My 20th high school reunion is coming up. Gah. Besides the fact I think that makes me O.L.D. and I have my own reservations about going in the first place (senior year was not a good year for me socially. Long story. High school sucks for everyone, right?), I am, sort of, looking forward to it. Okay, I know it will be fun to see where we’ve all landed 20 years hence.
So, in an effort to convince myself this will be fun and to put forth my best self, I bought a new dress for the occasion. It’s adorable. It makes me feel pretty. And shouldn’t I feel pretty before walking into a room full of folks that knew me before contacts and the mastery of a flat-iron? Yes. Yes, I should.
The problem is that two months ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice and would have plunked down some change for a new pair of shoes and accessories, too. I don’t shop much (hardly ever, really) and a little splurge would have been just enough retail therapy to boost my confidence going into this reunion. But think twice I am.
This time it isn’t my money.
Having my own income was liberating for me. I enjoyed contributing to our family finances and knowing that my check could help cover B’s preschool tuition, the boys’ camps, date nights and the occasional frivolous dress. Now, I’m back to feeling guilty that I’m spending family money on myself. This wasn’t my money to spend. This is now money that should be weighed against the rest of the commitments our family has.
And I hate this feeling. The hubby has never once begrudged me anything (mainly because I am not a big spender in general) and even urged me to go buy something for this occasion. He never calls it his money or questions how I use it. We’re certainly not destitute, but I take our demotion to a single salary again very seriously and try to do my best to work within our revised means. It doesn’t help that I’m finding this new writing life extremely wonderful and creatively satisfying, but also painfully slow and without a pay stub. I don’t like feeling as if I’m not pulling my own weight or that my dreams are more important so everyone needs to sacrifice in order to see them through.
I’m still trying to look at this new time in my life as a gift, as the opportunity I’ve needed to focus on what I’ve always really wanted to do anyway – write. Instead, I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself. It’s one thing to look back on a moment and say, “yes, that’s when I finally was able to achieve my dreams” and quite another to look at the moment while it’s in your face and say “yes, this is the moment so you better succeed…NOW!”
I want to be a writer, not just say I’m one. And for some reason, I feel like a paycheck for my words is the only way to validate that. I don’t know if this is my hang up or a societal one or a product of my approaching middle age or the fact that I’m an oldest child and therefore always prone to thinking more “responsibly.” Regardless, it sucks and I need to get over it. I need to stop worrying about whether this writing thing will pay off and simply focus on the writing. I know I contribute to the overall family in other ways and that one day I will financially contribute again.
So at the reunion next week, when asked what I do, I will proudly state, regardless of whether anyone has ever paid me for a word, that I am a writer.
And I’ll say it in a fabulous new dress.