One Thousand Minutes in One Hundred Days (or How Bloggers and Journalists Are Lying To You About Meditation)

“The thing about the absolute truth is, it’s not pretty, and not everyone is interested in it. But it’s still the truth.” – Mike Skinner

Afternoon, everybody!

Meditation100DayStreakOn Saturday I finished up a streak of 100 days of mindfulness meditation. Thank you, I’m impressed too. It’s rare I do anything for 100 days straight, except maybe eat. But even that I forget about some days. As it is, my history with meditation has been long and full of failure.

I bought my first book on meditation when I was 18 and attempted to get into the habit for the next 16 years. It never lasted more than about a month.

Until now.

After reading 10% Happier and listening to Waking Up I decided to challenge myself to meditate for 100 days for an average of 10 minutes per day. I started with just 5 minutes per day to make it easier.

I wanted to do it consistently to the best of my abilities, but I had no expectations. Although I guess I probably did hope it would help with all the general things it has been reported to help with or I’d not have bothered. I mean 1,000 minutes is nearly 17 hours. That’s 2 seasons of Cheers!

The (Incomplete, Flawed) Research On The Benefits of Meditation

There is a lot of research regarding the supposed benefits of meditation, but if you learn even just the basics of how to read a scientific paper you quickly learn which research to pay attention to (not a whole lot really) and which research needs more research (most of it).

I’m not going to dissect every research paper on meditation because I have important things to do like catch up on all that Cheers I missed out on, but let’s dissect just one, for education’s sake.

I’ve often heard that regular meditation creates actual physical changes in the brain’s gray matter, making it more dense. That would be incredible! (Although I’m already pretty dense as it is so maybe I shouldn’t get so excited.)

But let’s hold on a second and take a look at the study in question.

According to the abstract — red flag! most bloggers and journalists only read and report on abstracts and that’s no good — what they did was take 16 healthy individuals who wanted to take an 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. They measured these individuals before and after the program using voxel-based morphometry. (I don’t know what that is either, but that’s actually not important in determining if the study is done well.) They also measured a control group of 17 individuals.

Hopefully you see another red flag.

A total sample size of 33 individuals is, for statistical intents and purposes, nothing. You’ll be happy to know the researchers were up front about this if you read the full paper instead of just the abstract. See, most scientists mostly have an interest in truth. Journalists and bloggers (and podcasters and authors and TV presenters) have an interest in increasing their audiences and bank accounts, even if it means lying. Intentional or not. Ignorance is not a good excuse.

Beyond sample size, if you read the paper you also learn that two people dropped out of the study after one week.

“Due to discomforts during the first MRI scanning session, two participants did not return for the second session.”

That’s not a big deal in this particular case, because they’re not trying to hide the drop out rate, but drop out rates can matter a lot. It’s an easy way for a researcher to massage the results and make them more positive, but that’s a whole other essay. (Google “p hacking” if you’re interested.)

Additionally, this group of subjects was self-selected. And they got a discount on the MBSR course to participate in the study. A group of subjects that is self-selected is usually not as good as a group of randomly selected individuals although for a study using MRI I don’t think it’s as big a problem. Somebody who understands and works with MRI would be better equipped to speak to this.

If this is confusing or convoluted you now see why if you care about your health it’s your duty to go beyond the headlines when you hear news that says anything to the effect of “Science confirms …” or “Science says …” or “backed by science!” It’s usually not an absolute even if it’s reported as such by your favorite A-list bloggers, journalists, or authors.

Happily, and I think you’ll find this often, in the Discussion section of the paper the researchers here are up front about the faults of their study:

“It should be noted also that MBSR is a multifaceted group program and some positive effects may result from components not specific to meditation or mindfulness, such as group social interaction, stress education, or gentle stretching exercises.”

“Also, the current study investigated physician- and self-referred individuals seeking stress reduction and generalizations should therefore be limited to this population of stress individuals. Future studies will be required to test whether findings extend to non-stressed individuals as well as individuals suffering from mental disorders. Finally, the current study employed a rather small sample size and replication is necessary.”

