On one of the podcasts I listen to the host, Isaac Morehouse, was discussing imagination and mentioned one of the exercises he occasionally does is think long and hard about how he would respond to certain events, including receiving a bunch of money. The amount of money varies from experiment to experiment but the important thing is to give it some real though and itemize instead of just saying “Travel” or “Donate to charity”. Those things can happen but getting into the details allows our imagination to flourish, as well as keep us tethered to reality. This type of thinking (particularly thought experiments about how we would respond to bad events) is very Stoic in nature, so it definitely appeals to me.
So, I am going to itemize how I would spend $1,000,000 (tax free) as best I can. I don’t have internet access to look up particulars but hopefully I can really break it down and go into detail about how I would realistically spend that money.
$67,000 – Pay off student loans. Getting out of debt would be my first move. While I feel no particular ethical obligation to pay back my student loans it does make pragmatic sense to do it.
$250,000 – Set up a personal loan account to buy up my friend and families student loans or other debt. We could make repayment agreements where the payments and interest rate are very low. This is a system that would help me so much right now, it isn’t the minimum payments that kill me, it is the interest rates that basically guarantee I’ll have debt hanging over me for decades. I’d be thrilled if someone offered to consolidate my loans and give me a low (or zero) interest rate, I’d even set up a direct deposit so they are sure they would get their money.
$200,000 – This would go into a safe, conservative (though hopefully interest bearing) account to provide for my future. Right now I can maintain the life I have for about $24,000 per year and this amount would keep me going without a need to work for the next 8 years or so. Not a lifetime but it is something.
$125,000 – One time donations to non-profits I support
$25,000 to DanceSafe to expand their harm reduction program
$25,000 to MAPS for their MDMA therapy program
$25,000 to Karma Rescue to help run the No-Kill Shelter in LA that we adopted Higgins from
$25,000 to SSDP for scholarships to help get students to their conferences
$25,000 to Wikipedia
$100,000 – Provide financial support for 2-3 of my friends who are artists and would like to focus on their craft instead of working to make ends meet. This would probably be monthly payments.
$75,000 – Build a “tiny house” to live in.
$30,000 – Buy a used Subaru Outback
$10,000 – Pay for myself, Anna, and some other friends to go to Burning Man
$100,000 – Provide support for people on GoFundMe (and similar crowdsourcing programs).
$75,000 – Those in financial need
$25,000 – Those advancing technology that I support or have cool inventions
$20,000 – Put aside for moving and set-up costs wherever we go after the bike ride
$20,000 – Honeymoon in Iceland (and maybe other Nordic countries)
$3,000 – Personal Purchases
$500 – Get some really sweet home brewing equipment and start brewing more beer
$1250 – A cool gaming computer
$500 – Books
$1,000 – Health stuff (cooking equipment, weights, nootropics, etc)
$750 – MDMA for a year or more
Post Script: This was more difficult than I expected. $1 million is a lot of money and my estimates are probably a bit conservative here. I’d also like to really nail it down and get accurate in the future.
There are many attributes that make up who I am. Some of them are all beyond my control and some I have a bit of control over. I have made decisions in the past that have lead me to where I am today, but much of my past (particularly in my early life) is, for lack of a better term, luck. I was born a white male in the USA to a stable family, that has given me an advantage over many people. I wasn’t born into money, but I also never wondered if I would have a meal or a safe place to sleep. I think it is important to reflect on the ways I am blessed and remember that other people are fighting through life without some of the advantages I have. So, here is a quick list of specific things that I am thankful for, some of them are a product of my choices but some are not.
Teeth – I have healthy teeth. They aren’t particularly straight or white, but I’ve only had one cavity and I have taken pretty shitty care of my teeth. I rarely brushed daily and never flossed until Anna and I moved in together.
Lack of Risk Aversion – I tend to take risks and not really worry about the downside. I don’t act without thinking, but having a bit of a risk involved in quitting my job or going on a bike journey or whatever doesn’t really deter me. I probably would be a business owner like my grandfather if I knew of something I cared enough about to create.
