparents cleverly dropping change out of their pockets while they vacuumed and scrubbed. Imagine, my grandparents using their elbow grease just to make ends meet and here they are dropping $25 and even $50 worth of change for their granddaughter. In that moment, my world changed. There wasn’t a magical money fairy leaving me treasure or careless restaurant visitors dropping dollars in between the cushions. There was only my grandparents, creating the most amazing memories for their granddaughter, quite literally at their own expense.
This memory, this moment in time would shape how I looked at the world for the rest of my life. It wasn’t the thrill of spending the money that I loved, it was the excitement I shared with my grandparents with each and every dime I’d found. It was the stories and the hand holding and the fortune cookies. The ache in my tummy and the longing for each and every fortune to come true. My grandparents taught me how to dream. They taught me how important an experience can be in our lives and that in the end, it’s all you can take with you. Sure, the new car, the house, the clothes might bring you joy for a moment, but an experience, a memory will last you a lifetime. It might even change the way you choose to live your life, it might even change you as a person all together. My grandparents didn’t travel much in their youth, not as much as my grandmother would have liked. I didn’t know this about her until very late in her life, just before she passed. It was the last conversation that I had with her. On my grandmother’s last birthday, I asked “Grams, is there anything you would change about your life, if you had to do it all again?”. My grandmother didn’t miss a beat when she replied “I would travel more, I would see the world”.
She didn’t say she would have bought a bigger house or a nicer car. She didn’t say she wanted a better career or a more successful life, she said she wanted to see the world. Something that cannot be measured by the standards of society and what we’ve been taught to value over the years. People operate out of fear in their lives. Fear of what others might think, fear of what will happen or will not happen, fear of loosing everything or loosing the false image of who they are. What the hell are we all so damn afraid of? Are we in denial that this will go on for eternity, that time is not running out? We’ve been given this gift, this incredibly short amount of time to experience as much as possible. We need to get dirty, we need to get hurt and make mistakes. We should live fully, live like we’re aware of the fact that this will all come to a deadly end, perhaps when we least expect it. Lets stop taking this whole thing so seriously and remember that we take none of this with us. Just because we’ve been conditioned to live our lives in a certain way, doesn’t make it the right way. No one has a hand book of the path our lives are supposed to take. Stop painting yourself in the image that the world has told you to. Change your mind, it really is that easy.
Spend your treasure on experiences, it’s the best investment you’ll ever make.