One of my hardest lessons the past year was in frugality. Balancing my financial scale was like breaking an addiction. There was frustration, tears, conflict, and even moments where my body experienced a sort of ache. Coming to terms with the truth of my financial situation, basically that I was living in deficit, was both cathartic and painful. But so worthwhile. It took just over a year to truly get my feet planted on the ground, and to mentally change my thinking around money. This also included an acceptance of my social status, and what that realistically permitted without going into enormous debt.
I used shopping and salons to conceal my feelings of inadequacy and shame, and that ultimately began a cycle of then not having the funds for what I really needed, the basics of a heathy life, even things as simple as a nutritious meal. I had to learn how to be happy with what I had, or to get what I wanted at a lesser cost. I went from shopping at expensive department stores to shopping at thrift stores. I still struggle with this today, but through the help of strong people in my life, I can put my desires and fears into perspective.
The absolute most crushing reality is not pursuing my academic interests. I work through this by making due with the resources I currently have, and I have some incredible resources, if only I apply them. So I practice mindfulness, and remind myself that maybe someday, I can study what I want, where I want, when I am in a position to responsibly do so. It is better to live within my means and have the money for what I need, instead of attaining a certain status at the cost of my wellbeing.
In my new lifestyle of learning how to live minimally, slowly, and without debt, I had to, and continue to have to, learn about humility. I have to be okay with what I have, which is really not easy when my first addiction of “not enough”, in the form of alcoholism, taunts me by saying those boots won’t make it through another winter, or people won’t respect me without updated and expensive accessories, or that I can’t stop biting my nails if I don’t have an expensive overlay that requires bi-weekly professional maintenance.
It has hurt to accept my current lot. My shifting of priorities had to happen, because I was sick and tired of hitting financial bottoms. Even still, my delusions of grandeur seem to be intrinsic, and run very deep within my psyche. I still hit walls today where I have to practice acceptance; I allow myself brief indulgences of self-deprecation as I sort through the feelings of disappointment when I realize I can’t make certain purchases. But I don’t stay in that place for long, because that place is a void that will snuff out the spark within me that has the potential of one day becoming a flame.
Therefore, practicing gratitude has been a go-to tool to get me through the harder moments of my financial recovery journey. I am grateful for what I do have, and for the people in my life who keep me focused and on-track. I am amazed at how much I have grown since the end of 2020 when I took my first step on this journey by not signing a contract for a new phone, and by choosing to use the phone I already owned and to instead just pay for the service.
I also stopped comparing myself to others, especially others who grew up having money. Once I accepted my present and my past, I was able to not only appreciate what I either naturally had, or what I attained up until this point, and to say, “That’s nice for them.” In this exercise I began to deepened my own self-love. I began to recognize my own beauty, and to be thankful to my family for instilling certain values in me that I can best recall when I’m not lost in the luxuries of the world.
For me, the levelling of my pride that leads to a sick financial state is a daily reprieve. So while I have balanced my bank account, I still must conscientiously work on my financial health with the same dedication as I do my physical and mental health. I used money to fill a God-sized hole which is currently being filled with gratitude, acceptance, perspective, and hope, but I work on the premise that hole is still there, and can get empty without a daily renewal of my mind.
It’s not easy to be in this world, but it’s getting easier to love myself despite the messaging all around me, saying I need things outside of myself to be loved. It has been a challenging lesson to get to this point. My partner Mike helped me the most to get on this track and my best friend Lisa helped me stay on it as she shared her wisdom which helped fortify me as I continued to grow. Getting financially healthy is not something I could have done on my own. I needed others to inspire me, such as people who live debt-free and who have slow-living and minimalism mentalities.
Thank you to 2020 and now as we close another year, 2021, for presenting me with so many incredible life instructions to heal this trauma of over-spending, and to all of my friends both online and offline, for being bright lights of passion and support, especially my academic friends who don’t give up sharing ideas, even during this time of suppressed information, and to God for reminding me that I am His child, beautiful and worthy in and of myself, not needing the wealth of a passing world to validate me.
Love This Moment by Pooja Grover