I often bring a book with me to to work, to read on my lunch break. A friend had been sending me quotes from a collection of interviews of Charles Bukowski called "Sunlight Here I Am." I had the book sitting on my shelf along with a few others that I hadn't read that I had bought on a late night amazon.com frenzy. So I brought it with me yesterday. This is not the the type book you should be reading at work. It is perhaps not even the type book you should be reading if you have a job.
The book does two things at once. Firstly it reminds you that whatever job you have is very likely an unrewarding series of ever-increasing bullshit dished out to you by people who seem to actually believe that bullshit makes things grow, a natural sort of fertilizer for the mind. Secondly it makes you believe that you too could be a writer, subsisting on income from writing, without any unrewarding and menial job at all. These two things combined can be very dangerous. Bukowski makes it seem easy. I have had to talk myself out of quitting several times since lunchtime yesterday.
It is easy to do, of course, quitting your job. It is what comes after that is difficult. Redefining your life. Finding some other way of paying your bills and surviving that isn't equally demeaning, dispiriting, and for even less pay. I have gotten used to paying my bills. I have told myself the lie for so long that I believe it: that it is rewarding to pay my bills. It feels good, etc. None of this is true, obviously. What feels good is to have no bills at all, to live a life of relative leisure and peace. I am a very long way off from that.
A friend came over the other night to talk to my wife and she told us that she is now debt free. After a few years of focusing on paying back her enormous credit card bills she has finally gotten out from under the burden of debt. She is a bartender at a nice restaurant and I can only assume that she does well there. But that is not really the point. The point is that she is freer now than she was then, less constrained by obligations. I am uncertain if I will ever get there. There is less money left over from each paycheck than I currently need. I am never happy to look at my checking account. I am always sinking, sometimes slower than at other times. So, there is little chance of me ever getting to a point in which I will feel free of debt. Even if I were to get there then I am confident that I would buy some unnecessary device that would submerge me further back into financial obligation. It is a sickness of sorts.
Perhaps today I will bring a different book with me to work. I recently got a technical manual explaining in fine detail how to use my new camera, the Nikon D7000. I still owe (what to me is) quite a bit of money on the camera. I was smart enough to take out a loan to get it, you see. I have tried to convince myself that if I am going to work a job that I should reap the rewards of doing so and buy things that I want, things that will make me happy. But then I am unhappy because I owe and I feel obligated, and even worse: I feel that I am not able to fairly bitch about my situation because I myself caused it.
It is like drinking too much, knowing at the time that you are drinking too much. Being in debt is similar to having a hangover in your sleep. It greets you when you awake. It is always waiting there for you. It is a very lazy strain of social cancer. Only a few rare souls are ever able to stomach the treatment. Most eventually succumb to the illness. It is slowly debilitating but only terminal over the course of a lifetime. It is of a rare class of diseases that knows how to keep its host barely alive and always working.
Tonight when I depart from work I will drink a bottle of red wine and ponder the further significance of its symptoms.
"There are only two things wrong with money: too much or too little." -Charles Bukowski