Emphasis mine.

This is why I love science.

These researchers are so honest THEY DON’T EVEN TRUST THEIR OWN STUDY!

That doesn’t make for a good headline on Buzzfeed or HuffPo or [insert most bloggers who report on science] so it’s up to you to read the often confusing research papers before making a decision based on a well written or well marketed article.

You might be thinking, “OK, Karol, so maybe meditation increasing gray matter density is inconclusive, but I’ve heard it works for depression and other psychological issues. What about that?”

There is no doubt lots of research to this effect. One of the best ways to look at it is through a meta-analysis, which is an analysis of the analysis. In other words, researchers don’t take just one study, but they take all the studies that fit their criteria and come to a conclusion based on a bigger sample size.

Anything like this with regards to meditation? Glad you asked. Yes, yes there is: Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits. A meta-analysis

I do have the full paper, but it’s not necessary in this case because fortunately, the abstract is telling (emphasis mine): “Although derived from a relatively small number of studies, these results suggest that MBSR may help a broad range of individuals to cope with their clinical and nonclinical problems.”

Although not ideal you can sometimes use an abstract to dismiss a paper. You can almost never use the same abstract to determine if the paper should be accepted as fact.

Relatively small? Suggest? May help? Pardon me if I say that’s not convincing. It’s like the first time Sam tells Diane, “I love you,” because Diane bought him tickets to the big fight. You think maybe it is true and it does seem true, but even Sam’s not convinced. But hey, now we’re going a little off the rails, aren’t we?

“It’s good to stay true to your own vision. Even, or maybe especially, when that vision is that you know your life is going substantially off the rails, and you’re determined to try to present that situation in an honest way.” – Mike Skinner

That quote has absolutely nothing to do with meditation, Cheers, or scientific research, but it sure does have the phrase “off the rails” in it and that’s good enough for me.

Have I lost you yet? No? Ehh, win some lose some.

So … what happened after my own stint of 100 days and 1,000 minutes of meditation?

Well, before we get to that, lately:

  • I haven’t been sleeping well. As a result I’m tired most days and …
  • I’m more stressed than before. As a result I’m frazzled and …
  • I’m less focused than before. As a result …
  • I haven’t been getting any good work or reading done. (Didn’t finish a single book in June, which is not normal.) As a result …
  • I’m less happy than before. As a result …
  • I sleep worse than before, I’m more stressed than before, I’m less focused than before, and I’m less happy than before. And so on.

Now, insomnia is nothing new for me and I’m not blaming meditation for any of this. It very well could be due to life changes. I got married — my wife actually joined me in meditation for most of my last 50 days — and our future is held up in annoying bureaucracy. That hasn’t been easy for me to deal with because although I’m okay dealing with change I’m not good at dealing with being forced into things. Top that off with all of the uncertainty (6 more months until we can move? 12 months? Longer? I don’t care how long it takes anymore, but I’d like to know.) and I’m enjoying Poland less as I feel more trapped here.

Again, I am not blaming meditation for these issues.

But meditation has not helped. I don’t feel less stressed after a meditation session. I don’t feel more calm after a meditation session. I don’t feel more focused after a meditation session. I don’t feel much of anything after a meditation session except, “Oh, cool, well, I meditated.” So what’s the point? If it’s not making my life better then it’s making my life worse if for no other reason than by wasting my time.

Yesterday, the first full day after my meditation streak ended, was one of my most relaxed feeling days in weeks. I actually think I may have been starting to get a sort of meditation anxiety and it was a relief to know I wouldn’t be meditating at any point in the day.

Before you think I’m being unreasonable, much like the research dissected above cannot be taken as a definitive positive statement on the benefits of meditation, you also cannot take my anecdotes as a blanket statement that meditation is useless. It has been useless for me. Sample size of Karol Gajda.

