Monday, January 5, 2009

i hate money

Well I just had a thoroughly depressing afternoon. And it all goes back to money. I hate money. To be more specific, I hate the panicked, chest constricted feeling when you need money and have no discernible (and legal) way of getting it soon enough. It's really silly that paper and metal can make a person feel this way, but the issue of money has a way of making me feel incredibly bad. And I know that relatively I have it so good and so easy. My wants are not food and shelter and basic clothing. I don't have to worry about getting evicted or not being able to pay for basic medicine. I really have no reason to complain. Yet here I am doing so, fully aware that this pity party, when held up to harsher realities, is the definition of irrelevant.

Here's my problem. I have no money, as in 33 cents in my savings account, twelve dollars in my checking account and 850 dollars of debt on my credit card. I want to be honest about it because I'm hoping it will make me feel better, like getting this in the open will make it seem less big and scary. So go ahead, laugh or scoff or commiserate. I'm 23 years old and should be able to handle my finances, yet somehow I've become that person who never saves, who always spends, and who has yet to really understand how investments and portfolios and financial sounding things even work. My current lack of capital wouldn't be so bad since 1) I'm living at home and 2) I have parents who will not let me starve. Yet I still feel that rising since of panic because well, I need money. Specifically I need money if I get accepted to teach English in Thailand, like a lot of money, or at least a lot of money for me. The program fee is 1600. A plane ticket would be 1800 minimum. But I can't even start saving up for this stuff until I pay off my credit card. Plus there's the threat hanging over me that I might have to pay 600 for my February Charleston rent if my landlord doesn't find someone to move by the 1st. And well here I am again, panicking. Which brings me back to this afternoon.

I've noticed a trait in myself that is slightly alarming. When in need of money, I have a knack for coming up with it, mainly through the sale of personal belongings. It started innocently enough, selling a few of my things on Ebay, but then I started seeing sales potential in everything, including items not belonging to me. I sold my sister and her husband's (old and not used anymore) playstation 2. I sold my dad's coat (again old and one that he no longer used-i'm not a thief, yet). And the more I sold, the more I wanted to sell. Everything around me suddenly had dollar amounts hovering over it. And as nice as it is to make some easy cash, I don't want to be this kind of person. I don't want to be that lady who pawns old pieces of jewelry or stereo equipment of family heirlooms. There's something very scavenger like about it and it creeps me out. I creep myself out. Yet it's hard to resist. There's something so irresistable about the thought of making money out of old stuff you don't care about, almost as if out of thin air.

I watched Antiques Roadshow the other night with my parents, aunt and grandma, and I couldn't believe it. I groaned when my dad switched the channel to it, called it the most boring show on television. But little did I know. It's like a dozen fairy tales rolled into one hour, a dozen rags to riches stories that are not scripted but entirely real. These people bring in junk that has been collecting dust in their basements for years, stuff that Aunt Sally left in her will but which they never really paid much mind to, and lo and behold, it's a rare and incredibly valuable antique. Ugly paintings of cats, ugly statues, ugly pendants, all of this ugly stuff that these people got for 5 dollars at a yard sale, ends up being worth thousands of dollars. It's the ultimate fantasy. As much as we want to pretend otherwise, money dictates so much of our lives. It sucks and it's stupid and unfair, but if you're really honest with yourself you'll know it's true. So the idea of easy money is perhaps one of our most cherished dreams-it's winning a game show or the lottery, stumbling upon a treasure chest. It's Publisher's Clearining House, how even though you know it's kind of fake and rigged, you catch yourself fantasizing that it's you opening the door and getting that big ass check.

So this afternoon, I went out in search of my own easy money, or at least I thought it would be easy. I took clothes to a consignment shop but was told that they were too springy. I drove for an hour looking for a coin shop I had found on the internet to sell some old silver dollars, but never found it. I had a whole stack of DVDs to sell, but couldn't bring myself to do this. The way things were going, I was bound to be told that my DVDs were not desirable, i.e. worthless. Basically I accomplished nothing. I'm still in debt. I'm still fighting that claustrophobic, panicked feeling. But I'm trying to breathe, trying to remind myself that my worries are peanuts in the big scheme of things. People with families to support are losing jobs. People are starving. My biggest fear is not being able to afford to go on an amazing adventure to a distant country. Other people have to fear for their very livelihoods. Which puts things into perspective, but still makes me think the same thing. Money freaking sucks. I wish we could all just barter with each other, trade goods and services like in the olden days. It could work right? Global nations could lend each other bananas and coffee instead of billions of dollars. Executives could get paid with wine and cheese. Blue collar workers would be paid with meat and potatoes (sorry couldn't resist). I know this is all horribly naive and silly, but right now I need something, anything to alleviate my generally sour mood.

I tried to cheer myself up with Target (only buying things that my parents would pay for mind you, i.e. groceries-I'm not that bad that I'll spend money when I'm depressed about not having money) and even that didn't work. And then I got even more sad when I realized what I really needed. If I was in Charleston and feeling this way, there's only one thing I would do-take a ridiculously long walk on the beach. Today was one of those days where I really needed the ocean, where my head was so full and my thoughts so jumbled that only cool, salt air could sort it all out. It sounds silly, like a classified ad cliche, but walking on the beach really kept me sane these last few years. I'm not an organized religion kind of person. I don't go to church. But for all extents and purposes the beach has been my church, my quiet place that I turn to for guidance and calm and help. It's where I can breathe, where I feel safest. No matter how upset I've been, I've never gone to the beach and not come away feeling significantly better. It's my therapy. And it's not like I'm crazy and think the waves talk to me or mermaids give me life advice. It's just that the ocean clears my head. It quiets all of the static and noise so that I can remember what I've always known, that I'm going to be okay. And I really could have used that today, that perspective that only a shoreline can give me, that despite stupid money and the lingering, irrational desire to rob a bank, I really am okay. Life is beautiful. It's just harder to remember that sometimes when you're inland.

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