On money

Which I will never understand.

When I came back to the UK, I left the contents of the joint savings account behind. I thought I was being fair, when actually, I was being stupid. I had enough money to rent a flat and equip it.

I hadn’t brought anything beyond clothes back with me, so I needed everything from teaspoons to bedding. Think of your average wedding list, take off all the gizmos and gadgets, halve the quantities. That’s probably what I bought. I decided that it was time to stop waiting and I bought myself decent cutlery and glassware. I didn’t compromise out of necessity, I bought only items that I liked, and if I couldn’t find what I liked, I went without.

In the first year, I overstretched myself by renting a place that was a little too expensive, once I’d adjusted back to how high the cost of living is in England. So I moved somewhere cheaper, with the aim of building up my savings. My belongings spread a thin layer in the new place, enough so that friends who were visiting would look round and say ‘You don’t have much, do you?’

The car needed fixing, I ran out of domestic oil, the cats needed treating at the vets. And this is how the pattern has continued. I had no safety net, and the thin, perpetual edge of anxiety that relentlessly accompanied that knowledge had become my norm. Earlier this year, I thought things were taking a turn for the better. I looked at my savings account and thought, ‘That’s ok.’ I relaxed, and bought a new laptop because mine was so old in laptop terms that it had to be put out to pasture.

Then the car needed fixing (twice), and I hit someone else’s car in a car park. I left them a note on their windscreen, because I thought I was being fair. I was probably being stupid, because that cost me hundreds. I’d be hoping for karmic payback if I believed in it, but what I actually believe is that shit happens and it keeps happening. Yesterday I took Belle to the vets. They decided to keep her overnight, and when they told me the estimate for figuring out what’s wrong with her, I said fine. I had a quick mental image of the balance in my savings account, and I knew they could take me for every penny and I’d pay without a second thought.

I believe, simultaneously, that saving is essential and that my own decisions make it pointless.

I booked a flight to the US last week. Was it the sensible choice in the current circumstances? No. But if I wait for a good time, it will never happen, because there are no good times. There is only either now, or a second later when the next small crisis has landed. I won’t live my life snatching at interstices.

So, I’ll be paying the full rent on this place, my car insurance is due for renewal, a service is looming. I’ll gradually acquire furniture that I like, the cats, will, undoubtedly, need to go to the vets, and it would be good to fill up the oil tank before winter. All of this will happen, because it has to. You start again, and then again, and if life feels simply ‘a drag from numbered stone to numbered stone’, well, that’s because it is. But sometimes, briefly, there is time to look up.

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