Already it is the end of another month. Almost 75 per cent of 2009 has been experienced. Where did this year go? I think the more important questions are “What have I learned this year?” and “How have I experienced personal growth?”
Kansas crooned us with lyrics that could humble anyone, singing “I close my eyes, only for a moment and the moment’s gone… All my dreams Pass before my eyes with curiosity. Dust in the wind, All they are is dust in the wind. Same old song, Just a drop of water in an endless sea……” Perhaps Kanye should give a listen. All jokes aside, this song can pull so much emotion from me and my love for it is parallel with having Bipolar Disorder. (It will inevitably either make me feel more hopeless or empower me. The lines are blurred.)
More often than not, this song makes me feel small and insignificant and I detest that feeling. But on days where I’m fretting about bills and money, repairs that need to be made to my car and the amount of money I’ll be swindled out of when I actually do get it repaired, becoming more healthy and losing five to ten pounds (and the list goes on), I find that this song quiets me. I, like many people, get too caught up in the woes of the world and living within the societal structure that has been placed upon me by the millions before me. The blinders force my view into a narrow window of “I’m completely broke”-and-“I’ll never be out of debt”-and-“What is it all worth in the end?”-type thinking. That is self-destructive, and I don’t need a degree to tell myself that.
I have all of the trappings to carry a Victim attitude, but I refuse to. My mother still wears her Victim Badge in plain sight, masking it with pride for her children. Can I just come out and say that the “Woe is Me” line of thinking is a crock of shit and I refuse to allow it to plague my adult life? Of course, the amount of bills and lack of money can make anyone want to buckle under pressure but it’s those who actually let it cripple them that I lack empathy for. And I’m talking more than a two-week-woe-is-me-slump; I’m talking months or years of this defeated lifestyle.
So I teeter back and forth, on the brink of saying “Fuck it. I don’t know why I worry so much about this menial shit when, really, it doesn’t matter. In the big picture, being in debt doesn’t make me more or less of a person” when I teeter back to thinking “But it does matter, I want to be successful and live the life my parents only dreamed of and this debt and inability to move forward is imprisoning me.” Then “Dust in the Wind” plays on my mind’s iPod.
I have identified the source of this deeply rooted need to fret about money: my childhood. Growing up poor (and I mean Grandma-paying-for-our school-pictures-because-she-felt-sorry-for-us poor) has made its imprint on me. I’ve noticed that I buy extras of ordinary household items. Like soap. I could have two or three bars of soap left in the linen closet and I’ll still buy another 6pack of soap. And toothpaste, and deodorant, and other miscellaneous items that are otherwise meaningless. I suspect this is because I lived with a fear of having to do without. A voice inside of me asks, “What next? Where will the next ________________ fall in the budget?” (Fill in the blank with cable bill, phone bill, rent payment, blah-blah-this-is-probably-boring-you-blah) This seemingly incessant way of thinking has caused tension between my boyfriend, Jay, and I.
Jay and I share similar upbringings. We are extremely empathetic toward “growing up poor” and often revel in memories of what we did as kids. For instance, Jay recalls shopping for sports equipment at Play It Again Sports, an athletic thrift store of sorts. It’s true that I hadn’t ordered at Arby’s until I was in high school. Although we both know what it feels like to pinch pennies, we differ when dealing with money. Jay owns a “money comes and goes” attitude whereas I own a mindset of “a dollar saved is a dollar earned”. I think we share an understanding for each other’s views but neither of us is willing to concede.
A few weeks ago, my best friend, Austin, stopped by. He was perusing our pantry for a snack when he said something that took me aback. “You’re doing really well, Bre. Look how much food you have!” It could have been his delight in snack time or it could have been facetious but I took it seriously. “Hmm. I’ve never thought about it that way.” His statement holds both literal and metaphoric truth.
I have a pantry (near) full of food, an apartment outfitted with cable and wireless internet, a full time job career and a great support system. I have my closest family and friends. I have my education. I have a life. And bills and budgeting and all of the borrowed worries are truly, well, stupid.
My mom always told us “If someone really wanted to, they could rob you. They could beat you and take every last thing you have but they can’t take away your education.” I think I’ll modify it and pass it on to my kids: “You can be stripped of all of your worldly possessions, but the thief cannot rob you of your love, your knowledge, your wisdom, your essence.”
“…Now don’t hang on, Nothin’ lasts forever but the earth and sky. It slips away, and all your money won’t another minute buy. Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind…..Everything is dust in the wind.”