Reflections on National Donut Day
I told you I was going to do this.
We should start by noticing that this is the first National Donut Day in the past four years in which I haven’t worn black. I didn’t intend to wear a black dress (or tank top) on the first Friday in June for three years in a row, but there it is, in all the photos:
But earlier this year I bought a sundress with donuts (and other sweets) on it to wear on the JoCo Cruise, and even though I’m realizing that this is a very ridiculous dress to wear in most instances, I kinda had to wear it on National Donut Day.
So today I’m wearing white.
This year my donut is a Good Ol’ Glazed, because I’ve been doing CICO to lose a little of the extra weight I’ve put on over the past two years. (Increasing your income and moving into an apartment that has a kitchen will do that to you.) I’ve been maintaining a 2 lb/month weight loss, which makes sense for my height/weight/nutritional needs—and I actually hit my weight goal this month, which is only relevant because I hit a lot of other goals or milestones this month, and I want to write about that in a minute.
Also, I want to give some context to why I’m not eating a creme-filled donut covered with icing and sprinkles, even though those are generally my favorite kind.
And yes, indulge, but I was at a wedding last week and my book launch was a week before that, so it’s not like I am suffering for lack of frosting. To have what one wants, one cannot have everything.
Right now I have just about everything. (Including a free donut, because Mighty-O gave me this one on the house after seeing my dress.)
So it’s time to ask myself whether this is what I want.
I love The Billfold to absolute pieces, and when Mike invited me to take on some additional responsibilities I was like “yes, I cannot say yes fast enough, this is my favorite place on the internet and I want to take good care of it the way a Millennial would take care of a plant.”
My debut novel also came out last week. Two weeks ago by the time you’ll read this, because I’m writing it on a Friday and you’ll read it on a Monday, or… sometime. (The internet.) So many people have already told me how much they love it, or how much they’re enjoying reading it, and I get emails every morning telling me how many people bought the book in the past 24 hours.
I’m teaching a class on interviewing at Hugo House this weekend, and so many students wanted to sign up that they asked me if it was okay to increase the max capacity.
I’m also finishing up my first year as a volunteer tutor for the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas—because school is about to end, as will my weekly tutoring night.
Is this why National Donut Day has become, like, my day of self-reflection? Because school’s out? Because we’re sort of starting summer, even though it won’t officially start for another two weeks? (Because last year I noticed that I was wearing the same black tank top that I had worn the year before and decided to reflect on it?)
So I get these emails telling me how many copies of my book have sold and how much money I’ve made. And I was kind of expecting this, and it was also kind of a question, but now that I know the answer to “how much money I am earning daily, from this novel,” I also know the answer to another question: I will probably never be rich. There are only, like, three ways a person like me could ever become rich, and I just tried one of them.
Not that I was expecting to publish a book and have money fall out of the sky. But my novel has done just about as well as I could have expected, and my career has done even better than I could have expected, and I am all of the things that a younger version of myself—even last year’s version of myself—might have wanted to become, and I am still earning slightly above the median United States income, which means that I will have to watch what I do with my money probably for the rest of my life, hoard it and count it and indulge only sparingly because—as with donuts—you can’t have everything you want all at the same time.
Even when you have everything you want.
There’s the “when I am this, it will be different” fantasy, when you get this promotion or complete this project or meet some personal goal or whatever, and it’s true, in the sense that I am wearing white instead of black this year, and I get an email every morning telling me how many copies my book has sold, and a couple years ago a friend asked me where I wanted my career to go and I said “I want to keep moving up at The Billfold.”
But I’m realizing how much of my life is probably not going to change, no matter how different I become. I may never earn much more than the median income—and even last year, when I landed a big project that pushed my earnings above the median U.S. income, I only barely made the median Seattle income—and although that means I’m doing well financially, since beating a median is actually mathematically significant, it still means that there is a lot of stuff that I’ll never be able to do with my money, just because I’ll never have a big enough pile of it.
Even though I can hit—and surpass—every other goal I set for myself.
I still feel embarrassed to have people over to my apartment, because it is small and the table is wobbly and the couch is very uncomfortable. Plus my “television” is a projector hooked up to my laptop, and there’s no keystone feature, so you have to be okay with the screen being a little crooked and the sound coming out of my laptop speakers. It will take a big pile of money to fix all of the things I’d like to fix to make my home comfortable enough for people who aren’t me, who haven’t spent so many years in even worse apartments that the fact that this one has a kitchen is seen as a bonus.
But I could shove a little more money into the homemaking pile if I pulled some out of the JoCo Cruise pile, or the flying-across-the-country-to-visit-family pile, or the “you spent $18.99 on a dress because it had donuts on it” pile. I know that I am choosing some spending over others, the same way I choose donuts and goals and everything else. I’m also choosing to increase my savings percentage this year, which means there is less I can afford to buy.
So should I sit here, with my free donut, in my new dress, and be bummed because I seem to have everything I want—everything I chose for myself—except a large enough amount of money? This is, like, the antithesis of every fable. The Fisherman’s Wife, the Monkey’s Paw, the entire expanse of myth and faith and story says be happy with what you have. (Well, no. Stories don’t. Stories say “let something make you unhappy, so that you may overcome it.”)
And I am happy with what I have. Except this is a weird year to feel happy, because… you know. So it’s happiness and something less than happiness, the acknowledgment that in a system that is corrupted beyond my influence or control—and I’m referring to the government and the financial system and healthcare and everything else—I have done a few small things that I’ve always wanted to do. These things have also, I hope, improved other people’s lives or created a stronger community.
And I did.
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