If it comes out that there is definitive research that meditation is beneficial even when it doesn’t seem like it then I will consider doing it again. Until that time, well, after 16 years of fits and starts I can finally say I gave it a good shot and it’s time to move on to not giving meditation much thought. (Is that a pun? I can’t tell. My sleep deprived brain is broken.) It also leaves more time for Cheers. I’m happier already.

If you are interested in meditation there are a few things I learned about it during my 1,000 minutes sitting in silence.

Contrary to what it might seem I didn’t hate meditating and I didn’t decide I was going to stop until last week when I looked more closely at the research. Even though I wasn’t getting anything out of meditating I was committed to keep doing it if the science was in its favor. Alas, that’s not the case.

If nothing else, it was interesting to learn …

  1. It’s incredibly difficult — nay, impossible — to shut off your thoughts.
  2. You will not be able to focus on your breath for more than a few seconds at a time.
  3. Some days your time spent in silence will go by quickly. This is enjoyable.
  4. Some days it will feel like you are at war with your thoughts and 10 minutes will seem like 30. This is exhausting.
  5. Don’t scratch the itch. Focus on it. It will go away. (I quite liked this.)

An aside: Think god gave you free will? Sit in silence and don’t let your thoughts wander for 10 minutes. If you can’t control your own thoughts, what else can’t you control?

If after some time meditation isn’t doing anything for you then quit. No regrets. Maybe you, like me, are one of the many people meditation doesn’t help and that 10-20 minutes per day could be better used reading a book or engaging in myriad other activities. (*ahem* Cheers)

I would like to end on a positive note, because that feels nice, you know? So, on the positive side I’d always planned on doing a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat at some point and this experience has saved 10 whole days of my life from that torture. Huzzah!

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Do you meditate? What has been your experience?

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Update: Lots of great comments (here and on Reddit) and e-mails about meditation and science journalism over the past 24 hours. I’ve run into some doxastic openness and, unfortunately, some intense doxastic closure as well. But that was to be expected. In general, I’ve been feeling great since stopping the meditation. But I’m also more open to trying it again at some point in the future. Longer sessions, but without the “must do it daily” requirement. And maybe with a teacher in the beginning. For now? I’ll stick to other activities.

How To Marry A Non-US Citizen and Move To The United States (Part 1: Frustrations With Form I-130)

There isn’t a whole lot of help on a niche topic such as this, except maybe from an immigration attorney or from message boards full of people complaining. I’d rather not waste money on something I can surely figure out on my own (or by consulting friends who have gone through similar challenges). And I prefer not to read the whining on message boards since I have enough whining to do on my own.

As a US citizen not currently living in the US the process of marrying a non-US citizen (specifically a Polish citizen) and moving to the United States is complicated, confusing, frustrating, and generally anger-inducing. Hopefully this will help others who are in a similar situation, if for no other reason than to commiserate. And hopefully this doesn’t mess up my and my wife’s lives in the process. Meaning, I hope when all is said and done we’ll both be allowed to live happily ever after in the US.

I will try my darndest to keep emotions out of this and stick to the facts. But I know that’s difficult so you will probably see anger and irrationality seep out on occasion.

My thoughts right now

I feel like a criminal. Guilty until I prove otherwise.

You fell in love in a foreign country and got married? Ha! Well, let’s see if your love can withstand all the hoops we’re going to have you jump through. I hope you’re wearing comfortable shoes and a cool temper because these hoops are on fire.

OK, I’m being hyperbolic. But it’s not completely off base. Onwards …

USCIS01

I want nothing more than to move back to the United States with my wife. I’ve been traveling or living overseas since 2009 and I’m tired of it. I’ve been living in Poland since 2012 and it’s time to move on. But before moving on I needed to figure out how to bring the love of my life with me. I thought it was going to be quick and easy.

My wife and I had been dating for nearly 3 years and I decided last year I was going to propose to her on Pi Day 2015, a geek’s favorite US “holiday,” March 14, 2015. It was a special once per 100 years Pi Day, 3.1415, and I wanted to make it more special. I like themes and got her an infinity engagement ring to keep things going on theme. I also hand-made an engagement ring box out of curly makore. That’s not on theme, but it turned out quite nice and I like making stuff.

