It’s been hard. Really hard. Life seems to have an uncanny ability to beat you when you’re down and then tease you with moments of respite that are all too brief. After years of having a lot of life go predictably well, I was reminded that I too am human and will suffer the slings and arrows that comes with occasional defeat. However, no matter how truly bad life gets, if you hang on long enough it’s destined to turn around.
In the past year I’ve had to learn about humility and to humble myself and my expectations of life and where I was in its journey. I’ve cursed life, I’ve cried and on some rare occasions I’ve even screamed. My husband noted that unlike dealing with depression, being financially poor is a lifestyle that is can often be almost impossible to break free of. Having been at the top of the mountain and now near its base, I can more clearly see how that’s true. I look up at its peak and wonder how to make the climb and whether or not the top of that mountain is where I am to be. Let’s take depression out of the picture and focus solely on what it is to be financially poor.
I’d never realized just how different and difficult life becomes when you’re barely scraping by. It’s remarkable how quickly a difficult situation can be further compounded by life’s necessities or just by simply living life. You go from being able to tread water to slowly sinking to then being submerged before you even know it. When you have a good job, benefits, a perceived constant, you seldom think about the things that can cause severe disruption to your life. When you charge up life’s “necessities” on credit you’re then able to see, in this new reality, just how necessary they really are. Maybe it’s a side effect of living the American dream, but we often feel that we’re entitled to certain things including our lifestyles and our skewed views of what a successful life is.
I’ve read that Americans, unlike most others, tend to be very materialistic. We gain our identities from the items we accrue in our lives. Not too far from our decadent 80s, the more we have or the more we are capable of gaining, the better we feel about who we are and what we’ve accomplished. Having been on that side, I can understand that. Indeed, I relished in the things that outwardly projected success. House. Cars. Electronics. You name it, I had to have it. And now that I’m in no position to purchase any of those things there are moments where they feel as though they’ve become an albatross around my neck, a reminder of misguided definitions of happiness and success. In its wake I’m left with the one thing that most Americans have, mounting debt.
Going from “haves” to “have-nots” can be both a blessing and a curse. I’ve learned how I no longer need to keep up with the Joneses and most importantly, I’ve realized just how much I still have and what it is in my life that I really need. I now want for a lot less. Yes, it’s a somewhat constant frustration adjusting to being self-employed as well as doing what we must to keep ourselves in control of medical bills and consumer debt. However, it is in these times that we learn what to do when our backs are against the wall. It’s a lot more difficult climbing back up the mountain but it’s great when you start to actually appreciate the journey and the things you see and learn along the way. After all, it’s quiet possible that the very top is where you even want or need to be.
This article appeared on page 5A in the 6/23/15 issue of The Union-Recorder.