Some people get a Starbucks latte every morning, and eat dinner out multiple times a week.
It’s a quick and costly habit to get into, but when you’re making good money it’s no big deal. It seamlessly becomes a routine, an expectation, instead of a treat.
But when you suddenly don’t have money – you lost your job, or you’re starting life over practically from scratch – have you noticed how much more delicious those chai lattes taste, or how much sweeter that dessert is, on restaurant tableware you don’t have to wash?
I recently moved across the country with no job lined up, foolishly expecting everything to fall into place for me in the region with the highest unemployment rate in the country. Oh, I would land a great gig writing what I loved, or maybe rock the freelance train for awhile, picking up assignments here and there, but always enough to live comfortably.
After a couple weeks of applying to ten or more jobs per day, that sunny outlook dimmed to careful math that determined I could definitely live, and still build up some savings, if I just made minimum wage full time.
A couple weeks later, having extended my search to non-writing related positions, I further edited my expectations and found I could just survive on part-time minimum wage, as long as my cheques came before rent was due.
Yeah. It’s scary and no fun to recognize that you’re basically destitute.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not living in my car, paying for a cheap gym membership just so I can shower in the mornings. I have an apartment, and furniture because the place happened to be furnished, and I can afford food. But I’m definitely not putting away for a mortgage, and I definitely shouldn’t be eating out or filling up on daily mochas.
And throughout this middle-class version of poverty, I won’t pretend I’ve avoided the sleepless nights, tossing and turning over the lack of dollars rolling in. I won’t play the Sure Thing card, where I maintain everything will be fine – some great $2000 article is going to avail itself at the last minute, just before the 1st of next month.
Because the former is just untrue. And the latter is just silly.
But I do have good days. Like today, when my boss at the job I finally got told me I would definitely be getting more shifts per week (working as a hostess and delivery driver at a restaurant isn’t journalism, but the pay spends just as well, and as quickly). On those days, I find myself viewing my impoverished life almost fondly.
Because, like I said, you forget to enjoy the treats when they stop being treats and start being day-to-day. I go to coffee shops to write every once in a while, and believe me – that drink slaved over by the barista while I stand idly by has never tasted better.
Having almost no money makes me all the more conscious of the money I do have. I keep close track of every dollar, and still save little amounts in a Chimes tin, even though I’ll probably have to raid that green metal piggy to pay my rent.
I don’t know what is going to become of me. It’s terrifying to finish yet another bout of expensive education only to realize the most lucrative form of that training isn’t something I’m interested in.
But there are things I know, that make it worth it.
I know I want to be a writer.
I know I need to get myself published.
I know there are countless magazines, and publishing companies, and contests out there that could help me achieve that.
So for now, I will bus my tables, and drop off my deliveries, and hope I get to start serving soon (because let’s face it, tips are the best reason to work in a restaurant). And the money will become less tight. The Chimes tin will fill up and be emptied into my savings account. And I will become a world-famous author with book tours. And trilogies. And a movie deal.
It’s a Sure Thing.