After hearing a few horror stories about getting denied a fiancée visa to the US my wife and I decided to get married in Poland. This way there could be no fiancée visa denial with the accompanying time delay. We wanted to get married in the US, but so it goes sometimes. Thankfully my wife is good at going with the flow so we went to the courthouse and scheduled a civil ceremony in short order. There was no real wedding party although my Parents took two weeks off, flew to Poland and we got together with the extended families for a small 4 hour celebration. Truth be told neither of us like parties so that worked out OK.

But if you read into that you can probably tell I’m not completely happy that we felt forced into the decision to get married in Poland. But so it goes. Whatever made it easiest (or so we thought) to move to the US.

You might be thinking, “well, why didn’t your wife just visit the US on a tourist visa and get married to you while visiting?” First, because that’s not legal. Second, because my wife is educated (Master’s in Econometrics) and wants to work (and currently works at a large multinational you have heard of). If we had gotten married on a tourist visa — and many people do — she wouldn’t be able to work for a long time. So, as much as we want to live in the US, we’re also not going to do something stupid. (Thankfully, I’ve been working online for the past 15 years so I have some freedom and can stay in Poland for however long it takes.)

And we do want to live in the US. My English-speaking wife hasn’t been yet, but I love it in the US. Sure, it has its problems. But I feel like, more than anywhere else, these problems are solvable. I know that’s my bias shining through, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m happy I grew up in the US and would love to be able to live there again and use it as our homebase. But I feel stuck in Poland. In no small part due to (read that as: 100% due to) a frustrating and confusing US immigration process for spouses of US Citizens. Particularly for spouses who are Polish citizens (my wife) and couples who got married in Poland (my wife and I).

Can I point out again that I am a US Citizen? I feel like I should make that stunningly clear.

As a US citizen I am allowed to live in the USA without any issues, of course. As a US citizen I am not allowed to bring my wife to live with me in the USA without a multitude of issues.

I obviously understand that there needs to be some kind of process to move a US citizen’s foreign spouse into the country. But you’re going to have a hard time convincing me the current process is the best, or anywhere near good. It’s terrible, demoralizing, time consuming, and expensive. If you don’t mind spending an unknown amount of time apart from your spouse the process is fine. Still terrible, but fine. It’s easier to handle all of this stuff if the US citizen is in the US.

How time consuming is this process?

Well, nobody knows. Maybe 6 months. Maybe 2 years. Maybe somewhere in between. Maybe never?

And how expensive?

The fee to file Form I-130, Petition For Alien Relative is currently $420. Don’t worry, it’s going to cost more than that since this is just the first form. But I don’t mind the fee(s). What I have a problem with is the uncertain (and long) time frame, and how to even pay the fee in the first place. To wit: “Bank drafts, cashier’s checks, certified checks, personal checks (See Check Instructions below), and money orders must be drawn on U.S. financial institutions and payable in U.S. funds.

As a US Citizen living in Poland I must file with the USCIS (United States Department of Immigration Services) Chicago Lockbox facility. Let me repeat that. I am living in Poland. I must file Form I-130 in Chicago, Illinois, USA. I cannot go to the US Consulate or Embassy in Poland or in any other European country (Poland is in the European Union). And there is no online or phone payment option. Can you figure out how to pay $420 in US Currency while not living in the US while simultaneously using a US bank? Me neither. Confusing and anger inducing already, and we haven’t even begun the process.

I do have US bank accounts of course. And they do have bill pay type check writing services. But there is no way to get one of those checks sent to me for me to include with Form I-130 so that’s not a good option. And I don’t have any normal checks from any of my banks. (Who uses checks anymore anyway?)

When I got to the bottom of filling out Form I-130 there was a possible solution. Section F: Signature of person preparing this form, if other than petitioner.

