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A Break Up Song Helped Me Let Go of Financial Fear – M. L. Sukala – Medium

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If I don’t have money, at least I’ll still have me

Photo by Jonathan Brinkhorst on Unsplash

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the song “I’ll Still Have Me” by CYN. If you haven’t, you need to check it out stat and listen to it while reading this post. Here’s the link. Plug in some headphones, turn up the volume, and click it. I’ll wait.

Are you listening? Good. Now, we may proceed with the essay.

Lately, I have been losing who I was when I was homeless. It isn’t just because I have a home of my own now and therefore literally don’t fit the definition of homeless anymore. You see, when I didn’t have a roof over my head, I wasn’t very comfortable physically, financially, emotionally, or personally. I had to do hard things like sleep on a mat on a concrete floor surrounded by complete strangers and ration out my money to the penny to pay for even a cheap bottle of orange juice from concentrate when I was sick. It was the least comfortable period of my life.

It was filled with uncomfortable experiences like those ones, but it was also filled with uncomfortable things like growth; risk-taking in my career because I had nothing to lose and even one dollar in payment was a lot compared to zero; finding who I was without all of the fluff and humdrum of everyday life; and learning to stand up for my humanity because when you have nothing, people will assume you are nothing until told otherwise — by none other than you.

Now that I have a home, a job, food in the fridge, funds in the bank, and a life that I could maintain if I got tired of building, things are simpler in some ways and more complicated in others. I don’t have to figure out how to make money because I have a job that gives me almost full time hours. If I choose to binge YouTube in my free time instead of fostering my writing, I’ll still be able to cover my bills. I have something to lose right now: security, stability, an apartment, a standard of living, the admiration of friends for making it out of rock bottom into a respectable space.

Today, I rediscovered the bittersweet ditty “I’ll Still Have Me” by CYN. I heard the song casually once or twice before. As I was pondering my relationship with money and what actions to take this evening, the song popped into my head. I had to give it a deeper listen. The opening line croons:

I broke my back ‘cause

I thought you would too.

I’d run in circles.

I thought you would too.”

My ears perked. That’s me and money, I thought. I leaned in and hung on every word that followed.

But there’s no bad dream to wake up from
Now I got it bad when it’s the morning
And you’re all that’s on my mind

When I sleep there’s no escape; I dream about work. Even on my days off, my job is the first thing on my mind when I wake up and the last thing when I go to sleep.

If I don’t have you
At least I’ll still have me

When I had no job, I had myself. It’s true. Even when I seemed to have lost it all, I had the most real part of myself stripped of everything that kept me from being who I truly am: a creative, a risk taker, a storyteller, a frugal minimalist, a human being. I didn’t have the things that made me valuable in society’s eyes, and I did my own thing, creating value on my own terms in my own life.

I never thought twice
’Cause you were my number one
I put you first ‘cause
You were my only song

I don’t believe that money should come first in life. If you are sick, stressed, and miserable for the sake of a paycheck, it’s not worth it. Selling my life to a corporation is above my pay grade of a whopping $12.50 an hour before taxes with fluctuating hours. Our capitalist, consumerist society runs on the idea that money comes first. We sell our time to pay for things we don’t need, to pay rent on an apartment that we only return to for sleeping. I know how ludicrous this way of life is. I also know that as I have sunk into it, it has gotten tough to imagine trading its routine for a less guaranteed income.

Some days, I consider getting rid of my phone, my internet, all extra expenses outside of rent, utilities, and debt payments because I would prefer to pare down my cost of living than maintain it by working a job that makes me feel less than alive. This verse reminded me that I don’t have to put money first if it isn’t my first priority, and that I will be okay either way.

Everybody knows I’m upset
They don’t even have to ask it
They know I believed in us last week

I’ve been grappling with whether I should leave a guaranteed biweekly paycheck or not to grow my business and pour my all into projects. I flop from believing that the steady paycheck will give me the stability I need to thrive creatively to moments of clarity in which I realize that it is cutting into my energy and time to exceed expectations with editors.

If I divide my time between my job that pays for hours worked and physical labor and my writing, the writing will inevitably suffer. That will prevent me from gaining repeat contributions and new opportunities through outstanding quality work.

I’ve talked it over with multiple people in my circle again and again. Some have heard my re-dedication to “holding down a job” and some have stood at the sidelines witnessing my sudden epiphanies. The struggle is all over my face when I’m interacting with strangers and friends alike — they don’t even have to ask if I’m alright.

And there’s no reason to speak badly
We just reached our end
I will see you in parts of me
If you are wise back then

Working as a traditional employee and valuing a steady paycheck/standard of living aren’t inherently bad or evil — they’re just not necessarily for me. I’ll see my work ethic as an employee in myself as an entrepreneur. Maybe one day, I will be rich from writing. Most writers live a life of joyful simplicity carrying out the existence they dreamed of as soon as they could crack open a book and understand that someone made it and got paid for it. The future isn’t written in stone; maybe I will be one of the lucky ones who gets rich with my words.

No matter what happens, I will rest in the knowledge that if I don’t have money, I’ll still have me. But even if I do, ditto. This is my break-up song with money. We can still be friends, but I don’t need it to validate my worth anymore. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some big decisions to make. Not just for my finances, but for me. At the very least, for me.

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