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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