On line, I went shopping for socks,
The prices are horrors and shocks
From too many years
Of avoiding arrears
And counting the ticks and the tocks.

Synopsis: I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. I danced back from the brink of burnout in 2010, and, honoring a one-year non-compete clause, went for adventures working in out-of-the-way locations. After jobs in Alaska, New Zealand, Iowa, and Nebraska, I returned home and took a part-time position with a Community Health Center, where I worked for 3 years. I left last month because of a troubled relationship with the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system. Now I’m back from a road trip where I visited family and friends and attended Continuing Medical Education.
For decades I spent most of my time working. I didn’t have disposable hours in which to spend the money that I acquired. Thus I regarded the holiday shopping season with dread. Throngs of people spending money that they couldn’t afford to buy presents for people who didn’t want them made getting into and out of a store too much of a time commitment. So I wouldn’t go shopping between Thanksgiving and January 1 unless I had to buy food. And, in general, I didn’t have the time to go shopping anyway, so that my spending habits didn’t change much.
Actually, in medical school and residency I got really good at living with minimal expenditure of money. I had little cash in those days and even less time to spend it. In the subsequent years my income grew but my wife and I didn’t change our buying habits.
Since I redirected my career path in 2010, I have more free time. Though the years have passed and prices have risen, my sense of how much something should cost remains stuck in the 70’s. Back then, $5 could buy a pair of Levi’s, $.50 a gallon of gas, $.32 a pound of chicken. A dollar would get you a pound of chuck steak, a pair of Interwoven socks, or a hundred rounds of .22 ammo. While paying the going price for footwear, clothing, and other goods horrifies me, I grit my teeth, tell myself to let go and help the economy, and hand my credit card to the teller.
I do that more often on those days when I don’t work. And I can do it so easily with my computer.
On a recent day at home I bought gifts for the people I stayed with, a battery for my wife’s computer, socks, and some chocolates. And then I went out and dropped more on sushi lunch than I used to spend for a week’s groceries. I know I need to get used to the higher prices of goods, and to learn generosity towards myself.
I’m still aghast at what I have to pay for a pair of socks, even if they last a decade.

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