Saturday, April 12, 2008

on money, that's right, money

i came to a realization last week; i am working under the assumption that i will:
1. get a MAP grant
2. get a creative capital grant
3. win the lotto

i told ana this, and having read my proposal for MAP, she said very sweetly, "that's a fair assumption." i told kelly this, and she said, "it's a possibility. and staying positive can only invite more positive." linda, a cast mate from my play said, "this is excellent. you should live the way you want to live and the money will follow you!"

okay. that's all good and all. but it really is a faulty assumption. really. i don't know how my brain keeps doing this to me. the likelihood of getting either the MAP or CC is very low. i have a pretty thin resume. and, as much as i think my project proposal is pretty damn good, there will be at least 100 others just as good. it helps that i've included really awesome collaborators in one of the proposals, i'm sure. but still.

yet, i can't shake it. i'm full of anticipation of that next windfall.

to tell you the truth, my life has consisted of windfalls. i grew up solidly middle class, in a town that was too wealthy for my family. we were always running out of money, yet my folks insisted on living where we did and on sending all of us to private high schools and colleges. when i lived in wellesley, i was acutely aware that my family could not afford the clothes or stuff that my peers had. but i had a violin. and a piano.

when i was 15 or so, my grandparents started doling out their excess money. they were making twice as much being retired as they did working. and they were paying too much taxes for money they didn't need. they gave money to my father and aunts and then smaller sums to me, my brothers and my cousins in the form of mutual funds.

i didn't touch the money until college. i used a fair sum of it to pay for tuition. and even then, i still took out loans and my parents took out loans. oberlin was expensive. i am still paying for it. but there was something very special about having that chunk of change.

after college, i took a very low-paying job at oberlin. 16k a year working at least 50-60hrs a week. i used more of that windfall money from my grandparents to put a down payment on my car. but i mostly just got by with that 16k.

after my mom died, i received an inheritance. one from her insurance and one from my father downsizing his living quarters. i used that windfall to pay off about 10% of my student loans, put a down payment on our house, and try my hand at buying and selling stocks.

i've always been ambivalent about this money. on the one hand, i haven't forgotten what it's like to always be around people who were richer than me. on the other, i realized at oberlin just how lucky i had it. you know, befriending other workers in the dining hall, learning about "class" in class, someone "calling me out" as a "wellesley snob," those endless "privilege" workshops and whatnot.

money is power is responsibility. i had capital and i think i've used it relatively well. i used it for education, "stability," and family. i even gave a few friends some chunks of startup money or rent money with it.

but now, it's running out. wonderful partner finally confronted me about it earlier this week. she has noted that she wants a little more stability in our life. that's one thing that these past 14 months have not been: stable. i agreed that i would begin applying for jobs. as in, job jobs. full-time with benefits jobs.

so i bit my lip and combed through jobs at UT. there are four that i'm qualified for. at least one of them i would enjoy doing. if pushed to the limit of my earning potential, 50k would not be out of the question. but i have to start applying now. i can't wait for the money to run out and then scramble around, waiting to see if i can get something.

stability: she deserves as much. i deserve as much, too. but i'm torn. i spent my 20s domestically stable, though losing a parent and working through grad school was hardly emotionally stable. part of me feels like i missed out on the "finding yerself" part of the 20s.

now, i feel like i'm just on the cusp of figuring something out, about my art, about my life. but i also feel like i know how to keep working for myself even if i pick up a "day job." and then, i'm racked with guilt: i squandered away this past year. i squandered away my money. what, exactly, have i accomplished in this time? am i just a bum?

and then that thought--that assumption about two of the biggest grants someone at this stage in an art career can get--crosses my mind. maybe, it whispers, we WILL get it. maybe, it says, we DESERVE it. maybe, it cries, we're due for a windfall any day now. every tuesday and friday evening, i open up the lotto site with that taste of anticipation. maybe, just maybe....

the question is: am i naive? is my life charmed? or am i just a whiney middle-class brat who has nothing better to care about? fuck if i know. i suppose the next six months will tell.

1 comment:

la rebelde said...

The "finding yourself" part of the 20s is overrated. Besides, it's not like you didn't do a lot of growing during that time, right? Isn't that what's it's about anyway? Personally, I'm ready for stability!