I’ve never really, truly, been on my own before. And that scares the living shit out of me. While there is definitely a part of me that is looking forward to moving on and taking charge of my life, there is still another part of me that is absolutely terrified at the prospect.
It’s not so much the thought of being alone that scares me (though it has been a very long time since I was single for any significant length of time). It’s moreso about the relatively boring subject of finances.
I’ve had two student rooms, the first when I was 19, the second when I was 25. I’ve never had my own apartment. The only bills I had to worry about were for my cheap rooms and my cell phone. I never had a little person depending on me to care for him (for those who are curious, his father and I are sharing custody of our son. He will be spending alternate weeks with each of us, and the financial aspect of his care will also be split between us).
For the last four years, I have handed all of my money over to my ex-husband to take care of the bills. It’s not like I never got to spend any of it on myself, because I did. I wasn’t the one in charge of managing our finances. It seemed that we never had any money; it always sort of disappeared without my understanding or knowing why. That was one of the biggest things we used to fight about, and it was an ongoing battle.
When I tried to become more active in managing our budget and seeing where our money was going, he got very angry and frustrated with me, because he felt I was being too cheap. But when you only have $45 to live on for a two-week period, you have to be extra careful with how you spend your money. We didn’t need a $5 brush for our cat, no matter how much he was shedding. We could always vacuum up the hair. I got to “help” with the budget for a total of maybe one week, before we had a massive blowout over it, and I was relegated back to observer status.
So while part of me was somewhat happy to be ignorant and go along with things (ignorance is bliss, supposedly), I still felt anxious about what the future would hold. We lived from paycheck to paycheck, never exactly knowing how much money we would have for things we wanted, or even if we’d be able to pay our bills on time. It was maddening.
Yet now I’m going to be the only one in charge of my finances. I’ve set up a budget for myself, including putting money away in savings each pay period. I think it’s a pretty good system, if I do say so myself.
And yet I’m afraid.
What if I somehow fail at it? What if my friends (or any potential dates) think I’m boring because I don’t want to risk my finances to go out? What if I have to miss a day of work for some unseen emergency, and everything falls apart? The thought of not being able to pay my bills really bothers me. The thought of having to live paycheck to paycheck again bothers me. The fear that I won’t be able to take my son out to do fun things bothers me.
I recently had a friend tell me that I need to “stop worrying so much and just go with the flow” (essentially). That’s all fine and good, but I don’t live that way. I don’t enjoy living that way. I grew up in a very low-income family; we never had money to do anything fun, or to buy new clothes, or to go on school field trips. I was picked on and bullied for being poor.
She even went so far as to suggest that I could collect empties to make extra cash, or go to the food bank. I totally and completely understand that this advice was meant to be reassuring and helpful; that she was trying to tell me there is always a way to survive.
But I don’t want to live that way.
I don’t want my son to be wearing old and ratty clothing because I can’t afford to buy him new things. I don’t want kids to make fun of him at school because he’s poor. I don’t want people to know that I get my food from the food bank, or that I scrounge in other people’s garbage for their empty cans or bottles.
I want to be able to give my son a good life, and to keep him from feeling the same way I felt as a child because we couldn’t afford nice things. I want to know that I’m going to be able to do things for myself that I enjoy, and do them without compromising my ability to pay my bills and to care for us.
But you know what? As scary as all of this is, I know that I can get through it. Honestly, I’d rather people think I was boring for taking care of my finances and declining offers to go out, than to think me irresponsible for not being able to pay my bills. I know I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. I have a good support system of family and friends for love and moral support, and I’m grateful for that.