As a child, I wanted everything.
I grew up in Southern New Jersey, an upper middle class town right outside Philadelphia called Cherry Hill. My parents never had any money though and when they got divorced, when I was 10 years old, the money situation became even tighter. My family was dirt poor and broken up.
From then on, whenever I visited a friend (usually with parents who still remained a happy couple) I began to realize all the things I didn’t have. And not just crap like cell phones, great computers, and skateboards, but also basic stuff like a fireplace or a fridge packed with all kinds of treats and beverages. I was never sad about it or even jealous, but I remember telling myself: when I grow, I’m going have these things.
Now, at the ripe age of 26, I find myself in New York City with a solid job and the gift of a disposable income. For whatever reason, to celebrate I guess, here is a list of some things I wanted growing up that I can now afford on my own.
Let’s face it: HBO is incredible. Between the original programming, documentaries, action flicks and incredible iPad app, HBO is pretty much the reason why television was invented. It costs an additional $15 a month on top of your existing $100 cable bill (premium package of course) and that’s just something my parents could not justify growing up with their basic cable. We did have PRISM for a few years, however, due to some screw up by the cable guy when we moved.
2. Super Nintendo
When I was 3 or 4, my grandfather came over with a Nintendo Entertainment System Power Pack. This was the original Nintendo with the Mario/Duck Hunt cartridge and all. The works. I was hooked on Nintendo after that. A few years down the road when my birthday came around, my parents got me a SEGA Genesis. Though a cool system with some really solid titles (Sonic The Hedgehog, Ecco The Dolphin, etc.), it didn’t hold a candle to Super Nintendo. Super Nintendo (SNES) and its games didn’t come cheap but we’re talking about primo titles like F-Zero, Mario Kart and Donkey Kong Country.
The other week I went down to the East Village to a used video game shop and bought one along with a shitload of games just because. Yes, I’m aware emulators and the Nintendo Wii exist. I don’t want that. I wanted a Super Nintendo to call my own and now I have one.
Music has always been a big part of my life growing up. As I’m sure you’re aware, going to a show is not cheap.
Perhaps that’s why I went through a big punk rock phase for a few years in my teens. I played in punk bands and went to punk shows. They were cheap, fun and full of interesting people. There was a real spirit there and you felt alive. Plus bands sold their CDs for like $2 and gave you a free pin on top of it.
While I love plenty of punk rock still, these days I find myself eyeing concerts from the likes of Coldplay, Sleigh Bells, Def Leppard and everyone else in between. Tickets don’t come cheap and it’s not just awesome that I can attend a concert that I want to see, I can also bring a friend or a date and drink $10 beers.
Continuing with the theme of music, it must be said that anybody who plays guitar lusts after various models, types and brands of guitars from yesteryear. My parents got me my first guitar when I was 6 and my first bass at 9. The bass, a gem of a 1993 Fender Precision Bass, I still have, but the guitars have come and gone.
Essentially during my entire teenage years, I had a $100 no-name electric that wouldn’t stay in tune for more than five seconds. When I began earning decent money around 21, I realized: hey, I can go out and buy guitars. And not only that, I can buy FX pedals so I can pretend I sound great while playing guitar.
For awhile, I went apeshit and bought like 10 guitars including a $1500 Rickenbacker 360 Fireburst because I thought I was Johnny Marr from The Smiths. Retarded – I know. I cooled off, got rid of a all but a few. But I’ve been eyeing a particular Fender Aerodyne Telecaster for awhile now and if I want it, I can just go and get it.
As if this wasn’t going to be on the list. Again, with frugal parents, I didn’t get to eat out much. When we did, it was a real treat. Luckily, my mother was a fantastic cook, so it’s not like I was stuck eating Kraft Mac & Cheese every night. These days, if I want steak, I get steak. Craving a Five Guys burger? Make it a combo. Shit, when I hit up an Orange Julius at the mall, I get an extra large.
Without a doubt though, the most rewarding part is the ability to take my parents out to dinner these days. It’s a great way of thanking them for what they were able to do for me back in the day.
Before the Kindle and the iPad, you had to go to a bookstore like Waldenbooks or Borders or Barnes and Noble to buy books in the flesh. While it may seem like I’m being far fetched, remember that you couldn’t go scoring $1 paperbacks on Amazon.com. So when I wanted a book as a kid, I had to save up and buy it. Can you imagine how quickly that adds up? These days you can score deals on Amazon, buy eBooks for $10 or pirate them.
If I wanted the entire set of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series, I’d need to save up a shitload of money. Now, I buy books that I want, when I want them, at a price point I’m comfortable with. The fact that I can buy books for other people is an additional benefit of having a real job and the Internet.
7. The Ability To Give
This isn’t a cheesy charity breakdown. I give to charities here and there and that’s fine. What I’m talking about here is giving to others.
Remember when you were young and your parents told you on your birthday or some Holiday that it is “better to give than to receive.” Id do. And I have to admit 20 years later it feels good. I don’t need anything for my birthday. Want to give me cash or take me out to dinner? Fine. Cool. What feels fantastic is knowing your mother saw a sweater she really likes or that your father wants to check out HBO’s The Wire on DVD and you’re able to run out to the store and get them the gifts they want. Cards with glitter and macaroni are fine when you’re a young buck, but as you get older, you begin to feel like you need to pay your parents back. And now I can.