I am obviously the petitioner since I am petitioning for my wife’s entry to the US. But it seems I can have somebody in the US complete the form for me. Can this be? So my plan is now to send a completed form (or the information to complete the form) to my Dad (also obviously a US Citizen) and have him sign it and pay the fee. Hopefully this will not be a waste of $420, but as of this moment it seems it’s the only viable option. It does worry me to no end that this will mess everything up, but I don’t see any other good options.

Other forms that need to be filed with Form I-130

– 2 copies (one for you, one for your spouse) of Form G-325A, Biographic Information. Interestingly, it asks for an Alien Registration Number which, of course, your spouse will not have yet since he/she is not a permanent resident as of yet. Figure that one out and you get a cookie.

Form G-1145 if you want to get an e-mail or text message when your Form I-130 has been accepted. Yes, yes, I do. It’s the only logical, rational, intelligent aspect of this process so far.

Now that I have a headache and am sufficiently depressed I’ll stop here.

In Part 2 I’ll cover Form I-129f, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). What? Another petition? Yes, Form I-130 establishes the spousal relationship and Form I-129f petitions for a visa for said spouse (or fiancée). The fee for this form is $340, but I don’t think I have to pay that. Coming soon …

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Update: I sent the Form I-130 as well as accompanying forms to my Parents which took a few weeks. They got a money order for me and mailed everything to the Chicago Lockbox Facility. A few days later I received confirmation that the form was accepted and forwarded to another department. 5 days later we received Form I-797C, Notice of Action. Now we take that form and file I-129F (no fees required for K-3 visas). So far it has gone surprisingly quickly, but the longest and most grueling parts of this process are still ahead.

“Besides the obvious luxuries what do you fantasize about when you imagine being super rich?”

This question was posed on Reddit recently and the responses are … interesting.

I wanted to go through the popular comments (those with 1,000+ upvotes) and offer up why or how some of these luxuries are obtainable without being rich.

But first, my answer.

I don’t fantasize about “obvious” luxuries anymore. Maybe that’s because there was a time when I did and when I finally got those luxuries it wasn’t luxurious. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t “rich.” I just had more money than I knew what to do with (the year I was 24 I earned ~$300k USD) and I didn’t have good examples of people doing smart things with money. That’s a lie since my Parents were a great example, but they were/are also more traditional than I am and I didn’t want to follow their lead. Although some of their advice was to buy a house, which was bad advice for me, and I listened to it. Basically, I was kind of your typical “young and dumb” guy who wanted to be rich and own stuff I didn’t really want. It wasn’t until I made friends with people who didn’t have a lot of money, but did a lot of traveling and other fun things, that I began learning how to live a better life. Luxurious in a different way. And not expensive by any stretch.

Also, for the record, I wasted nearly all the money I made in my 20s. Although I was smart enough to seed a 401k and other retirement accounts which will suit me well in 30 years.

OK, so that’s a bit of a cop out answer, isn’t it? So here’s my direct answer: if money was of absolutely no concern I wouldn’t spend any time figuring out how to pay for my sometimes wacky ideas (Roller Coaster Tour, for example). I would also buy a large piece of land and build a camp for friends/family to use. I’m actively trying to make this happen right now, and there are many hurdles. Mostly the cost of nice land and getting other people on board since I can’t bankroll it all myself. (Also, I’m currently not in the US which throws another kink in the situation.) This is still kind of a non-answer because I still do the things I want to do: travel, read, think, build things when I can, take lots of time for myself. All being rich does is solve the money problem. But solving the money problem is part of the journey of doing fun things and I don’t know that I’d appreciate life if that problem wasn’t there. (I readily admit this may just be a rationalization.)

So, onto Reddit. There were lots of answers to this question as it was quite a popular thread. Let’s get to it.

The luxury of time

This one is pretty simple. Not easy, but simple.

  • Get out of debt.
  • Stop spending time and money on wants.
  • Save more.
  • Earn more.

These can be done concurrently.

Why does this give you the luxury of time?

