I am sitting at my computer. Counting Crows are playing, a space heater is warming my feet and I smell a little like sweat because I mowed the yard earlier and haven’t showered. I am back in my pajamas. I am seemingly always in pajamas. I have Firefox tabbed to email, Facebook and TurboTax.
I am crying.
Let’s back up.
Work sends me a 1099. They don’t take out taxes, so I usually just have to set money aside and brace myself to write a HUGE check to Uncle Sam every March. There’s this ever-present fear, like maybe I haven’t saved enough. No optional large purchases are made before tax time. The fear sits on my shoulder like a cat perched on the passenger side pillow, laser eying me through the sheet, blanket, duvet and other blanket. Pet me. Pet me. Pet me. Who knows how much you’re going to owe.
Everything started to go to hell in 2009. By the time things started to get better at the end of 2010, I had no savings left and I had borrowed money from mom multiple times. I blew through everything I’d ever saved, all the while thinking, “if you were just better at your job, this wouldn’t be happening.”
I felt like I had nothing of value to offer. I felt like a non-adult. I had to close my savings account because I didn’t have enough money in it to avoid service charges. I went 6 months without buying produce, instead living on beans and pasta. I watched things around my house break and have to stay broken. I watched shoes fall apart and prayed that they would do so slowly enough that they’d wait until Christmas. By the time my office’s ceiling collapsed, I wasn’t even surprised. I just took pictures and started spooning bits of my house into trash bags with a dust pan. When I was done, I juts closed the office door and pretended nothing had happened as the room took on a parade of wasps. I did all of these things knowing that I had focused on work my entire adult life.
So this year I did my taxes with some trepidation. I stalled as long as I could, trying to wrap my head around another money-seeking call to mom. You get used to feeling like a half-adult after a while. I started my taxes just because I wanted to get them over with.
When the number at the top of the Turbo Tax window came up green (refund), I realized that whatever money I’d saved would stay with me. I could reopen my savings account. It would be like being an adult. It would be like being ME circa 2007. It was a sign screaming “the worst is over, and we survived it.”
I have been waiting for the worst to be over for almost two years. I have earned my tears of joy and I will keep them, along with what I’d saved up to give Uncle Sam. With my refund, I am purchasing a sandwich, a cream soda, a semester of school and the kitchen hardware I have waited two years to buy.