Inching Closer

14 May

Translation: not all those who wander are lost.

This quote has been buzzing around my brain for the last few weeks.  It’s a fairly well-known quote, and it originates from the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien, specifically from a poem known as Strider’s Riddle.  (Yes, I know the quote is in Elvish.  I provided you a translation.  I’m a nerd.  You should have realized that by now.)  I like this line because it reminds me that even though the path ahead of me is not always clear, as long as I’m moving forward, I’m still making progress.  It’s a hopeful line, and if I were to ever get a tattoo, this would probably be it.  On my ankle, to remind me to keep taking that next step, even if the path is dark.  (If my mom is reading this, there are no immediate plans for a tattoo, as my understanding is that they are still done with needles.)

The interesting part is that this is actually the second line of the poem.  The first line reads, “all that is gold does not glitter.”  That’s a powerful line when you think about it.  The converse of the line, “all that glitters is not gold,” is a popular saying that cautions us to not be fooled by false value.  It’s a good lesson, especially in today’s economy.

But Tolkien chose to say the line backwards- “all that is gold does not glitter.”   Suddenly, rather than telling us to not overestimate something’s worth because of its shininess, Tolkien is cautioning us to not underestimate the value of something plain-looking.  To me, that’s an altogether more important lesson in today’s economy.

We (by which I really mean I) can easily get caught up in the glitter of things.  We want the newest iPad, the nicest car, the clearest television, and the most fashionable clothes.  But unless there’s something more to the want, those things can’t bring happiness.  A brand-new computer may come with an impressive logo, but if it was purchased just so everyone else in the coffeehouse would envy it, it’s not going to make you happy.  It may glitter, but it’s not gold.

On the other hand, if you have a dream to write the next great American novel, a plain but functional laptop can be just what you need (and can afford, if you’re a writer).  The other coffeehouse patrons won’t be impressed by it, but you’ll be doing what makes you happy.  It may not glitter, but it’s still gold.

This is the point I’m trying to hold on to- that the purpose of something matters far more than its appearance.  My car might be 5 years old and have a few scratches, but its purpose is to get me (and my passengers) to and from places safely.  My computer might not have the best graphics card for playing video games, but its purpose is to let me express myself (and earn money.  Self-expression comes after 5 pm).  

I do have nice things: I have a nice TV, a nice cell phone (in a nice protective case, because I tend to drop it.  A lot), more books than I can count, and every few months a nice new pair of shoes.  I appreciate all of these things because 1) I saved and purchased them all myself, and 2) they all have a deeper purpose than just being nice things.  They help keep me connected, learning, and/or properly clothed.

So starting today, I’m going to look for the deeper purposes of things before I decide on their value.  In terms of my financial goal this year, that means taking a closer look at the things I spend money on to be sure they’re worth it.  I’ve talked about it before, but my anxiety disorder makes it hard for me to enjoy social activities.  I’m working on it though, and I’ve found two regular events that do make me happy- bowling with coworkers, and art club.  I’m pretty terrible at both, but so far no one has asked me to leave because I’m dragging down the average skill level.  I also went to an outdoor play (Shakespeare’s The Tempest with a steampunk theme) on Saturday night with some friends, and it was a lot of fun.  I’m not looking to become a social butterfly, but not internally wincing every time I have to spend time among people in the real world is a good start.

I’m also going to try to remember to keep moving forward.  Financially, that means not dwelling on the months when I haven’t hit my ideal student loan payment (which so far has been every month).  Last month I fell $16 short of my ideal payment of $1334.  This month, I’m going to be $5 short.  Sometimes every dollar left feels like a million, and every inch like a mile, but I’m still moving forward.  Inch by inch, that mountain of debt is shrinking.

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What quote(s) inspire you to keep trying to live better?  Are they messages of hope, or love, or fearlessness, or something else?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

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And because I know you were all dying to see the first line written in Elvish script:

“All that is gold does not glitter.” An excellent tool to keep in mind when evaluating people. The converse is useful when evaluating sparkly vampires.

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10 Responses to “Inching Closer”

  1. Filbert May 14, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    Quote: ‘It’s those with the strongest heart that God gives the most challenges to’

    Whether you’re religious or not (which I’m not), this saying is very strong. It reminds me that no matter what happens in life, anyone can be strong enough to overcome every challenge. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a challenge, it would be the end.

    • Losing My Cents May 14, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

      I like this one. It’s very similar to one I hear a lot in times of crisis: God never gives us more than we can handle. It’s the same principle- we can overcome every challenge that comes out way.

  2. Ken May 14, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Keeps me wanting to read more, and explains my constant thirst for knowledge and the fury I feel when I don’t know something that I feel I should. BTW, your blog has become a must read for me on Mondays, it makes me happy.

  3. Alex T. Valencic May 14, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    Love it! This is definitely something my wife and I have talked about as we consider our financial situation and work to decrease our debt without living an ascetic lifestyle.

    The quote I hold onto when the mountain of debt seems insurmountable is this: “Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things happen.” ~Peter Marshall. It applies to a lot of different areas in my life, but constantly reminds me that I have to do something–the right something–if I ever want to see change.

    (By the way, the Elvish script you have at the top says it is an “Elvish CS Lewis quote” in the alt text. Don’t know if you can change that, but I just noticed it.)

    • Losing My Cents May 14, 2012 at 11:34 pm #

      Ha, I just noticed that alt text. It’s the original title of the picture on Google, I think. I saw that they had it labeled as a Lewis quote. It made me laugh, especially since Lewis and Tolkien were friends but would have both likely been highly offended to have their works confused.

      • Filbert May 15, 2012 at 7:22 am #

        Famous story. Apparently CS Lewis was one of the first to read Lord of the Rings before publication. In the pub that the two visited frequently Lewis was heard to say in an annoyed voice ‘oh no, not another damned elf!’ I truly hope this is a true story.

      • Losing My Cents May 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

        I have heard that story too. Also, Tolkien’s comments on The Chronicles of Narnia often resulted in Lewis tearing up entire chapters and starting over. I have to wonder if the bartender knew what literary geniuses he was pouring drinks for.

      • Losing My Cents May 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

        I have fixed the alt text. No more false attributions here!

  4. Robyn May 14, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    I loved a line I saw a while back on a church reader board alongside the road. If you are not happy with what you have now, how is MORE of it going to make you happier? I’m a minimalist – I want the best that I can afford of each thing. I want it to be the best quality that I can afford. I want it to last a long time. But I only want ONE of each thing, and I don’t want many things. What inspires me and keeps me going is my commitment to pay cash for what I get and to never spend more than I can truly afford on something. This has made it possible for me to buy one high quality item, and to be truly happy living with my choice.

    • Losing My Cents May 16, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

      I really like that line. I am not a minimalist (as evidenced by the state of my office..) but I do prefer items that have multiple uses. My PS3 doubles as a DVD/ Blu-Ray player, my TV can double as a computer monitor, my phone can double as an external hard drive, etc. Even my toaster oven has toaster slots on top, haha. It makes for a cleaner look around the house.

      Good for you for always spending cash. It’s really the ultimate budget controller isn’t it? When you run out of cash, there’s not much you can do about it but wait until more cash comes in.

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