Rock Bottom

Let me start by saying that I know when I write about this, I write from a perspective of privilege and safety. That I know my rock bottom is still pretty damn good compared to what others experience. That my rock bottom isn’t really even rock bottom. But all experiences are relative, right?

That being said, this has undoubtedly been the most financially difficult year of my life.

When John died, I had a stable, full-time job. I made loan, credit card, cell phone, and rent payments on time. I could afford a gym membership, beer, good cheese, fresh flowers, meals out, the occasional Loft store-wide sale. I was often stressed about money because living in a city can do that to you, but overall, I was comfy.

Moving home, I worked a part-time receptionist job and random odd jobs here and there. Lots of pet and house sitting. Anything I could to make a few extra bucks because I knew I was moving to Costa Rica and didn’t know when I’d be getting consistent paychecks again after the move. Admittedly, I didn’t save as much during those months as I could have. I was seeing a side of Indy I’d never seen before, having not really lived there full-time in about 7 years. I’m so grateful for my brief stint back in Indy and the true quality time I spent with so many old, wonderful friends and don’t regret a single beer, coffee date, meal out, concert, movie, etc etc etc. But… I could have saved more.

A couple weeks ago, I completely ran out of money. Not in the infuriating millennial sort of, “Omg I’m so broke, I never have money, but I can still have a $7 glass of wine with my $15 dinner,” way. Think: Overdraft Notice. Late loan payments. An apple for lunch. Or skipping lunch. Hitchhiking home because I can’t afford the bus. Calling my parents to ask for money. Shoot me.

I have never completely run out of money. Even when I quit my miserable sales job right after college and barely made ends meet by working at Starbucks and a brewery for a few months, I never ran out of money. I guess you could call it humbling, but that’s just a fancy way of saying, “Would ya look at that, I finally have to admit to myself that I really shit the bed this time.”

To be frank, it sucks that I, a college-educated 26-year-old, have to borrow money from my friends when I go to withdraw cash and receive the cute Insufficient Funds message. It sucks that my dad is paying my phone bill. It sucks to watch my friends reach the life milestones that I should also be reaching, while I seem to be regressing to the needy teenager I prided myself in never being.

I think that’s the worst part of all of this. The morning of February 23, 2017, before I got the phone call that changed my life, I was on the track everyone else was on. I did all the right things, had taken all the right steps: worked (mostly) hard in high school and committed to the resume-boosting extracurriculars; went straight to the expensive college for the fancy liberal arts education (k); fell in love; took the first job offer right out of college because even if it’s not what you want, you have to pay your dues and anyway, you should feel grateful you even got an offer; signed the lease for the beautiful but pricey apartment; moved to the new city for the new job that would lead to a new life and new opportunities. Then, John died, and it was almost as if none of that ever happened.

I’m genuinely happy about the good and exciting things that continue to happen in the lives of the people I hold dearest. Promotions, raises, moving in with boyfriends/girlfriends, engagements, marriages, babies, pets, etc. It’s all awesome. It warms my heart. It gives me hope. And it makes me sad. I believe this internal (now external – you’re welcome) struggle is natural. It’s normal to feel happy for and a tiny bit jealous of your friends at the same time. Right? I think what I’m jealous of is the clarity, the ease that comes with generally knowing what’s coming next. But then again, I know that none of my friends’ lives are perfect and that while I’m sitting here envious of their lives, they’re sitting over there envious of my life. The grass is always greener, yadda yadda.

In reality, right now, I’m broke, but life is good. Sometimes it’s hard to see that when all you can think about is your checking account, but it’s true. I finally started a full-time job ($$$). I have three unbelievable roommates – we laugh a lot. My heart is cracking open in a new way again. Watching the sunset on the best beaches of Costa Rica is a part of my daily routine. Never thought that would be a thing.

I’m still a little angry that even though I followed all the “rules,” I was dealt an unfair hand. Part of me is angry that I believed the fallacy that following these “rules” would lead me to success and happiness. Who even wrote those? I think they forgot to factor in exceptions for life’s bullshit. I don’t know what my life is going to look like in a month, a year, five years. I don’t know my plan. But I do know that in every moment I feel weary, defeated, broke, I am that much richer in friends, family, love. That every time my heart or head or bank account hurts, I have more people than I need to lean on, beach dogs to pet, and a red-orange sunset to catch.

Turns out my rock bottom has a pretty good view.

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4 thoughts on “Rock Bottom

  1. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. But in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. You know it. Now live it.

  2. Tessa. Thank you. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. I’m sure this writing and many others on your journey have been an encouragement to many. My dad used to tell me that when things weren’t going well for me, to just look over my shoulder and I won’t have to look very far to see someone less fortunate than myself. At that point, I stop my griping and start my gratefulness. I think, in America, we do often think that if we follow certain rules, we will achieve certain outcomes, kinda like playing chess. There’s very little luck in chess. But I think life is a lot more like playing poker. You make the best decision you can given what you know at the time. And you don’t know what you don’t know. Resilience is a requirement to thriving. Blessings!

  3. You are an incredible writer, Tessa, and sadly today, many millennials face rock bottom for following “the rules.” It’s something that’s gripped our nation of young people – debt and poor paying jobs coupled with high rent costs, ect. I am so sorry for your loss and all the unexpected changes since. It all seems to happen so suddenly where life becomes so uncertain, but you get stronger every day. It takes time. I pray for peace and clarity for you! It’ll come… In time!

    My situation is not the same as yours, but not entirely dissimilar. I’ve begun to accept that I too have not made those expected “milestones” in my life for one reason or other, and yet, it’s ok. I get discouraged thinking I should be farther along too. Heck- I had to move back home because I can’t afford rent if I want to keep paying my bills and loan payments. It is sad. Death is sad. Loss sucks. And expectations and comparisons create unnecessary burdens. We each have our own journey to travel in this lifetime; it’s no race! Enjoy it! Take it day by day, and sometimes, just breath by breath. You are talented, intelligent, kind, and more valuable than you know to the people around you! Keep telling your story, Tessa and see where life takes you! Your future is bright. You’re already doing incredible things! The money will come in time.

    That sunset is beautiful! And yet – the sun still rises each morning!

    Blessings!

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