How foolish I was growing up. I really thought that when I was a “serious musician” and “struggling for my art”, I would make ends meet and live on barely any food and travel from place to place and it would be the most wonderful life.
I now realise I would have hated it. Hated it. How could I have wished for poverty, mess and disorder in my life? How could someone like me cope with that? It’d be the worst thing I ever did.
Don’t get me wrong, I love performing. I love travelling. I would tour across the US living in a van. I can “rough it”. But I’d have some money in my pocket. And maybe it’s age now, that makes me shudder to think of living with nothing, but there is also just too much pretty in the world; too many experiences that you miss without a little cashflow.
Coming home from living overseas at 19 to realise that I now had to figure real shit out was scary. I had debt up to my eyeballs (well, for a 19 year old without a degree to show for it!), no job, nowhere to live and that ridiculous confidence you have when you’re that age and think life is about to do something amazing for you. I soon realised that hard work was in my future and over the last 9 years have seen that dreams can come true in some ways, but not in others. Money comes and goes, and you will be rich sometimes, and then very, very poor.
I used to tease Dave (and still do sometimes) about how I “moved to Scotland for [him]”, and before I left had paid off my debt. After weeks without work in Edinburgh (and then a trip to Canada) I had nearly half of it back. A year in, I had all of it back.
But you truck on. It’s hardly Dave’s fault that we’ve never been the wealthiest of people. And it’s not mine, either. I moved to Scotland in the midst of a recession, and I moved for love. It wasn’t opportunistic “OE” time, or “let’s save loads of money and go travelling!” time. It was, “shit. I can’t be without this person.” And so it was.
I started temping, then moved into a longer-term low paid role, which I enjoyed but struggled with. I was promoted and given a little more, but even with the exchange rate, and lower cost of living, my salary was still £5k/year less than what I was earning in New Zealand before I left, and it was hard for me to push myself to get out and about. My focus was also on buying my piano, on our upcoming trip to Canada for a friend’s wedding, and on the bills that were starting to mount up. Dave had a job that he enjoyed and stuck with until last September when he was made redundant, and it was paid at a very similar pay rate. It’s only now that I am on a higher salary and Dave is (nearly.. nearly..) going to be paid a decent wage.
We’re nearly 3 years in. We’ve spent a lot of time getting settled and establishing our life here and solidifying our relationship. And now we’re going to have a little room to breathe in the bank account and settling down for the long haul. So I am trying to imagine our life a little differently.
The relief, I imagine, will be enormous. There’s just something so ingrained within me – I just cannot miss a bill.
Call it being “raised right”, call it paranoia or a sense of responsibility, but I pay everything. On time. Always. I am the spreadsheet girl who has everything budgeted, knows when everything is due, and makes sure that we can cover it. Somehow. Even if we eat packet noodles and make poor excuses for missing everything.
Unfortunately, this does occasionally bring with it a small drawback when you have nothing. Coming to the (thankfully, hopefully) end of 6 months on one income, not having the cash in the bank can give me sleepless nights. And of course, Dave not stressing about it makes me more stressy. He is just a little more laidback about these things (well, apart from the not having a job bit). But I try to remember two things, every time I stress.
1) There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
For us, sadly, we’re still waiting for a letter to confirm that this light is shining at us. Bureaucracy and the *coughNZgovernmentcough* are still holding up a few bits and pieces, but hopefully in the next week or two, everything will fall into place.
2) In your twenties, you are supposed to be pretty poor, as you sort out your life. (Unless you are very skilled, or very lucky).
Obviously this is a wide generalisation. But this decade is that time in your life where you work out what the hell you’re going to do with it, and after you finish studying (or if like me, you don’t!), it could take some time to work out where you go from there, and how you’re going to pay your bills.
Depending on your education, job, living situation, marital situation, etc, it could be a very tough time, or a fairly easy time. Personally, I know many people who have “lucked into” the right job, married the right person, or chose the degree that was useful just at that right time to boost them somewhat in their career despite the recession, and live fabulous lives.
I could be jealous of those friends. But I choose not to be. I’ve lived the life I have, they’ve lived the life they have. They’ve had money, I’ve had none. They’ve had pain, I’ve had pain. They’ve had love, I’ve had love.
I have had amazing, brilliant, beautiful, spellbinding, agonising, irreplaceable love.
And while I hate talking about all this (because it is embarrassing to admit when you are poor), and although I have mentioned it in passing, I have put off posting about it for a long time. But today I need to say it. I’ve been really fucking poor. It has been really fucking hard.
But I have also been really fucking happy.