Woah, so, I guess I really struck a chord yesterday? Thanks so much for your honest, open and thoughtful comments about income! You rock. So much.
I do feel slightly fraudulent though. I think yesterday I came off as all zen and calm about money, but I’m not. (Let’s face it, I’m not all zen and calm about anything.) I have issues and hangups, too.
When I was in my early twenties I was really caught up in what my salary was; I equated salary with worth. And I really internalised that. I was living in London and earning a pittance, and my greatest fear was that I was earning so little because, well, I just wasn’t good or talented enough. I was caught between theoretically not caring about money (there’s more to life, etc), and feeling ashamed that I wasn’t worth much.
Later, I realised that almost everyone in the arts and/or publishing is underpaid. That helped a bit. But it wasn’t til I was on the dole that I really let go of a lot of my angst about being lowly-paid. I felt like I wasn’t competing any more, because I knew I was ‘losing’. My attitude towards money has been developing since then.
As I said yesterday, I was earning $58K a year last year, plus freelancing on top of that. I felt more than comfortable earning that amount – I felt rich. But I didn’t like my job and was really unhappy there. So it was a no-brainer to take a pay cut and run the festival – and this job is wild, and amazing, and challenging beyond anything I ever imagined for myself. I LOVE IT. So making that shift helped me to really sort out how I feel about money vs freedom and happiness.
So it’s only recently that I have really felt that I’m worthy, career-wise – I do think I’m competent, and have a strong vision, and am talented at what I do. I have been able to separate those thoughts out from the monetary value ascribed to me by my job. That feels pretty good, I have to say. But I also have to admit that I do also fantastise sometimes about going and running a more corporate festival next (oh, hai, Melbourne Food & Wine Festival!).
Being intellectually on top of the idea that my worth doesn’t have a dollar figure doesn’t always make it easy to be (relatively) poor, either. One thing I lack is security, and that does scare me. I have a very small savings account, but it’s not enough to cover medical bills if things suddenly go pear-shaped, and I don’t have insurance. Ditto if my house is robbed and my gear/bike stolen – I’d be fucked because I couldn’t replace it. And that is a worry. And sometimes it keeps me up at night.
And you know, sometimes it can be frustrating not having a lot of disposable income, even though I think having a lot of money is kind of gross unless you do really good things with it. I find it hard to find a balance between being an environmentalist and bleeding heart who rejects consumerism and, you know, wanting stuff. I would like a new fridge, and I would love it if I could afford to go to Hong Kong for a week, and I would kill for a Steamroller to add to my Long Haul Trucker, thanks very much. I don’t need those things, but yeah I want them.
So I’m not really all that zen about money. But I’m getting there.