Because when you’re not in debt you’re not forced to work more than you want to. When you stop spending time and money on wants (as opposed to needs) you have more time and money for yourself. And when you save money you can pay people to take care of the needs (cleaning your home and cooking, for example) that you don’t enjoy doing or you feel are a waste of your time.

Earning more is actually optional at this point. Though if you earn more it can obviously expedite your buying of time.

Traveling where I want when I want. Being able to just jump on a plane go somewhere without plans and just get a hotel without reservations.

I get this. This is almost my idea of absolute freedom. Except that I’ve travelled like this and wouldn’t like it full time. I suspect you wouldn’t either. I do like this style of travel every once in a while because it’s incredibly fun. So, again, I get this. (Actually, our honeymoon was, “Let’s go to the train station and take the next train leaving to somewhere we’ve never been.” I live in Poland right now and we have an extensive rail network.)

Here is how you can make this happen, although it has limits and I admit that. By doing it this way you will be able to test it out and see if you even enjoy traveling in this manner. Maybe you’re more of a planner than you thought.

Sign up for airline and hotel credit cards that have signup bonuses.

Gather enough bonus points from them to take you anywhere you want for a week. I think 100k (OneWorld or Star Alliance) airline miles should do it. Likely less, but I’ve never booked with points on a whim and am unsure if there are extra costs involved. I’m not sure exactly how many hotel points you’ll need, but it’s easy to figure out on the relevant hotel’s website.

That’s it. Only one real step and a bit of time.

To sustain this lifestyle will take a bit more work, but you could still do it with credit card points if you work hard at it. There are people who devote a lot more time to airline miles than me so just use Google and find them.

Not having a job.

OK, this one’s a bit more difficult. I could just say “quit, go on welfare” but I don’t think that’s practical.

That said, maybe it is. See, all you said was you didn’t want a job. So what do you have to take care of? Food, clothing, and shelter.

Shelter is possibly most difficult. While you still have a job, buy a bicycle and a tent. My friend Darren travels the world living like this, but you could do it by staying closer to home.

Next, food, clothing, and other things. Dumpster dive.

Yes, I’m serious.

Check out how much free food Rob Greenfield eats. It’s incredible.

Then check out Matt Malone who dumpster dives for electronics and sells what he finds, earning tens of thousands of dollars. That takes care of your clothing and other expenses. Possibly even enough for an apartment.

You could argue that this is a job. I would argue that I’m solving your problem and since you won’t be earning a paycheck it’s not a job. You could argue you don’t want to dumpster dive. I could argue, OK, that’s fine, me neither. But I don’t mind working.

Elaborate practical jokes. I’d hire 5,000 people, give them each $1000 to spend in a Walmart store and just buy everything on the shelves. A week later, after the store has replaced all their inventory with new merchandise, send all 5,000 people back to return everything they bought.

This isn’t nice. But let’s get my morality out of here!

If you really want to do this you only temporarily need $5,000,000 (5,000 x $1,000) since you’re returning all the merchandise. So the real problem is not that you’re not rich. The problem is you need to borrow $5MM.

To be honest, all my ideas for borrowing $5MM are only speculative and I don’t have a good answer. I just wanted to reframe your problem. This is a creativity problem, not a wealth problem.

Conducting large scale very expensive science and social experiments. Is it possible to cause rain by boiling massive amounts of water? What happens if every resident in the most crime ridden communities receives $1000 a week for 5 years?

You’re misunderstanding how and why it rains although I wouldn’t mind seeing you attempt to boil the water out of a lake (or even a pool) just for laughs. As for the other, fair enough you’ll need to be quite wealthy for that one. That’s $260,000 ($52k x 5) per resident. For a fairly small crime ridden community such as Flint, MI you will need $25,938,380,000 (99,763 residents x $260,000). There are only a few humans with that kind of wealth so you’ll have to consult with them as to how to make that much money.

Extensive travel and super high end dining.

See previous answer about travel and credit card points. The super high end dining isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but I can understand why you’d want to try it. If you can save $2,000 (5 meals x $400) for your next trip and use credit card points to pay for the trip you can use the $2k to experience the high end dining instead of what you’d normally spend on flights/hotels. Massage the number as you see fit. Not every high end dining experience is $400. Some are more, some are less. Do it how you want.

