* this entire post is about money and relationships and oh my god i’m crying again.
up until a few years ago, my parents never had a penny. they never furthured their education in college (until very recently), and they didn’t have outstanding jobs. my mother worked her way through administration jobs, and my father bounced between sales and management positions. and although i later found out that they were constantly worried about their ability to pay their mortgage on time, or have enough food in the house to feed our family of four, my brother and i had no idea how hard they struggled. we always had full bellies of healthy food, and shoes that fit, and pencils and notebooks for school. and although my bikes, and jeans, and school bags, or toys were mostly hand-me-downs, i pretty much had everything a kid could ever need. and when my dad would make his bonus, you can bet your ass that my mother would take us out to buy a new shirt for school, or take the family out on an outing. and despite my stuborn, greedy teenage nature… my parents taught me responsibility and self-control. they indirectly taugth me to survive. and they most definitely taught me that love trumps all. always.
when m and i moved into our $700 attic apartment in the outskirts of chinatown, everything changed. the reality of life hit me like a ton of bricks and i instantly (instinctively) went into survivor-mode. by the end of it, i had no money, no food, no job… i had fucking nothing. and while m would hoard food at work and stuff his face so he wouldn’t have to share, i ate a teacher’s leftovers for four days. i made that pasta stretch because i didn’t know when my next meal was going to be. m gained 50lbs that summer, and i couldn’t keep my size 1 jeans up around my waist. i can’t remember the reason, but my dad came to visit one afternoon while m was at work- to make sure i was okay, or alive, or something. and while i’d excused myself to go to the washroom, he scoured my cupboards and fridge. and when all he found was an open bag of stale noodles in the cupboard, and an empty carton of eggs in the fridge, i swear i saw him break. and i don’t remember much from that visit at all, except he took me to a tiny market in the middle of the city and spent $60 on bagels and fruit and milk and eggs. i found out years later that it was the last few dollars he had in his bank account- it was the only money he and my mother had to pay for their own groceries, and he spent it on me.
if that’s not love, and if that’s not family, or being a team is all about… i don’t know what is.
my point is this: i’ve struggled. i have starved and worried about paying rent on time (if at all). i spent three months working at a shitty smoothie bar after i left m, just so i could eat. i’ve had hasty moves while roommates are away, and i’ve been that sketchy, shitty person.
but i’ve also been lucky. i landed a sales job at an international multi-million company where (by the grace of god), my boss saw a light in me that she trusted. i didn’t have a college degree, but she saw skills in me, and she knew i would work my ass off. i fucking worked the shit out of that job for three years and pushed those sales so i’d make enough commission to cover rent and groceries and clothes. it wasn’t glamourous, and i was still living paycheque to paycheque, but i made it. and once my boss left that company to come here, she immediately referred me to the president and comptroller. that woman saved my life- and i’m lucky enough that four years later, i still work with her… and although she’s not my boss anymore, she always has my best interest at heart- i don’t call her work mama for nothing. she has coached me in every aspect of my life, and i owe her everything.
i went from unemployment, to smoothie bar, to sales representative, to assistant to the comptroller… in four years. without an education, without a damn penny, and without a goddamn chance. and for the first time since i was seventeen, i’m comfortable. i make enough money to pay rent, buy groceries and cook every day, feed my cat, go on little trips to visit my friends in montreal, buy coffee before work, treat myself to a new piece of furniture, buy shoes and clothes when i need them, and spoil my family with presents on christmas. i can go to dinner with friends, and see movies in the theatre, or see a live band every once in awhile. i can’t do all these things on a daily basis, but they are definitely opportunities to be a regular young adult and live a fulfilled existence without worrying every single day of my life.
and if any of these lessons and mistakes, and all this struggling has taught me anything? it’s this: in a relationship, first and foremost, you’re a team. always.
i never expected m to support me when i graduated high school, but i also never expected him to watch me fucking die. and while it wasn’t all awful, that summer made me realize more than ever, that he is not the kind of person i ever want to share my life with.
now that dan and i have started apartment hunting, the reality of our finances has kind of hit me. dan is still apprenticing to be a chef, and until he can afford to take his chef’s class and make more money working, things will be tight. i will have to carry more of the load until he’s more established, and i’m okay with that. what kind of girlfriend wouldn’t want to support her significant other in following their dreams? and while we’re looking at very inexpensive apartments for the area (which consequently, are still expensive as fuck), i can see dan already losing hope.
we looked at a beautiful 1.5 bedroom apartment last night, and both of us fell completely in love. it’s smaller than my place now, has no dining room, even less of a kitchen, and barely any storage, but it felt right. the bedroom has wrap-around lead glass windows, the kitchen has original built-in glass-doored cupboards, and the floors are original to the home (over 100 years old). i’d have to sell a lot of my furniture and clothes, and store my seasonal clothing in my parents’ basement, and yet i was in love. i’ve had all this room to hold onto the things that have held me back, and i hate that. i want a cozy, warm, inviting home with my boyfriend, and i want to work together, as a team, to reach our goals and dreams- even if that means helping each other out along the way. if there’s one thing i keep reminding dan when he gets in those moods, it’s that i love him, and i’d never let him starve. i don’t think he really understands the depths of what that means for me, because m watched me do it so easily, btu i mean that. i’ve been there- i’ve struggled working those jobs, doing what i love, barely making any money, just because i knew that eventually things would look up- they worked out for me, and they’ll work out for him. and even though i don’t have a ring on my finger, or a baby in a crib, dan is my family now.
when we got home from the appointment we had to see that apartment, we ate dinner quietly, and made a few comments on how we’d want to set up the furniture if we were to get that apartment. we argued a little and we disagreed on most things and eventually i just went to bed- and dan, being the person he is, came in and tried to work it out and i just wouldn’t have it. i gave myself time to think about what i wanted to say, and how i wanted to say it, and once we’d both calmed down, i asked him to talk. it makes me sad that money is such a strain on relationships these days, and if you weren’t born into a family with money, you’ll be struggling til the day you die. that’s fucking scary.
in any case, we talked about our concerns, and we kissed and made up, and now that i know his financial situation a little bit better, and i can see what is feasible for both of us, we can start building a future together, as a team.