Soon Enough, I’ll Have a Closet Full of Toilet Paper Rolls, Just in Case

I’m making more money than I ever have in my life and I have paid off a couple of looming debts. A couple of weeks ago, I was joking with the guys that, if I had some money, I would buy a new sweater. I paid bills today and realized, I could buy a new sweater.

I’m not going to. I have to work up to buying clothes. I kind of hate it.

But I could.

I have to say, I kind of get why lottery winners burn through their money. And, in a way I haven’t quite come to terms with, I understand why my parents give all their money to my brother and why they’re so weird about giving it to us.

Being broke has a kind of consistent pain to it, like someone is laying a red hot poker across your back all the time. But what can you do? You make it work. You learn to live with the pain. You get used to the smell of your own flesh burning.

I have more responsibilities now than I did two years ago. I do work harder. Not as hard as I worked for Caterpillar or at Dairy Queen. Until you’ve stood so long that sitting hurts and standing hurts and all you want to do is lie down and die but you can’t, you haven’t worked hard. Anybody at a desk job who thinks they know hard work, that they’re really “earning” their check is lying to themselves.

At some level, I feel like it’s some terrible sick joke. I had jobs where I wanted to throw up but couldn’t at the end of a shift, just from physical exhaustion. And I made a quarter of what I do now.  Like, what a huge scam, that this is the working world and this is the kind of job that is respectable and earns you a salary you can have a family on. I can’t tell you how often I walk through this world like some kind of disguised interloper, marveling at all the decadent ways people live and tell themselves they’ve earn.

There were weeks we ate rice, every day. That’s what we could afford. There were times when the Butcher didn’t have a job and I didn’t know how we were going to make it. I never want to feel that way again. I’m relieved every day that, at least, for now, I don’t have to.

But it’s strange to not feel that way. And I can see how, when you’ve hurt that long, you do things to keep hurting. Maybe in part because you don’t trust the feeling of not hurting. Maybe because you know you haven’t earned not hurting, that you don’t deserve less pain than your loved ones. Maybe because you don’t want to lose the callouses you’ve built up, should you need them again.

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3 thoughts on “Soon Enough, I’ll Have a Closet Full of Toilet Paper Rolls, Just in Case

  1. “Maybe because you don’t want to lose the callouses you’ve built up, should you need them again.” This is the one. I still put off paying bills till the last possible second, even if I don’t need to, just in case something that’s an emergency comes up and I need to have cash free. Hasn’t happened in a long time, but I can’t stop expecting it to.

    On a lighter note, you can shop for a much wider variety of sweaters online, Lands End and LL Bean have nice ones. I think more long, tunic-y ones like the 80s (sans shoulderpads thank god) are coming back into fashion again, which as a chunky person who likes to be warm without her skimpy sweater riding up, makes me happy. I’ve even seen some honest to god panchos, and they get a lot of hate, but my god they’re comfy and I’d wear them every day if I could.

  2. when I was 18, I worked in a grocery store the summer after my senior year of high school. It sucked. The boss was a Jekyll/Hyde type. I cried to my Daddy & begged to quit. He refused & told me I’d be at this “awful” job merely months before I went to college and one day I’d have a “horrible day” at a good job with a nice boss. And my worst day at my good job would far surpass the best day I had at the grocery store. Dammit, he was right.

    No matter how awful a day I have sitting at a desk behind a computer where I don’t have to deal with the public gets, it’s nothing like those three months at the grocery store. Added bonus: I’m super kind to grocery store workers.

  3. emjb, I still do that–pay all of my bills as last in the month as I can and then wonder if I have enough money to make it until the end of the month. I have to think that will always be with me.

    Beth, I think our country would be a better place if everyone had to work retail or in a restaurant for at least a few months.

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