I’m 41, almost 42. I live on my own in Toronto, in an apartment which I love. I’m single and I have no children. No pets, just plants. I have a great family who I love deeply, but none of whom live where I live. I have a close circle of friends who have proven themselves over and over and over again to be the most caring, loving, supportive and consistent people I have ever known. I have a secure job, which I (mostly) like. I make a decent salary; I have excellent benefits for which I’ve been very grateful over the last couple of years – I don’t pay for any of my meds, of which there are many. I can, for the most part, put food on my table and pay my bills (even though some of them are sometimes past due).
And yet I struggle. I live paycheque to paycheque right down to the cent. The thing is, I don’t think I’ve had a ridiculously hard life. There are many who would scoff at my use of the word ‘struggle.’ Case in point: I’m not out on the streets, I’m not starving (most of the time), I have a roof over my head, I have electricity and I have a phone and clothes and shoes, etc. I get it.
I don’t come from money. Of my high school friends (who, again, are some of the most wonderful, amazing people I know), I had the least privilege. And that was relative. I worked from a young age – babysitting since I was 10 or 11, and then full-time summer babysitting gigs in my early teens. I started working in the restaurant industry when I was 17, and I’ve been working every day since.
I went away to university and after one year, realized that my parents couldn’t help me financially anymore, and it was up to me and OSAP. So, I got a job. It was the same restaurant chain I started at in Peterborough, and I fit right in. I quickly proved myself to be a good worker, and subsequently got lots of hours.
Eventually I became a person who was less a “student who works” and more a young adult who worked full time and just happened to also be completing her bachelor’s degree. I worked full-time during my university years. I even took a fifth year to complete my degree so that I could work full-time and be a part-time student the last two years. I don’t regret any of it – went from almost failing out (or possibly quitting) to graduating with honours. One of the biggest accomplishments of my life thus far 🙂
Fast forward to 2008. I got out of dodge as fast as I could when I landed a job in Toronto. 2020: here I am now living and working here for 12 years and counting.
I don’t want this brief history of my path here to be interpreted as me whining about my terrible, challenging, awful life. Of course I don’t believe that. In some ways, my life has been charmed.
I suppose my point in revealing all this detail, willfully humiliating myself, as it were, is not to elicit sympathy or even pity. It’s to just come clean, if you will, about the fact that it’s f-ing hard to navigate life alone, especially when you are underpaid, occupying a mid-level role in a big company.
I cannot express this clearly enough: being on your own – living alone, paying all your own bills, footing the whole bill for everything while the coupled people around you share the load, is hard.
Again, I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me. Not even a little bit. And I’m not complaining. I’m just trying to be totally honest about my reality and the reality for many of us.
I entered the world after university graduation with a shit-ton of debt and no real clue about what to do next. I was so busy working and earning enough money to support myself, pay my rent and bills, not to mention my tuition and books during those integral university years, I guess I just forgot to really come up with a plan to start my career. All I could see was the goal in front of me – make it through and graduate.
I’ll spare you all the other details that have led me to this place in life and just get to the point, which is this: it was pointed out to me recently that perhaps the reason a few of my friends (those who I consider very close friends and who have seen me through all kinds of difficult things in the past and vice versa) have just sort of stopped talking to me. Apparently, this is because a) I’m too much ‘drama’ and they don’t fully believe the things I tell them that are going on in my life, and/or b) I never have money and they’re tired of ‘footing the bill’ for me.
Follow me here – I try very hard not to be a Debbie Downer. I’m generally/historically a positive, optimistic person, and despite all my challenges (including clinical depression), I really do try to be there for my friends in a meaningful way. I very consciously put my shit aside and do not center myself in the conversation when a friend comes to me for support or advice.
The truth is that shitty stuff happens to me. Or if not to me, shitty things happen around me in my life that affect me in a shitty, painful, stressful way.
In addition to my own mental illness, which has been tested to the limits during this pandemic, it seems like it’s just one shitty thing after another – family members in crisis, a sick parent, the loss of a trusted therapist, money issues, a break-up, followed by an ambivalent entanglement with said ex, followed by another, final, heartbreaking break-up, work stress and oh! an apartment fire two doors down from me, among other things (yes, unbelievably, there are more things).
