When I was 5 years old, I was the only girl at my preschool that didn’t have a white pair of cowboy boots.
It’s not as if I lived in the rural country either — this was in the border of Huntington Beach/Westminster, California, the most racially diverse part of the suburban city and in no way, did cowboy country life have a remote presence in the community. But for some reason most of the girls in my class had white cowboy boots, and I just knew that if I wanted to make it in this world and start off right in the social scene, that I had to get me a pair as well.
After the first day at school, I begged my mom to take me to the store to buy a pair. “Pleaseeeeeee MOMMY! I want a white pair of cowboy boots TOO! All the other girls have one!” But my mom never gave in. “They won’t even look nice on you. Plus it doesn’t rain that often in California,” she said. “THEY’RE NOT RAIN BOOTS!” I’d tell her.
So I never got a pair. And each and every day after that, I became aware of the things I couldn’t and shouldn’t have, always for a reason that was in my “best interest”; but mostly because, we could just never afford the things I wanted.
Having to constantly negotiate with my parents over things that I considered were necessary to buy became a weekly occurrence during my teenage years. When smart phones became popular, I, of course wanted my own but at the time the data plans were devastatingly expensive. My dad would brush off my request saying he didn’t understand where my taste for such expensive, worthless items came from. “When did you become maarte?” He would ask me. Maarte in Tagalog has a negative connotation; it translates to a person who is pretentious or high maintenance. But to this comment, I would just retreat back into my state of misery and go back to scrolling through my flip phone, not desiring to push the conversation further.
It’s no surprise then that when I got my first credit card at the age of 19, I had no sense of self-control over my spending habits. I was fine with my first small limit $300 credit card — it’s when I had my sixth card with a limit of $3000 that pushed me over the edge. I bought things I was forbidden to have because they were out of my family’s financial reach (except for the white boots, I still have not bought a pair to this day), like expensive purses, lavish dinners, designer jeans, and pretty much anything a 19-year-old would want. I never thought about the repercussions of not being able to pay my credit cards back. All I knew was that the first time in my life, I had the power to make financial decisions on my own. Of course, they weren’t the best decisions, in fact, they were the worst decisions I’ve ever made in my life so far. Although I’m still holding out for something even worse to knock that off the number 1 spot.
Now that I’ll be entering my late twenties soon, and will be transitioning into a phase of car payments, mortgages, insurance bills — you know, “adult stuff” — I’m terrified of how my past reckless behaviors will seep into the stable life I’ve created up until this point. I definitely feel as though those previous bad decisions are now guiding me into the career directions I may not consider as a destination I’d be content with. But I don’t exactly regret those past decisions because without them, I wouldn’t have the firm understanding of the value of money and material objects that I have now as an adult. So here’s to embracing those bad decisions! And here’s to figuring out where I go from here.