A Life Not Made, But Purchased

Once you’re in this kind of debt, and by “kind” I’m talking less about numbers than about something having to do with form, with the brand of the debt, all those bills start not to matter anymore. If I allowed them to matter I would become so panicked that I wouldn’t be able to work, which would only set me back further. I’ve also noticed that my kind of debt takes a form that many people find easier to swallow than, say, the kind of debt that reflects overt recklessness. I spent money on my education and my career. These are broad categories. There’s room here for copious rationalizations and I’ll make full use of them.

—Meghan Daum wrote the essay “My Misspent Youth” in 1999 upon leaving New York due to untenable debt. She is incredibly insightful about the attitudes and behaviors that led her to be underwater, particularly her lived-out fantasies of New York living (“I have not made a life for myself in New York City. I have purchased a life for myself.”).

This whole long, wonderful essay is really lovely—I’ve read it twice. And now I shall read Daum’s book Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House, which threatens to prove that Daum and I are the same person. (Thanks to commenter myrna.minkoff for sharing this x)

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12 Comments / Post A Comment

Babs Bunny (#547)

I totally read that essay last night after she posted it in the comments! My favorite line because it is SO TRUE:
I’ve historically been pretty good at getting by on what I have, especially if you apply the increasingly common definition of “getting by,” which has more to do with keeping up appearances than keeping things under control.

myrna.minkoff (#272)

HEYO I’M AN INTERNET CELEBRITY

cloudy (#680)

That essay made me so anxious. The only thing keeping me from freaking out about my student debt is that I’m going into non-profit work, so in 10 years, I should be able to get the debt forgiven. Unless Congress decides to repeal the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

@cloudy but ten years! TEN YEARS! OMG.

AnnieNilsson (#406)

I heart Meghan Daum so hard! Life Would Be Perfect if I Lived in That House made me hyperventilate with recognition. Housing will be my downfall. Right now I’m sitting in my gorgeous 1930s Spanish-style apartment that is approximately $400 a month too expensive, looking out my beautiful (old, drafty) windows and trying to figure out if we’ll be able to make rent by the end of this month. Represent!

(It also made me hyperventilate with envy since there’s a part in it when she talks about how she sold a novel in the heady days of the $$ bubble and got an advance so huge she was able to buy herself a house in LA. gaaaaah)

@AnnieNilsson Annie! I want to see a picture of that apartment! Do a “Places I have lived” for us! Do ittttttttt. (Everyone else too. I want to see everyone’s houses!)

Aunt_Pete (#693)

@Logan Sachon Yes please!!! I am obsessed with other people’s houses (and being slightly ill-mannered, in what they pay as well).

nerd alert (#436)

as someone who recently moved to new york from the cheap cheap south, and who has no particular ties to this place or affectations romanticizing it, this essay made me feel much better about my decision to head back south in the next month if i don’t get a real job offer.

NoReally (#45)

Uh, Logan, either you reserved the book at the library or the office is paying for it, right?

Read this the other day and didn’t know it was from 1999. What became of her? Did she move to Nebraska or whatever? Is it the worst? How can living in the middle of nowhere not be the worst?

myrna.minkoff (#272)

@ReginalTSquirge@twitter “She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alan Zarembo, and their sheepdog, Rex.”

Sounds quite lovely, actually… sigh.

kellyography (#250)

@ReginalTSquirge@twitter The short interview on that Amazon page for “Life Would be Perfect if I Lived in That House” reveals that she loved it in Lincoln and still goes back at least once a year. The book sounds great, too.

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