I’ve been poor for quite a while. I mean, technically, I’ve been a poor student (undergrad and graduate) for about ten years now–so I should be used to it. Now, there’s a difference. I’m not student poor–scraping by until my next loan is disbursed. I’m real-world poor, and they’re actually expecting me to pay those loans back, except I barely make enough money to pay for rent, food, and gas. It’s a bit depressing, but I’m trying to be optimistic.
This all hit me the other day when I realized that it was Thursday and I had only worked eight hours that week. This fall, when I got my job, I also got re-hired at an old job that had laid me off over the summer (I am queen of the layoffs). So, from September through the present, I’ve been working what amounts to a full-time job. Now I’m back down to one 19-hour a week gig, and am really wondering how I can keep myself sane for not much money. I’m good at taking care of myself, but I’m not good at socializing on the cheap.
The thing that I hadn’t anticipated is the way that some of my friendships seems to have taken a bit of a hit. My friends aren’t rich, but can afford to go out to dinner every now and then–I really cannot. When I do go out to dinner, I get caught up, spend too much, drink too much, and then spent the next day almost regretting the good time I had. This makes me dread going out to eat, even though I know if I just exercised a little more self-control, it might be less of an issue. I’m also trying to eat healthier, cook more at home more, and I work two night shifts a week.
I certainly can’t blame anyone else. If someone keeps turning down invitations, you eventually stop extending them, and I’m almost grateful to not be included because I hate turning things down, but then I feel a bit sad nonetheless. It’s a hard thing to reconcile because I feel as if I’m turning into a lame grown-up. I’ve always kept an eye on my money, budgeted, and tried to save, but now that I’m just breaking even, it’s really hard to get excited about any endeavor that costs–no matter how fun.
I wonder if the situation would be any different if I had a full-time job. I’d probably be sending any extra money straight to direct loans instead of going out and blowing it on wine and cheese. I’d probably still be training for races and needing to eat a less-rich diet; and I’d probably still be interested in becoming a better cook. It’s easy to assign all these changes to my poverty, but this may just be how my life as a grown-up is.
I genuinely enjoy hanging out at home making hummus in the kitchen while listening to NPR, I’m excited to have more time for writing, and I like that I can roll out of bed at 7:30 and spend an hour and half running without having to dart off to work immediately after.
I never really thought of how I would live post-grad school, because I assumed that I’d keep going to grad school forever… so this is real life, eh?