It was a long time I had not touched money. If not for the couple of times I just had to buy some cat-food or else kitten would starve, it was easily over a year. But suddenly I was feeling the touch of money. I smelled it and it felt crispy.
I was unsure what to do with the bill of 20 euro my friend Rene had given me. I was staying with him in Lyon, France, and it was my turn to go to the market to buy the veggies and fruits for the house. I thought it was good to let go of the idea of not using money, and to experiment again to use it; to get a sense of what it would do to me.
And to say the truth, I thought it would be fun. But instead I was hit by doubt and uncertainty: I simply didn’t know who to give the money to, from whom I wanted to buy the food. Maybe this woman with the nice smile, or that guy who is old? In other words, I wasn’t looking at the quality of the food, but I was judging the quality of the person.
Up and down the market I walked for some time before I finally decided to settle it and to ‘just buy something’. They were apples and I gave the market salesman the money – a piece of paper – looking at him with a weird glance in my eyes, as if I was still in doubt this was the right guy to give the money to, as if he was the one who would “deserve” it.
I ended up spending the whole 20 euro, and I came back home with a trolley filled with fresh foods. I was happy using money again, it made me feel better. Whereas living money-less was fun and interesting at first, at the market in Lyon I came to understand it was now limiting me: I had become a slave of not using money. And like this I came to understand the value of money: it is not what it resembles, but what it does to you.
September 2011. The story in Dutch is available at http://geldloos.nl/verhalen/de-waarde-van-geld.