Having No Money Was Ok, But Then Something Began to Shift

Genevieve Smith didn’t care about money, but then she did. Her essay for Elle on the the evolution of her opinions on the stuff, and why she eventually sought out more of it, is super—especially her honesty:

But then something began to shift: My thin resources started to bump against some serious pent-up consumptive desire. I wanted to buy things, mostly shoes, but also vacations, a dog, organic produce, dinners out, drinks. Eventually, I grew tired of our used furniture, IKEA shelving, Chinatown bus tickets—the couch. I didn’t want to feel this abject guilt every time I swiped the credit card, a sense that I was pushing our dreams of children and a home further away with every discretionary purchase. What I didn’t understand when I graduated college was that following your passions wouldn’t always be enough. Sometimes you’d want those other things, too.

She also talks to Emily Gould about working for art versus working for money, and Emily, as ever, has some genius insight of her own:

“I’m aware that my plan, which is to be an exception, is a bad plan,” she said. “That’s my dream. I can’t make it not my dream. I want to own a brownstone and have a baby, and right now I have $12,000 in credit-card debt and haven’t had a paycheck larger than $100 since July.”


8 Comments / Post A Comment

s. dekker (#3,301)

This is an area in which I always felt confident and deliberately stuck to career paths that were likely to make money and have job security. I learned that life isn’t romantic or bohemian when money is scarce. I think a big reason was that my family struggled with money for a while during my adolescence and as the firstborn I felt responsibility and motivation to never go through that again if I could help it.

I do think our perspective changes as we get older and realize that we want to buy adult gadgets and cars and adult mortgages, even for the most artistic of us. Not to mention health insurance and a retirement and all those little necessities and small luxuries that make life fun.

EM (#1,012)

I really enjoyed the Longform podcast episode recently with Molly Young, who talked about having a full-time job and writing for magazines on the side and how when you don’t have to write for money, you can just focus on writing pieces you enjoy. I like the model of having a good job that pays the bills and doing your creative low-paying pursuits on the side, but that’s because I knew I would be miserable and broke if I tried to have a full-time creative career.

Penelope Pine (#2,808)

@Michelle The hard part is when the “day job” takes over your life to the point where you can’t do creative things anymore. I haven’t done something creative all year (really), but my day job career is taking off.

Oh god, her description of that “couch” gives me the psychosomatic bed-bugs scratches something fierce. I love this quote from the authors dad though:

“I would like to develop a skill in which I could use my artistic abilities (meager as they are) to earn a living”

Which I’d like to think is a thing I’ve done with my life to moderate success. Enough success at least to not have bed bugs.

oh! valencia (#1,409)

@Michelle LeBlanc@twitter You know anyone can get bedbugs, though, right? They aren’t restricted to an income bracket.

LHOOQ (#1,634)

As someone who is in the final year of art school and contemplating going freelance, this was like a punch in the gut. I mean, I knew it already, but, man. Good article, though.

Smallison (#155)

“People are loath to hire a 30-year-old who has to be an assistant.”

Uh…as an almost 31-year-old, probably on the permanent assistant track, I really hope that isn’t true.


@fo (#839)

“I grew tired of our … IKEA shelving”

I don’t get it. If you have a lot of books, and not enough money to both (1) own a home and (2) pay for custom built bookshelves, what’s the problem with Ikea? We satisfy #1 *and* #2, and in the past month bought *new* Ikea shelves. They are functional, inexpensive and–when assembled properly (ie WITH GLUE!!)–durable. Plus, it’s not nearly the decorating commitment that built in bookshelves are.

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