35 & Broke
Living on borrowed time
I paid for acting classes with borrowed money. These classes are changing me, rearranging my DNA. Who am I? What is my purpose? What am I reaching for? If I am fulfilled—if I don’t need to be validated externally—then what is driving me forward?
“We live on borrowed time.” That is something people say and I don’t know what it means. I don’t think they do either. The ticking clock: death. Dust is inevitable.
The state of my bank account is none of your business but I’m going to tell you about it anyway. I live on the edge. I always have. It is my privilege—my positionality to power—that affords me my lifestyle.
In 2022, I spent just over $3000 (Canadian) on accommodation. That number includes a year’s rent for my storage locker. The rest of the money was the cost of five weeks in Guatemala, ten days in Istanbul, and sixteen nights in Spain and France. All the other nights I stayed with family. All the other nights I stayed with friends. All the other nights I stayed in strangers’ homes looking after their pets for no money, for $30 a night, for $40 a day, for whatever they offered in exchange for my services: the contents of their fridge and pantry, gratitude.
I don’t know how many beds and couches and floors I slept on between January and December. A quick count tells me twenty-five but it is certainly more. Vancouver, Victoria, Port Moody, Gibsons, Calgary, Saskatoon, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the Redwood Forest, Antigua, Panajachel, San Pedro, I digress…
This is how I survive. Moving from place to place. This is how I afford to live, to write, to not work at a bar, to thrive. My income is below the poverty line but I am rich with access, rich with food, rich with favours. I don’t have a healthcare plan. I don’t have a savings account. I don’t have investments or stocks or a retirement portfolio.
I laugh when people my age tell me they are saving for “retirement.” Perhaps it is out of jealousy or perhaps it is because I am intimately familiar with the predictions of the climate science or perhaps it is both. But these acting classes—
I quit acting my early twenties even though I never really left performing behind. It was the dream that I walked away from, the passion of it. It didn’t feel safe to be seen. I knew I wasn’t skinny enough or pretty enough to make it. No. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to overcome the industry’s need for me to fit into a certain box, to present a certain way. I knew I didn’t want anyone to have that power over me.
I learned that lesson twice. The first time when I quit acting and the second time when I quit reality television production. I will be in control of my work, I promised myself. I will never tell someone else’s stories.
There is a reason the masses haven’t gathered together and organized for an oligarch tax. It’s because everybody secretly wishes they could be an oligarch too. Some not so secretly. Notice my language. Oligarch tax, not wealth tax. Wealth is subjective. Oligarchy is not. Wealth is value, abundance, plenty. Oligarchy is a small group of people holding control.
Funny how life works out. We need money to stay alive. We can have all the morals and values and principles we want but they won’t keep us warm at night—let alone feed us, cloth us, house us.
I heard somewhere that all fears are a fear of death and that made sense to me. At least with money. That one’s easy. You’re afraid of not having enough money because if you don’t have enough money you can’t feed yourself, you can’t access safety, and you will die.
So we do what we need to do to stay alive. We take the jobs that feed us. We tell other people’s stories. We live in other people’s homes and on other people’s time. Time. Borrowed or otherwise?
Nobody knows what time is. Not the physicists or the philosophers. Not the kids on TikTok or the adults on YouTube. Not me and not you. I wrote this once, Time is part of the fabric. Time stretches, time moves as we move. But I have no idea whether or not this is true.
What we do know to be true is that Time is a tale we tell ourselves because we live in containers that expire. Entropy, yes, but Time doesn’t pass. That part the physicists are sure about: time does not pass. Our bodies—our containers—expire, but it has nothing to do with the passing of time.
Passage. Entropy. Linearity. An arrow.
I am thirty-five years old and broke. I am thirty-five years old and I hope against hope that this will be the last year that I have to borrow money in order to thrive. I can always stay alive. That part is easy. I am healthy. I have two hands and two feet and over a decade of experience in the bar and restaurant industry.
But to thrive? To do work that I love, work that is meaningful, work that moves & shifts the consciousness, work that fulfills me? My stories or otherwise…
The hardest part, I find, is not getting the job or keeping the job or doing the job or liking the job. It’s getting compensated fairly, accurately, in real relation to my ability and talent, my heart and my spirit and my mind. The hardest part is deciding that I deserve it. That I deserve to thrive and not just simply stay alive.
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Love this. I am 41 and also broke, but living for the passion, not the retirement. 💗