I don’t feel like doing (whatever). I’ll pay some chump to do it.

Not the best attitude, but let’s ignore that.

See previous answer about the luxury of time. It’s simpler than you think to “pay some chump to do it.”

Handmade clothes. All clothes I own are tailored especially to fit me out of my preferred fabrics. I can grab anything out of my drawers and it all looks good together.

Let’s tackle the latter part of this first. If you want all your clothes to mix and match it has nothing to do with if they’re handmade and tailored to your body. But let’s ignore that and get to the handmade tailored clothes situation.

Let’s go with 1 suit ($2k), a pair of dress shoes ($300-500), and 7 tailored shirts ($100-500 each). This can all be had for a few thousand dollars, depending on your preferences. So, save up $5,000 and you’re likely good. Especially if you fly to Thailand on your credit card points to do it.

I’m ignoring casual clothing, but it’s easier to find well fitting casual clothing than it is nice work/dress attire.

So from the time I was a wee lad I always wanted a blimp. My family has joked about this enough that being super rich in our house is referred to as “blimp money.”

Hehe. You can lease one for $2,000 – $10,000 per month, which includes 8-64 hours of flight time per month. So now your new problem is coming up with an extra $2k/month. This is doable in myriad ways. I don’t know what that looks like for you specifically but it can be done. And you don’t need to be wealthy, just willing to throw away $24k+ per year. At which point you’ll probably get bored of having a blimp because it’s not going to impress anybody as much as you seem to think so. (I didn’t include the commenter’s whole message about impressing a girl because it was too long so read it on Reddit.)

A home theater. Screw mansions, cars or any of that stuff. All I want is a really nice home theater to watch movies. If I was rich I wouldn’t even buy a house. I’d buy an old theater and convert an upstairs floor into living space.

This took a turn from “home theater” to “non-home theater.” Being rich won’t help you figure out what you want, but it will allow you to have both.

Home theater: this is open ended, but it can be nicely done for a few thousand dollars. I’m not going to break it all down because it is so open ended. But you can likely already afford this.

As for buying an old theater, this is more difficult. Because first you have to find an old theater for sale. You can find them for about a million dollars right here. That won’t be easy, but it is doable. Especially since you can take a business loan out for one of these if you’re going to run it as a working theater. Maybe don’t tell anybody you’re living there though.

Paying for my parents’ retirement

This is a simple math problem. Your parents are going to get social security benefits which will cover something. The rest depends on lifestyle (and whether your parents already own a home), but you won’t need to be rich to take care of this if you want to. The biggest expense will likely be medical, but it’s too variable to determine without any more information.

Not working. I couldn’t care less about the luxury shit, I just want to not work.

Answered above. You could get by without working if you really wanted to.

If I was SUPER rich I always loved the idea of just going to random houses/families and giving them X amount of money. Nothing huge but enough to make their year somewhat easier. $20,000? Would be worth it to see their reactions.

This is one of those things where, yes, if you want to give $20k to random people on a regular basis then you’re going to need to be rich. But! If you want to know how this might feel you can start with $100. I never mentioned this story before, but just before christmas some time ago (I was 25 or 26 at the time) I got a handful of $100 bills ($500 total), went to a Goodwill thrift store, and handed them out to people who were buying toys. My rationale was if someone is doing their holiday toy shopping at a thrift store then they’ll probably appreciate an extra hundred bucks. It was interesting. The smiles and thank yous were great, but it didn’t actually personally feel as good as I had imagined. It actually felt awkward for me, but that may be due to my social anxiety at the time.

Conclusion

I’m now down to Reddit comments with less than 1,000 upvotes so I’m going to stop here. A lot of these “I wish I was rich” fantasies are far more obtainable than you might’ve imagined. Hopefully this got you thinking about how to create the life you want to lead instead of continually fantasizing about the life you don’t have.

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