abundance · aspiration · change · clarity · community · debt · despair · finances · loneliness · love · recovery · stability

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There’s a funny little book I picked up a few years ago
entitled, Steal Like An Artist. One of
the tips in the book is, If you find yourself to be the smartest person in the
room, go to another room.
I’ve been considering this sentiment as applied to
satisfaction, success, self-love, financial security. At the risk of sounding
like a self-aggrandizing schmuck, I think I’ve been heading to another room for
a good little while.
But, I’m hesitant. I’m hesitant to leave those who I’ve met
in this room, and all the rooms before it. I’m hesitant to let those friendships go, when I notice that how I’ve been ordering and focusing my life is not
really aligned with how they are anymore. I don’t want to leave, but I kinda
already have, simply by the efforts I’ve been making in the past few years.
It sounds like an asshole thing to say. It “sounds” judgey
and materialistic and conceited. But, I don’t think it is. I think it’s one of the
most honest things I’ve said about where and who I am in my
life now.
To find a parallel that is perhaps less alienating, let’s
look at alcohol. In two weeks, it’ll be 8 years since my last drink. Since that
time, the folks who are in my life tend to also be people who don’t drink, or simply people who don’t drink alcoholically. I began to hang out with
people who behaved in ways I did or I wanted to, and in the process, those who I
used to spend time with began to fade. This wasn’t a judgment on them; it was
simply an acknowledgment of what we now had or didn’t have in common. I’d
simply moved to another room.
If you can hang with the non-judgment of that move, nearly 3
years ago, I began to spend time with people who didn’t accrue unsecured debt,
who tracked their income and expenses, who were attempting to live a full life
without bouncing along the disheartening bottom of “paycheck to paycheck,” “I can’t hang out
because I’m broke,” “I eat popcorn for dinner,” and “I have holes in my socks.” (Each something I’d said…repeatedly, for years.)
As with alcohol, I had simply come to the end
of my rope by how small and anxious and exhausting my life was. And, since
then, I’ve been endeavoring to live differently.
In that difference, I’ve begun to notice that many of the
folks whose room I’ve shared are still, in some manner, living a pinching,
struggling life. And I’ve begun to notice that we don’t talk as much, that I
have less to share about, that I don’t really relate or want to relate anymore.
Just like I don’t really have much to say if you share about your drunken
escapades, I don’t really have much to say about how you don’t know how you’ll
pay rent next month.
All I really do have to say about that is, I GET IT. I have completely been there. I have, many times in
my “adulthood,” had less than $3 in my bank account, and NO JOB. I KNOW what it
feels like to have a life so small because you can’t afford the bus to see friends, or the $8 for the movie they’re seeing, or just the $2 coffee chat. I
know what it’s like to despair that you’ll never get out of the hole. What
it’s like to assume that you’ll eek out a living … and then die. I know what
it’s like to think about killing yourself because you can’t see any other end
to the horrible cycle of constriction.
I know what it’s like to live small and afraid. And I know, now, what
it’s like to find a way out.
I can talk to you about that. I can tell you I’ve found a
way that works for me, and I can help or hope you find it, too. But,
ultimately, that’s all that I can do.
And in that knowledge and acceptance of where and who I’ve
become, a non-drinker who is attempting to live a larger life, it should only
make sense that I would want to be among others who are living the same. Simply
so I can learn. So I can hear, model, get hope, get help for myself. Because I am that person who was begging for help before, and now
I want to be around those who can help me. Who have moved into a different room
and found help themselves.
It feels so fucking lonely, right now. It feels judgmental
and abandoning and selfish and crass. It feels like I’m waving a hand over a
community that has loved me, and I’m declaring that world, “Not enough.”
But, in truth, it isn’t. For me.
I want to live larger, freer, more boldly. In the end, it’s not actually about money at all. I simply want financial stability because it allows me to dream bigger, or dream at all, since I’m not agonizing over how I’ll feed my cat this month. Stability leads me to ease, and ease leads me to dream.
Today’s sentiments may sour in the mouths of someone reading
this. I may have backs turned to me. There is a loneliness that happens when
you’re transitioning to a new phase of yourself. But, perhaps in my
acknowledgment that I want to be in that next room, I can help myself to get
there. Perhaps in simply stating I love you and I have to leave you, I am
offering more love than I had. I don’t want to be lonely; it’s part of why I do
all this work, man. I don’t want to leave you, but our conversation has flagged. And it is/I am worth the risk of saying, Thank you, and maybe I’ll see you over there.

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