Trying Not to Be Poor, Again

It feels later than it really is, but that’s because I’ve been awake since earlier than I normally am. It’s 10 PM, give or take, as I write this but it feels like it’s after midnight. Luckily for me and my self-imposed goal, it’s not after midnight because then, technically, I would be in violation, having not written 500-1000 words on Friday.

I’ve been awake since before my normal waking up time because, in one of my pre-alarm wake-ups, I rolled over, checked my phone, and for some reason checked my bank balance, only to discover it was much lower than it had been before I’d gone to sleep. I won’t give you the exact amount but it was enough to make me worry that I might not have enough cash to get me through until the next paycheck.

The shock of that was enough to kick off my anxiety, and I went through the transactions in my account trying to figure out what had come out that I had not expected. My last couple of months have been spent carefully trying to plan ahead and set aside the money I need for my bills, using what is basically the envelope method of budgeting: setting aside groups of money for utilities, rent, gasoline, and food. But nothing seemed out of place. The envelopes had the right amount of money for future bills, but the “safe-to-spend” was just… lower.

That anxiety kept me from just rolling over and going back to sleep, unfortunately, so eventually, I stood up and went about my otherwise normal routine. Once I was showered and had breakfast, I sat back down at my computer and went over my future budget. I will be OK, but it will be tighter than I had originally thought.

I hate the roller-coaster, the feast-or-famine, of my current financial situation. I mean, I haven’t overdrafted my account in several months, so that’s good: my bills all get paid and I’m not bleeding money. But I cut it pretty close. My bank balance the night before my last paycheck was a buck and change. I hate this so much but at least I’m doing better than last year, where I must have given my bank several hundred dollars I couldn’t otherwise spare in NSF fees.

I have gas in my car and food in my fridge and cupboards. My bills will get paid, and I’ll make it to work, and I’ll have food to eat. But anything extra is just going to have to wait. I have a roof over my head, the lights are on, and the internet is working enough for me to keep on typing and surfing and streaming.

What would life be like without the stress of micromanaging my money? I can’t remember ever not fussing over every penny. It’s a fantasy, much like delving deep into an underground tomb looking for magical items and shiny gold coins. Life is dreary at the base of Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs but someone’s got to be down here.

I told Terry I couldn’t make it to happy hour after work, and he offered to buy me a beer. I was honest and he was generous. I feel more than a small amount of guilt for that but I didn’t ask; he offered. I guess that’s what friends are for? I would do the same for him if our situations were reversed. I just can’t see it ever reversing. Life stretches on.

I only had one beer, plus a cheap happy-hour burger that was delicious (it had jalapenos!), and then Terry and I wandered into a conversation about life and capitalism and being driven to change things for the better (me) and feeling helpless to make any difference at all (him) and it was a good conversation about deep and important topics. We agreed to disagree, as we always do, even after the talk continued while we wandered the streets outside the bar and sat on a bench and watched cars drive too fast down a narrow crowded street while pedestrians drunkenly crisscrossed in and out of headlights.

We didn’t solve anything except cementing our positions as Luke Skywalker trying to take on the whole Empire himself (me) vs. Han Solo just trying to look out for himself and his crew and spend the reward he got for risking his life (him). It’s a tale as old as time.

One of the touchstones of our conversation is the idea that if we met now, while we were adults, we would probably not become friends. We have a lot of differences that would likely repel each other. But we’ve been through a lot, and we bonded when we were much younger and less set in our ways, and that friendship keeps us in each others’ orbits. Do you have friends like that? I hope you do, because it’s the best feeling.

Is it even possible to bond like that with someone anymore? I look at the world online and the people around me, and I don’t really think it’s possible. If it is at all, it’s incredibly rare. How would that even happen? Surely not through Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. Surely not.

At any rate, I am tired and there’s still plenty of writing to be done this weekend, so

good night.