When I moved to L.A. I had about $500, a CapitalOne credit card, and an old (1978 Dodge Aspen station wagon) car I’d paid about $150 for in PA. I started doing background work, earning (after taxes) maybe $35 a day. $50 on a good day. You know, I have it written down in a journal, packed away in storage. I suddenly felt wonderful about myself. I had more money than I’d ever had before. I was having fun, I was working, I was on set. I was on my way up. And after a few months, I could afford to get an apartment with a friend. It was only $750 a month for the two-bedroom in Winnetka. We lived simply, but not stress-free. At one point I was overdrawn in my bank account, and I determined never to let that happen again. And other than one time several years later when the IRS froze my account and sucked it dry (thanks guys. I love how my government really cares about how I’m going to survive with no money in my bank account. Oh, and US banks – really? Charging me a fee? And how do you think I’m going to pay that. You’re my bank. It should be clear to you how much money I have), I’ve kept to that goal. OK, except this week again, when it wasn’t my fault (thanks hacker, I love how you really care how your fellow human beings are going to survive without any money in their bank account. But thank you French banks, for not charging a fee).
The year after, I joined SAG and got a regular stand-in gig on Buffy. Suddenly I was earning twice as much. I saved enough money to take a weeklong trip to Rome, staying in a dirty little hotel and loving the adventure. I was 18 when I arrived in L.A. and 20 when I started on Buffy. I felt like I was doing well for my age. I was on the right track.
After that, I lived on unemployment while trying to get auditions for plays, short films, anything. I received a $9000 inheritance which helped me out that year and also bought me my first Mac (Powerbook) after my 10 year old PC died. I went along, selling things on eBay, painting houses, doing more background work… getting by. Maybe not what I had in mind, but I was happy in my personal life and the man I was with rarely made me feel bad about my petite little income.
Then I got into Adsense, through a wonderful friend of mine. We’d been experimenting at the same time, but he was having more success than I. This came at a good time for me, as my relationship was falling apart and I was able to take time away for myself and at the same time start preparing (not consciously, just able to put money in the bank) to be on my own. And once I was on my own…. well, I was doing great financially and barely had to worry about anything. I loved it. I felt so free. I could take the classes I wanted to take, eat fresh food, travel, afford rent and even pay more than my fair share of it to help out my brother, who had moved to L.A. and was finding himself and his purpose.
Over the past 3 years, it’s been a slow downward slide financially. I’d hoped that by this point I wouldn’t be relying on Google to pay my bills and that I’d be getting paid to do what I love to do. Well, that just didn’t happen. At the same point I began to really move forward in producing my own things and learning to network, I had to start watching my purse. Unsympathetic men (you know who you are) in my life would whine if I bowed out of having drinks at night because I just couldn’t afford the luxury. I would order the cheapest thing on a menu and no drink but water, and protest if he tried to split the bill after ordering a meaty dish and an alcoholic beverage. I was not in the carefree place in life anymore.
As I watched the savings I’d been proud of dwindle, I began to feel insecure about myself and my worth. And now I wonder…. why do I feel ashamed of myself because I have less money in the bank? I’m the same person. It’s me. My worth isn’t determined by how much I make or how much I’ve got, so why do I feel like it is? I’m staying in a tiny chambre de bonne (a nice way of saying – a tiny room on the top floor with a toilet in the hall) with a mysterious odor I try to cover up with lavender oil, and an alarming lack of storage space for my essentials. I’m not comfortable here and all I can think about is the comfort I used to be able to afford and wish I could afford now. Sure, it’s temporary – I hope – but it makes me feel awful about myself. Instead of moving forward, I’m moving backward.
I enjoy the challenges of life, figuring out how to solve problems and all…. I learn and grow through everything…. but I just can’t seem to shake this feeling of embarrassment. I’m 31 and living like a college student. A huge bag of rice sits on my tiny fridge, and I ponder what I can mix with it today. I don’t want to be thinking about this. I want to be thinking about my projects, my travel, and enjoying life. I want to have my beach hut and my plentiful fruit, my cat chasing birds and lizards, my dog laying in the sun. Then I want to stay in a flat made for humans in Paris in the summer and work my butt off on creative projects while staying well-nourished and groomed (this shower is just messed up, I miss being able to enjoy a shower).
I was always one for deals and discounts. I’ve been a fan and user of Groupon, Living Social, and others for years. So it’s not like I was absolutely frivolous with my money. But I wonder where it went. Where did it go, while I was living life…. and do I regret it? I don’t know. Maybe there were some purchases I didn’t have to make. Oh, like the little rose gold and diamond (so tiny) ring I bought discounted online…. I just took it to Crédit Municipale yesterday to see how much I could get for it…. I was hoping at least 500€. I did a double take when the guy at the counter offered 50€. 50€?!?! Pass.
I suppose it’s a chance right now to find my self-worth apart from my income or savings. But I’m not sure how to do that. Some days I don’t know what I have to offer the world. I don’t know my worth. Yes, I’m told we’re priceless to God, but that doesn’t make me feel a whole lot better. So…. how do you find your self-worth? And how can I find mine?