A few days ago marked one year since I was shown the door at my last ‘real’ job. At the time, I went through the traditional stages of grief; anger, disgust, disdain, and fury, with a brief stop at homicidal mania. It didn’t take me long to get past all that, however, and settle into my new life as an aspiring novelist. I wasn’t particularly lonely, my days didn’t drag. I was productive and had results to show for my efforts. I probably even lowered my blood pressure. What I did miss, was having an income.
It’s been well over thirty years since I went a year without a ‘real’ job. I had my first office job the summer I was thirteen. The man who hired me could not remember how old I was and occasionally suggested I take his car to run an errand. I’d remind him that I was only thirteen and he’d look at me for a minute like we’d just met, and then shake his head and say, “Right, right,” and wave his hand, indicating no matter, he’d handle that chore himself.
I liked making money. With money came unbelievable freedom. If I wanted something my parents weren’t willing to spring for, no problem, I bought it myself. If I wanted something they wouldn’t approve of, they didn’t need to know about it. But it turned out that I wasn’t a terribly acquisitive teenager. The things most girls spent money on, clothes and makeup, didn’t interest me at all, so my bank account grew and grew.
As an adult, I took great pride in being financially self-sufficient. Single, I bought my first house right before I turned thirty, proving that ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.’ And when I met and married my husband, I insisted we keep our money separate until a few years in when a lawyer told us that, at that point in the marriage, there was no more mine vs. his. If we broke up, the state would look at our assets as one big pot to be split. I gave in and our money began mingling. Even so, I was acutely aware of my contributions to the family coffers, and the financial freedom I continued to cherish.
So here I am, ‘working’ at home, and not earning money. I hope that won’t be a permanent state of affairs. With a little luck, I’ll sell my book and look back on this year as the year I worked on spec. And if I can do it once, maybe I can do it twice, and then I’ll be contributing financially again.
Meanwhile, I’m the only one in the family having a problem with this situation. My wildly supportive husband is perfectly content to be the sole wage earner, as long as I’m happily pursuing my new career. So I’ll try to stay upbeat. After all, I have enjoyed this past year. But I now know that even if money can’t buy happiness, it sure can stave off anxiety.