I don’t know when or why I became sensitive about money. I do remember when I opened my bank account though…I was 12 and had £10 to put in that I’d received for my birthday. And believe me, I was dead set that that £10 wasn’t going anywhere.
Every time I could put something in there – be it £2 or £20 – I felt like I was accomplishing something really fucking significant. I felt no shame in going up to the cashier and saying ‘I’d like to put this £2.50 into my bank account please.’
As a family of six, money was never something we had much of, and while my friends were rocking their new Nike trainers, I was wearing my aunties hand-me-down mid 80’s Reeboks that were three times too big. While my friends were crossing the sea to Greece, my siblings and I stayed with my Grandmother in a caravan on the blustery North East coast of England. While my friends brought in licorice and chocolate to school for break time, I brought in half a jam and margarine sandwich made with Safeway Own Value white bread. Despite our frugal living, we were happy and my childhood was one I wouldn’t change, it was impossibly rich in creativity, adventure and love.
My mum would welcome in all the kids from the street, and give them the food she worked two jobs for. Our homes during the years – we moved a few times – became refuges for kids whose parents didn’t give two shits about them, or kids who just wanted to get away and discovered that they found peace at our house. It was a very rare occasion that mum made anyone go on back home. Some would stay for days, others weeks. Our house was always a buzz of activity with new faces appearing every five minutes.
“It’s hard enough to give fearlessly, and it’s even harder to receive fearlessly.
But within that exchange lies the hardest thing of all:
To ask. Without shame.
And to accept the help that people offer.
Not to force them.
Just to let them.” – Amanda Palmer
I was seventeen and in collage when I got my first job. I worked the weekends as a catering assistant at a KP Foods factory and brought home £47.60 a week. I hated my job. I hated getting up while the rest of my family were sleeping and cycling in the dark to a factory whose smell made me gag from even a mile away. I hated the fact I was always given the shitty jobs ‘Katie, clean out the smokers room…’
I hated that 80% of the people I cooked, served and cleaned up after were spiteful and rude and seemingly unable to eat a cooked breakfast without half of it ending up smeared all over their table. I’m sure they did it because it would mean I’d have a nightmare scraping it up once they’d left, and the bean juice and egg yolk had dried. I hated the bitching and the behind the back talking. I hated that my skin and hair smelt like I’d been dipped in the deep fat fryer whenever I was finished for the day. If I’d been able to smell my bones, I think they would have stank too.
Much of the time I’d go home and cry. But I didn’t quit. I worked every weekend for three years at that place before packing it in. What would get me through wasn’t thinking about what I’d spend my money on, rather what I’d write when I got home. I was working on my second book and it took up almost all the hours when I wasn’t at college or work. It was my everything. It was what made me get up in the morning.
Several other jobs followed this one, none of them enjoyable, none of them satisfying, none of them made me think ‘hell, I want to do this instead of writing as a career!’ My mental health meant that I wasn’t as ‘on the ball’ I should have been. My anxiety meant I was afraid to confront customers. My values and how I’d been brought up left me unable to pressurize people into buying things I knew they probably couldn’t afford.
“From what I’ve seen, it isn’t so much the act of asking that paralyzes us–it’s what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one. It points, fundamentally, to our separation from one another.” – Amanda Palmer
I never ‘fitted in’ with any of my work teams and was always the ‘weird one.’ I didn’t mind being the weird one, but I did mind the gossip, I did mind the laughing, I did mind the ‘quiet word in my office’ moments where I was told I ‘had to come out of myself.’ I couldn’t come out of my self. Hell, I was enough out of myself by turning up when fatigue made my body heavy as an iron lady. But it was always the thought that ‘when I get home I can write’ that got me through.
I’d known, since I was a kid that I’d ‘have to work a normal job’ while waiting for my writing career ‘to take off.’ And I’ve worked enough ‘normal jobs’ to know I don’t cut it, that it’s not for me. My bi-polar and anxiety means that to get to my ‘normal job’ is hard enough as it is. Many don’t realize that managing to get through the day when you have bi-polar is achievement worthy of reward. This quote from Carrie Fisher sums it up quite perfectly:
“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.” – Wishful Drinking, her 2008 memoir about her mental illness and prescription drug addiction
I’m a lone wolf who thrives in solitude, and feels weakened when she’s crowded or put under the rule of someone else. I’ve never wanted to work for anyone but myself. I found my life’s meaning when I was four years old, and I’ve never strayed from that path, not even for a second. But to keep on that path, I need to do something which, at first, made me feel ashamed because I’m a fucking proud woman…
Since being in Sweden I’ve been living off my savings, freelance writing work, hand outs from my parents and by the support of my partner. But the savings are gone now. The work doesn’t pay well, and the discussion of ‘getting a real job’ has been raging for months. I’ve been working harder, faster, but the money never seems to catch up.
I’ve signed on at what’s essentially the Swedish Job Centre, but I don’t get any hand outs nor do I get any actual useful help. My partner thinks that, despite me having a 1st class degree, it’s almost inevitable that I’ll have to work as a cleaner or something. To think of this makes my heart become as heavy as a handful of wet sand. It makes me feel weak and helpless and vulnerable. It makes me worry about the hours that I’ll have left to create and do what I need to do to keep my spirit from rotting.
The contents of my bank account have always been a secret. I haven’t wanted to share its numbers with my family or anyone else. And when someone has asked ‘how much is in there?’ I’ve become deeply offended and angry. A large part of me feels I’ve let myself down by not being a fully self-sufficient writer by the age of 30.
“There’s really no honor in proving that you can carry the entire load on your own shoulders. And…it’s lonely” – Amanda Palmer
But not I’m letting my guard down. I’m not going to be secretive about money because if I want to make it I need to ask for help. I need people willing to support me in my journey to becoming a fully self-sufficient writer. I’m not only asking for help with this because writing is what makes me happy, I’m asking for help because writing is what helps me keep my sanity.
So I’ve established a Patreon page. There’s the option for you to pledge as much or as little as you would like to, and with each pledge comes a reward. By setting up a Patreon page, I’ve let go of my sensitivity to money and am openly asking for support in my life’s mission. I’ll leave you with this uber poignant quote from the incredible Amanda Palmer whose book The Art Of Asking I highly recommend.
“Asking for help with shame says:
You have the power over me.
Asking with condescension says:
I have the power over you.
But asking for help with gratitude says:
We have the power to help each other.” ― Amanda Palmer