Just for the record, I am REALLY anxious about writing this post and it’s not the same anxiety I felt when writing this one about Weight Watchers or this one about my struggles with eating and drinking. This one is, if possible, harder because it makes me so vulnerable. I’m sharing a piece about me that very few people know and it’s scary.
No, friends, I’m not talking about sex, genitalia or orgies. (Trust me, I’d be STOKED to be writing about that.) I’m writing about this…
The worst 5 letter word IN THE WORLD. Money. So, if you don’t want to read about my money issues, I’d skip out to a lighter post. This one will be a bit heavy.
Let me preface this by saying I NEVER, EVER talk about money to my friends (I consider all of y’all my friends!). It’s just one of those subjects that is really touchy and comes with weird glances, awkward silences and pity stares. It’s usually just something I discuss with my husband and my family. But, it’s really been affecting ME lately so I just need to let it out. So, thanks in advance for listening. Oh and to lighten it up, I’m sharing some photos from Paradise Springs Winery, a local winery in Clifton, VA, I went to this weekend.
As you’ve seen on Facebook, Twitter and previous posts, I’m having a really rough couple days. And as much as I hate to admit this, it’s because of financial woes. Because I can’t truly talk about my work situation, I’ll just briefly say I work, currently, as a contractor. This means, simply, I get paid hourly and only get paid when I work. This means NO paid time off and, shockingly, no holiday pay. So when I’m unable to work (or even the building is shut down or there’s a crazy emergency) I don’t get paid. Um, guys? THIS BLOWS. I could scream about this for hours but I can’t here. Call me and invite me over for wine and I’ll tell you there.
So, this past Friday on payday, my check was substantially less than it normally was. Like, a lot less. Let me put this into perspective. The amount I was short was the cost of a month’s worth of groceries or our monthly utility bill. And, the worst part was, no one told me it would be. So, when you read that I was crying at work, that was why. Living somewhere like DC, I count on almost every penny JUST TO SURVIVE. My rent is very high, the cost of living is very high (hello $200 a month just to ride public transportation and expensive food). I can’t just function on $300 dollars less without serious consequences. Now, before I can continue with why I’m in such a financial hole at the age of 25, I need to briefly talk about my financial history. This, guys, is where it gets heavy.
My personal financial struggles are linked, albeit symbolically, to my struggle with my weight, self acceptance and self esteem. Growing up, I was chubby. I’ve never been the pretty girl, the popular girl or the girl with the best clothes. Like I’ve said before, in fifth grade I was in women’s sizes. I just didn’t feel good about who I was and I dressed to reflect that. Even when I lost a lot of weight, I still hid behind baggy clothes and over-sized tees. I just didn’t feel attractive. In our society, beauty is tied with more than just your facial features or your size. It’s tied with what you are wearing and who you are wearing. I don’t agree with it, but it’s true. I had a very comfortable childhood, but I was never the one with the hottest fashions. To my family, saving for college and retirement was more important than keeping me in Abercrombie’s newest fashions. This, honestly, is a lesson I wish I would have listened to.
So, flash forward to my first semester in college. The first couple of weeks were really hard on me. I was adjusting to college life and was still carrying around 25 extra pounds. I surely wasn’t the biggest girl on campus, but I was the biggest amongst my friends, and that was hard. It was very hard going out with my thin, beautiful friends because they always had male attention and I didn’t. I sort of felt like the outcast. This was one of the driving factors of me paying really close attention to my diet and working out as much as I did. I didn’t want to be the lonely, “fat” friend anymore. I had one boyfriend in middle school and wanted, truthfully, to date and experience a true relationship. Because I was a “nobody” those first few months, I had to find a way to get people’s attention. To get people to like me. So, unbenounced to my parents, I signed up for my first credit card. Looking back now, I seriously want to PUNCH myself for doing that. However, at the same time, I’m glad I did. It helped shape who I am and taught me some serious lessons about the real world and real life.
That credit card was my golden ticket. As soon as I had it, I started swiping. I used it to buy pizzas for my friends, beer to take to parties and clothes, lots and lots of clothes. For the first time in my life, I was ordering and buying the latest fashions without any limit. Without anyone telling me no. It was invigorating, to be honest. To be 18, go into a store and buy whatever I wanted. Fast forward again to around November of my freshman year. Not only had I lost almost 20 pounds since I started, but I was popular. I had more friends than I knew what to do with and had the attention of some really, really cute boys. I finally felt like I belonged. I finally felt like I mattered, like my opinion, my thoughts, were important to someone else. This was, highly, due in part to my weight loss and my new found financial freedom. Instead of saying I couldn’t afford to go out or couldn’t afford spring break in Panama City, I was buying trips for not just me, but friends and boys I liked. By Christmas time, I had two credit cards with minimums of $2500 and was spending money like it was going out of style. Life was good.
If you haven’t already guessed, it’s not a story with a “happily ever after.” By the time of spring break 2005, I was broke. Don’t get me wrong, it was still one of the best weeks of my life, but I had maxed out both cards. And honestly, I didn’t even understand what this meant. I knew I couldn’t use it anymore, but didn’t grasp that I needed to immediately remedy it. I was late in payments, didn’t pay some months and completely destroyed my credit. It’s taken, YEARS, to rebuild and it’s still not perfect. I’m not saying this because I want pity, I just need to say it. People with kids or people in college, DON’T do what I did unless you are fully able to pay off what you buy. Credit isn’t just magic money.
Here’s the hardest part, in addition to rebuilding a shattered credit, I also have some of the same issues I had when I was 18. I’m not happy with what I look like. I’ve gained weight, I’m unsure of my career path, I’m constantly confused with who I am. I once again find myself as that loner, that chubby girl in the corner with nothing to offer. And I do find myself trying to over compensate with money. I spend more than I have on new fashions, fun trips, fabulous accessories because I’m scared if I don’t have them, I won’t be anything. I’m completely terrified that if I’m not dressed to the 9’s, no one will even try to get to know me. My husband, God bless him, loves me regardless of what I’m wearing. He’d love me if I was 1,000 pounds (although would strongly urge me to move) and if I wore a paper bag. But inside, ME, I’m not there. And this horrible insecurity rose up again when I saw the scale start to tip. Every few pounds, it gets worse. And here I am, today, nearly 160 pounds and having to pay for the metro in coins with just a few penny’s to rub together.
So where do I go from here? I wish I knew. I wish it was as easy as saying “I am going to save money, not worry about what others think and reaffirm myself with positive things!” But this is more than just a spending problem. It’s in my core and I need to figure out a way to fix ME before I can fix my spending and my eating. I need to figure out how to be happy with me, regardless of my weight, my financial status or my looks. Which, friends, is hard.
So, now you know why I’ve been down and why I may not seem like myself. I hope I’ll find my way soon down this scary, windy road. Let’s just hope there’s a rainbow with a big ol’ pot of gold there when I do.