money health weekly


The Grass is Always Greener: Adaptation and Emergencies


"It's never as good as it looks and it's never as bad as it seems."

-Tom Pollack


Sitting in my cubicle, I'm rehearsing my spiel. I have to talk about all the things I've done this year. I hate bragging. My palms are sweaty and my heart is racing. I have my annual review in five minutes. I hoping for something close to the raise I got last year. They gave me a 20% raise last year. That's huge; at least in my experience, it is.

It's now time. I walk in sit down and my boss and I get to talking. 30 minutes later he tells me that I am getting raise this year. My heart rate goes up a little in anticipation. I'm having a conversation in my head with myself, "Is it going to be like last year? It can't be, right? 20% is a lot." He gives me the details and I get close to a 30% raise this year! I'm happier than a puppy dog with two tails!

I wish that level of happiness would have lasted forever. I'm elated for the rest of the day, and even over the weekend. By a month later, though, it's just normal. I'm back to my same old routines.

Elevated happiness doesn't last.


Waiting for the elevator so we can go to lunch, I tell my work colleagues about my plans for the evening. They include going to the gym to work out before going to the library to study for an exam I'm registered for. They seem to think that my gym is below them. They work out at a more expensive gym and start talking about how nice the facilities are. I don't know about those experiences. I go to a discount gym. It has everything that I need and is open when I need it to be. It's close enough to where I live that the commute is good. Yet I feel envious of the fancier gym.

Later on, at lunch, the conversation turns to a story about one colleague's experience with the train, taking him to his apartment just outside of downtown. Another colleague lives in a cool condo on the other side of downtown, walkable to work. That sounds so cool. I'm jealous of their living situations. I live in an apartment that I used to think was cool, but I don't anymore. I was so happy after getting my raise and moving, but now a large part of me wants the experience of living downtown.

The grass always seems greener, even if you already have green grass.


I'm nervous to ask, but I want to have lunch with my boss. It's a year later and I had my review last week. In my first review, I got a 20% raise and last year I got close to a 30% raise. This year I got just over a 10% raise. It's a good raise, but the drastic reduction feels like a slap in the face. I'm far more productive than I have been. I'm saving them time and money. Because of me and my good friend and colleague, they don't have to hire two employees - we've automated two roles. They reward me with half the raise (in dollars) I got last year. I'm not happy.