Money for me, up until now, has looked like this:
My parents are very hard working.
My mum scoffs at people with more money than us and can’t believe that people can earn enough money to live comfortably.
Some of my first memories of money are of my mother sitting on her bed, with bills sprawled everywhere. She would dedicate a whole day to ‘doing the bills’ and this would usually involve shuffling money around to keep things afloat.
I know my family has enough money to be content; there are others who are worse off than us. It’s just that we are never content.
I am scared of money.
I am not scared of having a bank balance of zero. I can live on very little.
Up until my mid 20’s, I thought my family had a good amount of money. I trained to be a primary school teacher. I thought that a teacher’s salary would be enough for me.
I quit teaching and moved to Australia. I worked as a nanny for 5 years. I saw how ‘the others’ live. I saw how much money other people can have. I started to learn what this means. It means opportunity. It means choice. I started to feel poor. I began to want what my employers had. Comfort. Security. Eyes looking forward. I went through a period of resentment. I felt strong feelings of jealousy towards my employers, who were also becoming my friends. The more I saw of their lives the more I felt stuck in mine.
My parents made some poor financial decisions and my brothers help them to pay bills. Unlike my close friends, my parents cannot afford to come and visit me. My parents cannot loan me money. I have always known this. I did not know how many of my friends borrowed money from their parents. I wish I knew this feeling of financial security. To be comfortable enough to take risks…. I can’t even imagine.
I went to art school and fell in love with the idea of making something purely out of curiosity.
I still wanted to make more money.
I met my boyfriend who shares my desire to make more money. He also believes that it will make a difference to his creative life.
His life with money so far has been very different to mine. And his life with money moving forward looks as though it will still be different to mine.
His parents are educated, hard working and comfortable. They use intellectual language and place a high importance on ‘success’. My boyfriend has grown up being told that he can do anything and he has been given the tools to do those things.
Sometimes I let negativity get the best of me. There’s a voice in my head reminding me of all of the times people have told me I won’t succeed. Whether this was direct or indirect, there are small reminders throughout my life that told me I wasn’t going to make it. I was young and I let these things stick. Small things, like a girl saying ‘I didn’t expect you to live next door to me because your dad is brown. I thought you would have no money.’ And a boy in high school telling me that when we grow up I will probably be cleaning his house because he will be rich and I will be poor. This reminds me of the time my employers sister casually said to me, ‘oh yes, because they are rich and you are poor’. Not to mention my mother’s persistence in laughing at any outlandish ideas of me living overseas or getting a well-paying job.
Up until now, I thought I was stuck in a place where no matter how hard I worked, I would never get out. I thought I worked a set amount of hours for a set amount of pay. I thought people were working jobs because they had to, not because they want to. I thought the rich were rich and the poor are poor and that’s just how it is.
My life has changed.
And the change is scary.
My boyfriend has managed to negotiate a high salary. And he has offered that I take some time to find what I want to do. He has offered to support me financially. He is so beautifully giving and kind, and I think this generosity helps him to feel useful.
So far it has been a week since this kind offer. I don’t know how to stop working. I don’t know how to not feel stressed and pressured to keep making money so I don’t fall apart. I don’t know what to do with the voice inside my head that constantly reminds me that I have no security, no wealthy parents to fall back on.
I am going to take some time. I have quit my job. I have a small boot-strapped business that does not make any money. I am going to learn to take time. I am going to learn what I want, not what I think I should be doing.
I am scared shitless.