Upbringing – I don’t see eye-to-eye with my parents on much but they were good parents who did their best. They were both around to support my education and personal development. I knew there would be food to eat and a place to sleep, even though sometimes we crammed several kids into a room. It was a loving and stable family.
Immune System – I very rarely get sick. Part of this is genetics and part of it is lifestyle, I try to exercise regularly and eat fairly healthy.
Stoicism – I tend to easily cope with bad situations. Some of this is natural to me but a big part of it is a combination of using MDMA as medicine and practicing ancient stoic techniques.
Network of Friends – Due to growing up in Oregon, joining the Army, going to college in South Carolina, working in DC, living in Los Angeles, and travelling by bicycle I have a vast and diverse network of friends. We don’t always get along but I know that if I need support someone will be there to lend a hand, and I hope they know they can come to me for the same. Having a network that extends beyond a limited geographic region or political/economic/religious/social/racial bubble is something I am incredibly thankful for. I learn so much from having different viewpoints shared on my Facebook wall or in my life.
Late Bloomer – Despite my current thoughts on sex and recreational drug use I was a late bloomer in these areas. I was a virgin until 23 and never even smoked pot until 24. MDMA wasn’t in my life until I was 28. Other drugs like shrooms, LSD, 2-CB, cocaine, ketamine, and 25-I trickled into my life after that. I am incredibly thankful that was the case. I am able to handle my drugs, and introduce myself to new drugs, in a responsible way. I am afraid that I would have made some pretty terrible mistakes if I had encountered drugs or sex in my teens, I was relatively immature socially. That doesn’t mean that I think the abstinence-only scare tactics that were employed against me is the best option, education in all these areas is a far better choice.
Postponing marriage – I had two opportunities to get married before meeting Anna. The first would have been a disaster. The second could have been great but our life goals didn’t match up well. I am really, really happy I waited until I found someone that matched up with me in the important areas (kids, lifestyle, etc) instead of settling for someone. I don’t think people should have long lists of things they need in a partner, but you also shouldn’t give up things that are important to you. If one of you wants kids and the other one doesn’t then it is probably best to break up, there is no middle ground and guilting someone into doing something they don’t want can lead to resentment. The same can apply to desire to travel, importance of money, recreational drug use, etc. Sometimes love isn’t enough and no matter how much two (or more people) love each other their lives are just not going to match up well long term.
Smoking and Addiction – I never really smoked. I used to carry a pack of Marlboro Reds with me when I went out drinking in DC but it never really materialized into an addiction. I don’t seem to be prone to addiction and have very easily stopped something cold turkey when I wanted to, even beer. Smoking seems like the worst habit in the world to me, and as much as I try not to judge I do tend to get a feeling of “eww” anytime I see someone smoking. It just seems to be the opposite of everything I value, but I recognize I am kind of an asshole for having this type of knee-jerk reaction.
No Sweet Tooth – I don’t have a sweet tooth anymore. At some point in my life I just stopped desiring things like soda, candy, and cookies (except when stoned… then I will all the Oreos). Anytime I occasionally want something sweet I can eat on pop-tart or a handful of raisons. I do crave savory things a lot, but even that can be handled with some hummus or French fries.
Meditation is one of those things that I know I need to add to my daily routine but have a lot of trouble with. I am convinced that the benefits are well worth my time but still keep having trouble doing it. I have the time, I just don’t use it wisely. There are plenty of opportunities throughout my day to spend 10 minutes in meditation. Well, starting at 10 minutes, I do hope to work my way up to more. But, alas, I spend too much damn time in the morning and at night staring at my phone or dicking around on Facebook. I need to find a better way to minimize my time on social networks, they produce a lot of value for me but at some point that value is sucked away and I realize I have been just scrolling and “liking” mindlessly for 30 minutes. I use Facebook to stay informed about the world and share articles that I find interesting, but I usually get that done in the first 10 minutes of logging on. Maybe I should limit myself to 15 minutes on Facebook in any given session, and also limit the sessions per day. In addition to my poor use of time, meditation is difficult for me. I can rarely get through one full breath without my mind wandering. I know I shouldn’t be hard on myself, and I know it will get better with practice, but I still get frustrated at times. Oh well, I am going to keep trying.