I first realised the complete unfairness of life at the age of 14. My friends could afford to go to the movie theater, and I couldn’t. It didn’t matter that I really wanted to see the film, be with my friends and have a better Friday night than just staying at home, because no amount of yelling and moping changed the fact that the spare money wasn’t there.
I promised myself that I would never, ever be poor when I grew up – ever. The problem with that promise, though, was that I didn’t expect to be grown up quite so fast. I didn’t realise that you only get what you work for. You can cry, beg, and sook but unless you secure a job and work it well, there won’t be a dime in your bank account. I didn’t know exactly that we weren’t rich, I just knew that I had to share a room with my sibling and that nobody else’s parents told them at Christmas “there’ll only be a few presents this year..” One year at high school, I was told by a teacher that because I was first on the roll-call, it would be up to me to bring the first batch of Friday food. “Can you bring a bag of candies to share?” Other students looked excited, some planned what they would bring. I sat by my drama teacher in my following lesson and told her that I couldn’t afford to bring lollies for everyone – she sympathized, and empathized Then she offered me her own bag of candy and made me tear up.
Of course, there’s a difference between not being able to buy luxuries and not being able to buy necessities. We always had food and shelter. Admittedly, the clothes were a bit scarce and a few were hand-me-downs but I wasn’t wearing rags. One time the landlord sold our house and a potential buyer walked around our home throwing open blinds and declaring ‘oh yes! I’m going to open all this up!’ not caring that we would be subsequently homeless if she moved in. I still live in this home today, the only place in this location where the rent isn’t sky-high thanks to a lovely family friend who purchased it for us. That same year, I worked every weekend in a part time job to save up for the debutante ball. I bought my dress and shoes, and was excited. My best friend was, too. Then we were told by our group of friends that we couldn’t share their limousine because we couldn’t afford it. We just laughed and laughed, because we knew something they didn’t.
We knew that it wasn’t how you got to the dance, it was how much fun you had while you were there. We knew that sure, we weren’t as well off and our tastes were a bit grungy, but we also knew that if they weren’t capable of the kindness of letting us ride with them anyway, then they weren’t worth worrying about letting them get to us.
I decided to pursue happiness over money at the age of 18, because I had that annoying thing called hope. I knew something those people studying things they didn’t want to just for a job didn’t – I have a dream, a dream! And my dream is worth so much more than a paycheck! Ah, young people. Idiots. Don’t listen to anything your 18 year old self has to say.
Pursuing something arty is a risky business that takes a lot of courage and blind faith. Tackling it while you’re young is an alright option, you can always move on to something else if it doesn’t work out. Changing over to an arts dream when you’re older and have financial stability is an even greater choice, at least you’ll have a trade and ‘respectable’ talent to fall back on. It doesn’t matter when, though, it only matters that you at least give it a shot. I feel awfully behind, and as limited as I did at 16, because I made that decision in high school to pursue writing instead of politics. I have been lazy, and scared. I have wasted 3 precious years of my life doing nothing. Now, I realise I am getting old and I want to have security and financial freedom. Suddenly, I feel the need to get some skills going and make something better for myself than what I grew up with. I don’t want to worry about bills, I want to own a home, I want to own a car, I want to have savings. I want to feel content that if something bad comes along, I will have the funds to fight it. We proclaim “money isn’t everything!” but to say that is to ignore the way the world runs – because where and how we live, it runs on those little pieces of paper, and if you don’t have enough of them, life gets difficult and scary.
It’s time that I acted on the knowledge that dreaming about what you want, isn’t the same as going after it.
I save money every chance I get, but scrimping will only get you so far. You need to work hard to set yourself up, and I simply haven’t been. This year, that changes. Things are both falling apart even more and coming together better than ever – all at once. I just know that I can still study my Writing and Publishing degree while also gaining a qualification in a trade. Oh yes, I’m starting two qualifications this year. Because yes, it’s wonderful to dream about writing, yes I’d love to write for a magazine or live on the profits and novels, and yes I always will give my all to every piece I write, but I also know that it’s wise to get this extra certificate and double my chances of job opportunities. I’m also planning on doing post-graduate teaching after my degree is done. Writing will always come first, but when you’ve had the fear of not having somewhere to live, you realise that being practical sometimes is a good idea. Some people scoff at the idea of wanting to work and save money (live now! money means nothing! don’t be a drone!) but I never scoff at goals.
I’m doing things. No more lazing and moping. I’m saving, learning and planning. Getting it together and all that. I’m sure I’ll stumble again, but this time, there’s no wiggle room to lay down and give up. I want life to start now – not next year, or next year, or next year. Now. You won’t hear me exclaiming that things aren’t fair any more; life is what you make it, and what you put in, there are things you can’t change from the past, and ultimately, life isn’t fair on anyone. You buck up, do the work… and enjoy yourself, equally.