Wondering If I’ll Ever Be Able To Afford To Be My Best Self

Wondering If I Will Ever Be Able To Afford To Be My Best Self

About a week ago, I sat down and wrote out a list of goals for myself in the new year. It included some bigger goals: trying to get a promotion at work, renewing my lease, and paying down the debt I’ve accrued since being laid off a little over a year ago. I tried to throw in some other more lifestyle-oriented things too, like eating healthier, doing one of those Escape the Room thingies, finally seeing this Hamilton everyone is understandably raving about, and hopefully joining a gym.

Every bullet point was something I had been thinking about for a while. None was outrageous. And yet, staring at that list, all I could see under each entry was dollar signs.

I am well aware that money is not a cure-all. In fact, I’ve made a lot of decisions over the past year that favored personal fulfillment over a money-driven lifestyle. I quit my part-time job knowing that money would be tighter so that I could be better rested and have more time to do things I love. I moved out of the Manhattan to share a place with my boyfriend and to build something that looked a little more like a home instead of a crash pad.

These are all decisions that have paid off: more time for adventures, growing of personal relationships, and a better work-life balance overall. But at the same time, I would be naive to believe that this all meant that money wouldn’t still be a huge concern.

When I look at my list of goals for next year, I feel a bit overwhelmed. As much as I accept that being unable to meet some of these is inevitable, that there are corners I can cut to half-meet some of these goals, the thing is that I really, really want all these things. I don’t think anything on that list is necessarily unreasonable, but I do think they’re more reasonable for a version of me that I’m just not at yet.

I’ve been through a few transitional years lately that have really took a hit on my finances, and right now accomplishing one thing often means sacrificing another and then some. I realize that this is usually the way of the world, but I remember a time when things were easier — when I paid off my entire credit card balance every month, when I had a steady savings, when I didn’t have to check my bank account every day.

About a month ago, I bought my first real Christmas tree. Living in Brooklyn, we finally had the space for it, and I was excited to relive my childhood memories. It was pricey: not having a nearby lot or car, we went for a lot with delivery service, meaning we ended up paying $95 for the tree and a stand. I took on some freelance transcription work to make sure I could afford the purchase, which was extravagant considering all the other expenses during the time of year. We also outfitted it as best we could with about $35 worth of drugstore decorations.

All was going well until Christmas Eve, when my boyfriend went to water the tree and noticed some bugs on the floor. When I went to examine, I realized there were bugs everywhere. Apparently, an egg sac of praying mantids had hatched with the unseasonably warm weather and placement near the heater. We ended up spending much of Christmas Eve taking down decorations and throwing out the tree.

We ended up spending much of Christmas Eve taking down decorations and throwing out the tree.

The moment I realized all this was happening, I burst into tears. It was less about actually having the tree and more about what it represented. So much work and hope had gone into having that tree.

Perhaps me from three years ago would have had something like this happen and would’ve been able to laugh it off, but present-me thought about if we’d have to get an exterminator or some other service and panicked — not to mention that any expenses we incurred cleaning up this mess was all for something we could barely afford in the first place. All I wanted to was to be a version of me that wasn’t so worried about money. That may not be my best self, but it would be a better version. Because I think of that version of me would’ve been able to better handle a bug infestation. That version of me would have the safety nets in place when the unexpected happened. That version of me would tackle my new year goal list with confidence I’m not sure I can fully muster.

All I wanted to was to be a version of me that wasn’t so worried about money. That may not be my best self, but it would be a better version.

Along with the tree fiasco, my boyfriend also appeared to have lost his wallet on Christmas night. We had gone to the corner store for a late night snack, and the next morning, his wallet was nowhere to be seen. He was especially upset because he had some of his Christmas money and gift cards in there, and he almost never had any money, much less on him. We ended up coming back to our apartment from our holiday weekend with family exhausted and wary, haunted by the memory of our bug infestation with the gaping, empty corner in our living room.

Amazingly, however, when I went to retrieve our toothbrushes from my bag, there was the wallet, safe and sound. One crisis was averted, and we were relieved. As with the tree and the wallet and a bunch of other things that had gone off-plan over the last year, we were okay. Things could be worse and things could be better, but we always found a way to make things work. For now, this is enough.

With a rather stressful Christmas holiday behind me, I looked at my goal list and decided to do what I could. Ultimately, there is no best version of me. Just me, trying to get better. This may be a long road, but I am trying to look forward, which is, at least, a start.

Kimberly Lew is a published playwright and blogger living in Brooklyn. She, thankfully, has not seen a praying mantid in her apartment in the last 24 hours. Check her out at www.kimberlylew.com.

This article is part of The Billfold’s 2015 end-of-year series, “Our Best Selves in the Coming Year.”

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.