Me v. Money

“I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality. So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive…” –JK Rowling
I’ve always heard about how you lose your hopes and dreams when you become an adult. You misplace them somewhere, like my old stereo remote and that matching sock. Aspirations of becoming an astronaut and an actress become feeding your family, feeding yourself, getting by. Everyone’s talking about these Occupy protests right now. The youth of America are channeling the 60s’ and 70s’ Vietnam War protests and protesting everything really – how we don’t have jobs, we don’t have money, and that limits our freedom. We 99% have the proverbial short stick, while the 1% smoke Cuban cigars in their velvet robes, sucking the caviar off their fat fingers. Just about to graduate college, I thought an unpaid internship was my only next step. Yeah, it doesn’t seem moral, yeah, it doesn’t seem legal, but what else could I do? I needed experience. Even those unpaid internships are competitive. Consequently, I experienced my first panic attack. My boyfriend James napped catlike and happy beside me as I lost control of my ability to breathe, the thing that is supposed to be natural, no thinking necessary. It was as if I had just finished a race, or tried to get the wind back into my lungs after being hit in the gut by a ball. But I hadn’t even started playing the game yet. I went out on the balcony, sat on the edge of it, legs dangling dangerously over the rim. I needed to breathe and there was no air out there either. I went back inside and we went through some blogs I follow together, pointing out nice furniture or nice houses. The things that calm me. Luckily, I got a job a few months out of college. (After three months of questioning my self-worth, restarting yoga, thinking about moving back to my college town, being stuck in a hot California summer house, watching my Dad’s graduation gift of $3,000 dwindling away and $20,000 of student loans gradually ballooning.) Unluckily, I don’t like it. Depression ensues. James keeps telling me, “Appreciate it.” He asked me the other day, as I cried into my bedspread, “What’s the difference between a job and a career?” “I don’t know, tell me,” I mutter dejectedly. He answers for me, “A career is something satisfying you want to be doing for the rest of your life. A job is just making money. Some people can’t get jobs right now.” He attempts to ground me as my head fills with helium and I start to float up into the cosmos. I’m trying to hold on to my desire to be a writer, I’m trying to hold onto my childhood fascination and not get stuck in the deflated downward spiral of adulthood-into-death. I’m trying to marry fantasy with reality. I want to travel, I want to live, I want to join the Peace Corps or become a river guide or something crazy! I don’t want to be in this cubicle! I don’t want to be a sleepy rat, sitting in my car two hours a day, red tail lights a foot in front, red tail lights a foot behind. So I escape it by creating little bits of text at a time (and changing application windows feverishly when my supervisor passes by). Hopefully one day these thoughts will turn into money‑oh, I mean, a novel. That’s my life goal.My friend just got bailed out of the 99% question – she received a multimillion dollar settlement from a crazy accident she was in a few years ago. James and I started fantasizing together, what would we do if that happened to us? What would I do with my life if money wasn’t a problem? I’d want to travel, and I’d want to write. So there again was my answer, as thoughts of becoming a salesperson or web developer floated through my head. That’s what I have to do with my life, the “dance as if nobody is watching” bit – I have to try my damnedest to “live as if money wasn’t a problem.” People don’t get it, most are trying to talk me out of my dream and into the reasonable thing, (even myself sometimes), but I have to retreat into myself and remember I have to do what’s me, not what’s money.

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