Again, I’m not asking for sympathy or pity.
I’m trying to give you a sense of the shitstorm I’ve been dealing with for months, and, as was pointed out to me recently, is perhaps the reason certain friends are ‘over’ me: because they don’t believe me.
Perhaps they think that I’m making this stuff up, or that I’m exaggerating, or otherwise trying to create drama. And they are tired of me, they’ve had enough, and so when I relay the news that my dad almost died (twice) and there were big family talks about DNRs and other awful, scary things, they simply didn’t believe me. And thus have not spoken to me or reached out to me for over a month.
I feel a little self-conscious about feeling hurt by this. I mean, is this me centering myself in the story? Am I really too much for some people? The aforementioned boyfriend has actually told me more than once I am in fact ‘too much – too much everything – I talk too much, I’m too sensitive, I’m too emotional, I’m too intense, I expect too much, I want too much.’
Are people, even my friends, my best friends, tired of me? Rather than hear one shitty update after another from me, are some of my friends ignoring me away?
I suppose, on one hand, I kind of get it. I haven’t exactly been a barrel of laughs the last couple of years. It’s been a struggle (and you, dear reader, know all about that struggle if you’ve been following along with my story). It’s been intense to say the least. It’s been scary, with real, raw moments of life and death and unearthing deeply hidden secrets and damage, and not everyone is equipped to handle that. I get it, I really do.
I have empathy for everyone. I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable and I definitely don’t want to be a harbinger of darkness and negativity.
But I assure you, I’m not being dramatic. I’m not exaggerating. I’m not making stuff up, and I’m certainly not lying to get attention. There is a difference between needing to be the center of attention and simply not being a wallflower. Let me be clear: I don’t mind attention, I don’t mind all eyes on me – but I certainly don’t seek it out, especially by using sad, difficult or traumatic elements of my REAL GODDAMN LIFE!!!!!!!
In addition to me being too sad or dramatic or ‘fake,’ there’s the issue of being a broke ass. I’m proud of my accomplishments, and I know I’m way farther ahead in life than a huge swath of people. Please know I think about that every day. The fact that I’m financially challenged has simply been a fact of my whole adult life – well, at least since I left the restaurant industry. When I was managing and serving, I was completely comfortable financially. But I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. And going from that to an entry level admin role making a salary so small that I worked 3 other jobs to make ends meet, was a shocking adjustment.
I suppose I had secretly been thinking this for years, that my friends resent that I never have money to do stuff. I can’t to get my shit together it would seem, and so they feel sorry for me and pay for dinners here and there, or loan me money for this or that. My therapist (who I miss dearly) used to tell me all the time that I had to stop feeling guilty that my friends were helping me out so much. He would constantly remind me that they wouldn’t be stepping up like that if they didn’t feel they got something in return. He would turn it around and ask if the roles were reversed, would I be there for any of them the way they had been for me?, and of course the answer was an emphatic yes. Without question. But, for some reason, I always, and still do apparently, have a hard time believing it when it comes to me.
So, I guess this is the summary, the thesis, as it were of what I’m trying to get across: my friends/peers are resentful that I never have money, and I therefore can not be relied upon to contribute to group dinners/hangouts etc. Also, we can conclude that I’m and Debbie Downer and people, aka friends, are tired of hearing about my shitty life. They’re so tired of hearing it, they actually have questioned the validity of what I say. So, following that logic, there are certain people in my life who might actually think that I would lie and/or exaggerate about the state of my dad’s health for…what? Attention? Sympathy? A handout?
Let me assure you, I ask for nothing. My pain is real, I came *this close* to losing my dad (twice), my (ex) boyfriend thinks I’m ‘too much,’ I vacillate between insomnia (like right now) and sleeping for 15 hours straight. I scrape together ‘meals’ so I don’t starve, plotting my grocery list for my next pay day (which is impossibly far away and never seems to come), and I grapple with what to share with whom every day.
I’m in a weird place. And I don’t see a clear path forward, nor do I hear any brilliant answers being whispered to me by the universe.
I’m going to go lie down in my bed and stare at the ceiling. Hopefully I’ll fall asleep soon and I’ll wake up to my alarm so I can make it to my 8:30am meeting. I can do it.
Hang in there, friends. It has to get better than this, right?