I go back to what was once home and I’m reminded that the struggle never ends, it only shifts.
Now I don’t love no material things
But I’m in love with the feelings they bring
~ J Cole “Cost Me A Lot”
My aunt recently moved to a plain part of Brooklyn. No fancy coffeehouses. No chic bistros. At 1:30 AM, the street noise of obnoxious bros and random sirens is replaced with a chilling silence. Walking down the street the other night, I came face to face with a rat.
I’m bigger than him. I’m probably faster than him. I’m not afraid. Yet, this new species of NY rats are some bold little bastids. Instead of cowering and scampering away into the shadows, he stared me down. It was almost a challenge. And it reminded of a detail that was somewhat humbling. I was in his space. I was in his way. I was blocking him from just trying to live.
I crossed the street and snuck into my aunt’s cramped apartment quietly. As I settled down on the pull out sofa— the kind where your feet hangs off the edge because it’s not actually meant for adults — I vowed to never forget my humble beginnings.
I’ve had periods where I was living comfortably. But for the bulk of my life, I was broke. The type of broke where I was tearing up the living room looking for spare change to put gas in my car. The type of broke where I was eating PB&J sandwiches until my next check. I was never ashamed of not having a lot of money because I knew I wasn’t alone.
It was a culture of struggling that none of us felt embarrassed by because we knew no other way.
Within the last 2.5 years, I’ve reached a point where money has started to scare me. I’m haunted by the truth of creating distance between “just enough”and “gon head and swipe the card, girl!”.
I recently took a job with a start-up that’s contracted for six months. After a few days of table talks, we decided on a monthly retainer for the first three months. The final offer allowed my mind to relax a little bit. The company was gracious enough to pro-rate me for the first month. When I logged in to my mobile banking app, I had to double-take at the screen. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen that much “free” money at once.
The feeling was short-lived because life dictated where the money would go — most went to savings and some toward helping to buy some medication for my mother. I didn’t spend a dime on myself. I’m okay with it though. For once, it wasn’t a “this or that” situation.
The worst feeling of being broke that I experienced was shortly after moving back in with my parents. I was going through the motions of pretending my divorce didn’t scar me or ruin me financially. I partied for weeks with my boys — Karu&Y, Forge, Space, The Fifth. If it was live, we were there!
I stumbled into my parents’ house one night, drunk and belligerent. I remember waiting in the dark for my father to come downstairs to berate me; that had become the interactions of our relationship. Instead, he wrestled my wallet out of my pants and took my credit card and what little cash I had. In that moment, I realized that I had nothing. Nothing of my own. Nothing in my name.
Having to ask another grown man for money is an act of submission. Money wields power and autonomy. I never want to lose it again.
Once I turned 30, I developed laser focus. I was willing to do anything that would help me climb the rungs to financial freedom. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had huge obstacles. However, the greatest obstacle I had to overcome was being scared that the goalposts would never stop moving.
How does one define making it? What do you do once you’ve made it?
I wanna act ballerific like it’s all terrific
I got a couple past due bills, I won’t get specific
I got a problem with spending before I get it
We all self conscious I’m just the first to admit it
~Kanye West “All Falls Down”
I don’t have the proper answer to that just yet. However, I’m conscious about the choices I make involving money. I’ve learned to be more accurate in balancing my personal budget and the mental debts I carry. I’m in a position that makes me happy and offers security. I want to protect it at all costs.
It’s a daily fight to not be ignorant and want to FUTW. Although when I’m well into my third act, I want to be able to explain to my children and grandchildren how fear can be the best motivator to live well.
Originally Published on Medium
|How Therapy Made Me a Better Man|
3 Steps to Rebuilding Trust After One Partner Cheats
5 Ways You Sabotage Your Relationships Without Even Realizing It
A Man’s Kiss Tells You Everything