I got my first job a few weeks after I turned 16, a job I'd end up keeping until my sophomore year in college. I didn't have any bills and since I didn't have a car, I didn't have to buy gas. My parents paid me an allowance for doing chores at home, and my mom also gave me lunch money every week but told me that I could pack my lunch if I wanted and keep the cash. I spent a year eating those orange crackers with peanut butter for lunch every day, but I almost never went without some cash in my pocket. Between my allowance and my lunch money, I didn't cash a paycheck from April until Christmas. Once the holidays were past, I went back to depositing most of my checks in the bank. I didn't make much in a week, but by the time I was a senior in high school I had just over $2000 in my account. I planned to buy a car with my savings, since this was 1998 and you could still buy a semi-decent used car for 2000 bucks back then. My mom and I even looked at a few cars at a slightly skeevy used car lot next to the grocery store one Saturday, but nothing ever came of it.
Then a trio of teachers announced that they were putting together a nine-day trip to London for juniors and seniors to begin just after graduation. They organized it with an all-inclusive tour company, and the price tag? Just under two thousand dollars. I really, really wanted to go, but my parents wouldn't pay for it. Mom told me I could use my savings to pay for it if I wanted, but of course then I wouldn't have any money for a car. I already knew that I'd be living on campus when college started since my scholarship included room and board and therefore wouldn't really need a car to get to class. We'd also already agreed that I was going to take at least the first semester if not the first year off work so I could focus on my schoolwork. I'd been so attached to the idea of getting my car for so long that it was hard to let it go, but eventually I decided to go on the trip.
It was an incredible experience and one that probably deserves a few blog posts of its own. Needless to say, I never regretted my decision to spend the money on the trip instead of a car. I didn't have a lot of money for souvenirs, so I bought a lot of postcards and small trinkets. The postcards went into a scrapbook and the trinkets were lost or tucked away over time, but there's one thing that I have carefully kept for over ten years. I bought a silver Celtic ring from a street vendor in Bath for £7 that I still wear nearly every day. It's not the highest-quality piece, and there's a place where the pattern was mushed when the ring was joined into a circle, but I love it. I wore a ring on every finger back then, mostly cheap Gothy bits that I found at the mall, and I think I put a few of them away to keep after a few years in college, but I've always worn his one. It doesn't even make me think of the trip to London every day, but it's fun to look back on its origins every now and then.