Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankfulness Part I: My Parents

Anyone that reads this blog recognizes pretty quickly that I'm a very nostalgic person. I like to look back at the past, remember the good times, and consider what got me to where I am today. I'm thankful for a few things in particular this year, so let me share them with you in a few different parts.

First, let me talk about the way my parents raised me and how that's effected who I've become. I'm so thankful for a family that's loved me and the way my parents raised us, which taught me a few things that I've come to appreciate quite a bit lately:

Being Stewards of Money: My parents raised 4 kids almost entirely on one income, including sending all of us to college. To do this, naturally, they were frugal. They knew the value of a dollar and made sure we did, too. We never had a new TV or car. My parents never bought me name brand clothing. We never had an allowance, but, instead, did chores because we were part of the family that needed these chores completed.

We shopped at thrift stores, used coupons, bought only what we needed, and learned that things we didn't need were unnecessary to own. As a result, I live a pretty simple life. I spend money on things like music and time spent with friends instead of technology or cars. When I moved across the country, everything I needed fit in a 2-door Honda Civic. I thought about buying a newer, more spacious car recently, but why? I am only driving myself around 95% of the time and do I really want to give myself the option of owning more than can fit in that coupe?

In the end, I have more to give to those who don't. Saving a dollar or two by having friends over for dinner and drinks instead of going out or making coffee in the office instead of going to a coffeeshop are concepts that my parents taught me that have saved me thousands of dollars over the years. For this, I'm thankful.

Being Stewards of Resources: In the same vein, my folks taught me to be a steward of our resources. Things like reducing the amount of water, paper, and other things have been commonplace in the Nelko house. We were recycling since the early days of America's interest. I recall my mother using cloth grocery bags LONG before I'd heard of anyone else consistently doing so. My parents helped me to fit in to the Pacific Northwest culture of using reusable water bottles and reusable grocery bags. Things never went to waste, like food. There are people without, so we need to be thankful for what we have.

Being an Outlier: I've always been an outlier. My siblings are 12, 15, and 16 years older than me, so I grew up often feeling like an only child, in between my siblings bringing me to mini golf or wrestling matches with their friends. This upbringing made it easier for me to feel comfortable as an individual because my parents raised me that way. They knew I had potential, though, so in Outlier form, my parents always encouraged me to study hard, practice sports and music hard, and get outside to enjoy what we had. While my friends were playing video games or watching TV far more than I was, I was building with Erector sets, playing basketball in the driveway, or practicing piano. These practices helped me to be an all-around individual with skills in all of these things that I'm thankful for.

This isn't a bad thing by any stretch. I've always liked being different and standing out from a crowd. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I loved that I was in the minority of folks with a beard, flannel, glasses, and an affinity for indie music. When I came out here to Seattle, I realized everyone had that same style! How boring. It's a neverending battle of pretension as people argue about quality of coffee, beer, food, movies, music, and whatever else is of little actual consequence. It gets old, but makes it easier for me to drink my McCafe in confidence (saving that money at only a dollar).