I’ve been solidly middle class for the last five months, thanks to the job. It’s been so long since I’ve been here, that honestly, I was expecting it to feel a lot better. After all, I’m making more money than half the country, and after years of tap dancing along the poverty line (or what felt like it), I was expecting to f–k up some commas in my account.
But…that hasn’t happened.
The list of things I still can’t afford feels amazingly long–a house in a decent neighborhood in L.A., my car note and my student loan bill at the same time, a 529 plan for Le Kid, any type of emergency, a vacation.
After years of college and grad school and Amex bills and traveling (on my credit cards, ugh) and freelancing and helping out the fam, I dug myself a pretty good hole that now feels like it’s impossible to climb out of and actually live like I want to be living.
And I want to be living.
God, I want to LIVE.
BUT. IT’S. SO. HARD.
Here’s the not so pretty part folks don’t talk about when discussing their journey to “success” (which…let’s be real, I ain’t reached it yet). Burned out and not making enough money to cover everything, I regularly stuck up Peter to pay Paul. And when that wasn’t enough I took out not one, but two, super expensive personal loans.
Around the time I got the job, I also landed a few higher paying freelance gigs, so I was able to pay them both back in full. And while it hurt–like really, really physically hurt to say, Oh yes, I approve that $2000 debit that will wipe out my whole savings account–I knew it was necessary. After all, ain’t no fun having a loan with 135% interest hanging over your head.
So I made some hard choices that will probably pay off in the long run, but right now? Not being able to enjoy the type of life I’ve always envisioned in my head when I supposedly have the income to do so completely and utterly sucks.
And yet, it’s not lost on me how blessed I am. So many people in L.A. are struggling, really struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomach. I have both. Le Kid has new shoes; I recently “splurged” on a $50 work bag from DSW; when I filled up my car with gas on Friday I didn’t even check my bank balance first; I was able to cover an unexpected dental emergency; and if I squirrel away all of my leftover cash–like every single penny (and don’t have anymore emergencies)–I might be able to go visit my younger brother in Madrid next year.
So, I’m not doing too bad. But I’m not exactly thriving either. And the point of living–to me–isn’t to just barely get by.
Lately I’ve been exhausted, which has been jarring since a) I still work from home, b) I really just write, edit, and respond to email all day, c) I ain’t been to the gym in FOR-EV-ER. Still, I’m tired as hell once I close my laptop at the end of the day. Part of that exhaustion, I think, comes from seeing the dream and not being able to really live it, and not knowing when I will.
And yes, I realize I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. After all, I’ve been quietly and faithfully digging this hole for 5 years, so it’s silly to think I’d climb out of it in 5 months. But the way my patience is set up…
Still, I am living part of my dream. I’m not working at a job I hate, I love what I do. I love telling dope stories and interviewing people and caping for the culture. I love it when what I write or say connects with others. I love shining a positive light in the world. And it’s important to remember this, even when I’m feeling ambivalent about my life.
I’m sure you can relate. Sometimes we get so caught up in focusing on what’s wrong, or what’s not quite right, that we forget about the things that are working. I’ve definitely scored some wins in the past few months–I bought my mom’s ticket to Houston so she could go on a cruise, I paid off those two stupid loans, my son is doing really well in school, my savings account isn’t at zero.
I’m making slow progress toward the type of life I’d like to live–and that matters. I’m not sprinting forward, but I’m also not moving backward either. This matters.
Auntie Oprah once said: “What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.”
I’ve generally lived by this principle for the last 5 years. I couldn’t always see the path, but I just remained optimistic and stayed grinding, and here I am.
So, why should I change course now?