You know that moment of your annual holidays when you wake up and think “Urgh, just one more week and it’s back to the daily grind?” I’ve reached it this morning. Looking around my half cleaned bedroom, I wonder just how productive my annual break has been. The first week was spent preparing for, and living through, Christmas. The second week was spent getting over the first. Now that I’m into my 3rd and final week I find myself facing a mountain of half completed tasks and a handful of blog posts. I’m not sure I’ve been all that productive to be honest.
I’ve somehow, despite barely leaving the house, managed to spend all my money in the last two weeks. I’m not sure where it’s gone. A pizza here, a box of wine there, carton of cigarettes and a mountain of food for a Boxing Day gathering that wasn’t eaten. Money, or it’s lack thereof, is a major stressor in my life. I’ve worked since I was 15. I’ve had well paying jobs, and low paying jobs, yet somehow the bank balance has never really gone about survival mode.
I was recently discussing with a friend my need to find a new job, and my refusal to reduce my income again. Apparently I wasn’t thinking clearly. A pay cut is a good thing, it shows the company you’re willing to put in the hard work and earn your way back to your current salary. My current salary, and the one before it, where both major steps back in the world of paid employment. I’ve done that, and getting back to where you were is a long haul struggle, particularly if you get made redundant in the middle of it and have to start over again.
I’m barely making ends meet now, so the idea of going even further backwards is not one I appreciate. As a single guy in his 40’s there are limited opportunities left to make the money I’ll need for when I retire, and an overwhelming sense of running out of time.
It got me thinking about expectations. When I was younger, I wanted a Harbourside Mansion with staff, my own yacht and a trophy wife. I wanted the world of big bank balances and no worries. I grew up eventually. Now my dream is my own home. Silly that at 41 that is the one thing that drives me more than anything else. Combine it with the need to provide for myself in retirement and there you have it. The motivations that drive everything I focus on.
It can be so overwhelming. To be looking at a bank balance in the single digits and realise until next pay day you’re broke. Job instability added to that causes my to want to hide under a rock. It’s hard to explain without sounding like a first class complainer. I’ve got a roof over my head and food in the belly. I buy new shoes, from Payless, every 6 months, just as soon as the sole wears out and the rain seeps in. I have a suit and a tie. I don’t spend money on silly stuff, and for a few months I can manage to get myself organised before some trigger in my head explodes and I’m firing my money into god only knows what.
Part of the reason I wanted to be a writer was because the stories I want to tell are an escape. They let me, when I’m writing them, disappear completely. The fantasy of course is they’ll let the reader do the same thing. Run away from their troubles, hide in a made up world of life and death struggles all secure in the knowledge that sooner or later, the good guys, well most of them, will triumph.
I’ve never really written for the money. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to be turning any cheques down should they ever arrive, but for the most part, I write because I am trying to deal with my own inner demons. Loneliness, living week to week, isolation. All those good things. All the things you don’t admit in polite society or polite conversation.
I once read an article with Stephen King, where he said he writes from his own fears. It’s why so many of his characters are crippled in some way. The fear of being crippled, of being left dependent drove him to tap into his darkest fears and write some of the most compelling horror fiction available in your local bookstore today.
My greatest fear is to lose. To get to the end of the game and find out I needed to turn left when I turned right and everything has been nothing. All my life I’ve put things off until I could “afford” them, and I’ve somehow never managed to do it.
Relationships, writing, living my goals, all those things most of us do without real thought, have been relegated to the mythical land of “One Day” in the country of “When I Can Afford it.” I’ve come to realise recently that I can’t afford not to do it. If I wait for the time to be perfect, it will never be. It will leave my goals and dreams in the land of myth. If I want to change the future, my future, I have to change my current. Trying to change the past is futile, but I can still manage to change the now in the hope it will redesign the tomorrow.
I’m not a big believer in new years resolutions. I’ve made them for years and they’re always the same and never achieved. I guess those “inspiration moments” really don’t do anything to motivate me to do anything. What I am a believer in, is steps. I take those. It’s just maintaining the momentum to reach the end goal that I seem to get distracted by.
I guess completing a goal brings its own fears. What does one do when the goal has been achieved? How does one find a new goal? What happens when you reach a goal, and find it wasn’t what you’d thought it would be?
I read a quote once that said “if you want to pay off debt, focus on the debt paid, not the paying. Set up an automatic payment plan and get on with living.”
While I’m job hunting I need to be even more protective of the schekles I get paid each month. The contract I’m on is expiring in mid February. I’ve got 6 weeks, give or take,to find another job. When I made the career transition from customer service to conference producer, I had no idea how I was going to do it. I just did. That’s when I’m at my best. When I simply decide, “this is what I’m doing” and throw caution to the wind.
Maybe it’s time to live my life that way. To stop trying to live life the way I was raised to, and to simply get on with doing it. It appears to be working for my novel, and it appears to work in other areas. Rather than spend this year, another year, trying to live up to the expectations I’ve placed on myself to be “normal” I’m simply going to go with flow.
I’m not worried about goals, or end results. Just live and see what happens. The worse case scenario is that I’ll be sitting here in January 2016 writing a similar blog post. The best might be a whole lot different.
As Henry David Thoreau Says “Things do not change; we change.“