When I moved out of my parents’ house, I knew the going would be tough. I live alone in a one-bedroom apartment, and despite everybody’s advice to move into a two-bedroom and split bills with a roommate, I felt that I really needed my own space. I crunched numbers and saved as much as I could for as long as I could and after three months of exhaustive apartment hunting, I found The Place. I really love my apartment but in terms of a location close to work, it’s not. One of the perks of moving out was supposed to be a closer commute, but I ended up staying 10 minutes east of my parents’. This helps me cut the cost of laundry because I take my clothes to their house instead of feeding the coin laundry in the basement and buying detergent, but still. It wasn’t exactly the best choice. The money I save with doing my laundry at their place does not cancel out the money I could save with a roommate or with living closer to work. The other not-financially-savvy aspect is that I live in a 100-year-old building with lots of windows and shitty insulation. It’s a plus in the summer because if I open all the windows, it’s a freaking wind tunnel and I barely need to use the a/c. The winter is another story–my gas bill has been killer.
While I make almost double I was making at my last job, it’s still a very, very modest living. With the cost of commuting (Illinois toll hikes doubling, gas prices constantly fluctuating, the mere hours I spend in the car each day that make me exhausted by the time I arrive home) and a few other financial set-backs (my employer’s medical premium tripled in 2012, my car crapped out on the highway and I needed a new tire, the amount of money I’ve been spending on food as of late for my new vegan diet, the increase in my cable bill as of March when the promo period ends), things have not been easy. I was really looking forward to a big tax refund in order to pay off all my credit card debt and free up the extra $300/month I throw at them.
Last night I sat down to compute my tax refund and while it is a pretty lump sum, it’s about $400 less than I was anticipating. This lead to a 20-something financial breakdown. My boyfriend and I sat down to configure my budget and we found that continuing onward at this rate will only leave me $56 of “entertainment” money per month after rent, bills, credit cards, tolls, gas, dry cleaning, and throwing $100/month into longterm savings, etc., etc. This leaves me a) no room for a social life to speak of, b) no room to do the things I love (yoga), c) no peace of mind. I constantly feel like I am in wait. I am constantly waiting for the next big thing to propel me out of this and I am not living mindfully in the moment, ever. I am constantly looking forward to an eventual promotion, to be thin, to be happy. It’s like completing the equation I think I need will magically transform me into somebody entirely new. What sorcery!
This all corresponds nicely with the reading for this week’s yoga + book club in Women Food and God. Geneen Roth writes:
…[this] is called the ‘ When I Get Thin (Change Jobs, Move, Find a Relationship, Leave this Relationship, Have Money) Blues.’ It’s called the ‘If Only’ refrain. It’s called postponing your life and your ability to be happy to a future date when then, oh then, you will finally get what you want and life will be good.
This is toxic. I am living my life in wait of these things. One day, when I get what I think I want, things are supposed to magically change. Just like I am lulled to sleep nightly imagining an alternate reality where things are different: I am thin, I am pretty, I am interesting, I have a higher degree, I have a better-paying and more-fulfilling job, I am a better friend, I am a better girlfriend. But living this way, we miss all the meat of the in-between.
This is where yoga fits in. Yoga’s purpose is to teach us mindfulness. Yes, it can be a great workout too, but what I glean from it is more on the meditation-side. The peace. The inner, happy solitude. It allows me to come home on Sunday night and feel hopeful, even if it’s only fleeting. I wake up Monday morning tired and unprepared to face the day, the work week, my life. But at least for a minute the night before, I felt entirely at peace with myself. Cutting yoga out because of my $56/month “entertainment” budget is entirely impossible to me at this stage of my life. I have to find a way to fit it in. And I also have to find a way to fit a social life in. My boyfriend and I have been spending our weekends at home watching Netflix (holy shit, United States of Tara is a good show!) and haven’t had actual social time with our friends in weeks, possibly months. We’re not islands. We all have to free up our schedules, finances, and our inclinations to bolt in order to do what’s good for us: we are social animals, we cannot subside entirely on isolation from others.
So today I am looking at life with new lenses. I am appreciating the small, modest bits that I do have. And however much of a financial drain it is to live alone, I love my apartment. It’s so me. I feel like the person I want to be when I’m here. It contains all my worldy possessions–my books, my records, my photographs. My essence. My being.
If you lived here, you’d be home now.
(even if the floors are sloping and creaky.)