The sky is an iridescent grey, at once inspiring and eerie.
My day is stretched before me with a loose idea of all the things I have to do, mostly of the meetings-and-appointments sort. A murky mess sits at the bottom of a mug I wish was filled with fresh black coffee. I just shrug at its emptiness and type on.
Inside, calmness has settled in. A calmness I probably haven’t felt in a number of years.
It began yesterday morning with a kind of prescient feeling about how much I could or would get done during the day. I blew that out of the water and settled my to-do list with great authority, meeting and beating all aspirations for the day.
At the end, I decided I’d finally take a look at my finances. For the first month of my unemployment I’ve applied the Ostirich Approach to my situation — only after I’d taken a hard look at the bottom line of what I would need to live on each month, and had the vague notion I might be okay until June. Then, I buried my head, spent as little as possible, and just did my shit, with the assumption that Spending Almost Nothing was all I needed to do.
Much of what I did spend was covered by “found” money — gifts from a couple kind people. (You fucking rock.)
I knew when the month started it would be tight and was 95% sure I would either be deferring my loan payment or telling my landlord I needed an extra week to pay the rent. I mean, the reality is, the first month of unemployment is ALWAYS the hardest.
I was in the situation of having had a bad-spending winter, followed by the Olympics crushing my savings, and had NO idea that a complete lay-off loomed. I thought I’d lose a day of work a week — I was praying for it — as we’d applied for the Workshare program (spreading a lay-off throughout the company, with the government paying 55% of the one day a week each employee gives up).
I never thought I’d be laid off entirely this year. And after a year spent rehabbing a back injury and two years of having to replace entire wardrobes with every season due to weight-loss, and that I’ve been making lower-middle-class income in one of the world’s most expensive cities… well, yeah, no savings either.
But I managed to get enough ducks in a row as soon as the “OMG, lay-offs might be coming” fear that hit around March 24th, before finding out on the 25th that I would be entirely laid off, likely the next day, that I sort of had a fighting chance.
I was also insistent with my employer that the additional 3 days of work at the end of March would make the difference between me surviving until June at least.
And it did.
I finally scrounged up everything I had last night — not including a little emergency money I’ve set aside or what’s on my Visa — and know I can pay rent AND groceries until the middle of the month, without even receiving my government employment insurance benefit. AND I keep what little safety net I have intact.
That changes everything.
I feel like it’s the stamp of approval. “Go forth, Steff,” it says. “All will be well.”
I know, I’m supposed to be all embarrassed that my money’s this tight.
I’m supposed to be ashamed.
Wealth is a sign of success and position and talent and brains, isn’t it?
Fuck ANYONE who thinks I need to be ashamed that things have been so close.
I’ve NEVER been irresponsible with money. All I’ve been guilty of is being average with money. At my income, spending an additional 10% every month cripples you in a hurry.
I am NOT my adversity. FUCK that.
Try losing 70 pounds and having to buy new wardrobes every three months, or getting so severely injured you spend a month laying on a floor and for months have to take cabs and pay 20% more in groceries just for the convenience, because you’re in too much pain to bus from a further, cheaper store.
That I’m even paying rent tomorrow without any interceding forces makes me more proud than you’ll ever fucking know.
Fuck anyone who thinks money and whether someone gets through a jam financially is a reflection at all of that person’s intelligence, ability, talent, or resilience. Money is as much about luck and selective adversity as it is savings abilities.
Some people just have more things to overcome. In my life, money was always the villain. That line between getting by and barely surviving is thinner than most people might realize.
For once, money doesn’t feel like my villain anymore.
I’ve got rent, baby. And food. And I’m gonna buy me some wine and a steak tonight to celebrate.
Yeah. I don’t know… I feel like I have to say more:
So many of you need to feel what kissing poverty is like. You need to feel how much it hurts inside when you’re terrified about paying the rent or you’re sure you’ve got to resort to drastic measures to get by. You need to know what it’s like to think hope is too expensive a luxury for your position. You need to imagine what that fear’s like when it’s not just you it affects.
You need to know how hard it is when money’s not within your grasp. Everyone needs to feel that.
I hope I never feel it again. And I hope I always remember that pain. I hope I always have the empathy I wish more people had shown me earlier — but so many are showing me, even showering me with, now.
Today is a day of gratitude, goodness, and calm. For me, at least. You? You can choose that, too.
Take a minute to think about what you really have, and pray you never come close to losing it.
Some fears aren’t fit for anyone. But gratitude is one-size-fits-all.
Beyond the talk of money? My future’s looking great. What a ride this summer will be. Stay tuned.
PS: Methinks unemployment might’ve been the best thing that ever happened to me. Wait’ll you get a load of me, baby.
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