“My life has shrunk to the size of my desk.” The thought popped into my head a few days before Thanksgiving as I settled into a seat at the first concert I’ve been to in four years. I’d been excited about the show for weeks, ever since my husband surprised me with the tickets. But sitting in the theater, waiting for it to start, a wave of sadness hit me as I realized how small my life has become.
For the last year and a half, as I was first unemployed and then underemployed, I’ve stripped my life down to the absolute basics. No new clothes, no dinners out, no luxuries of any kind. I’d only buy books at the used bookstore after trading in other ones for credit. The one big trip I went on was planned and paid for by my mom. Even our honeymoon was downsized and mainly the result of a very generous gift from my brother-in-law. It started out as a way to save money, but soon that scrimping, shrinking energy spilled over into other things: not wanting to watch a new movie on Netflix because I wasn’t in the mood for something unfamiliar, procrastinating a doctor’s appointment even though I have insurance, even something as small as telling myself I didn’t have time to go in the pool that is literally ten feet from my back door. Avoidance y’all, I’m really good at it.
I’m also pretty damn good at being brave despite my ever-present fears, though. The fact that I hadn’t been to a show in four years wasn’t just shocking because one of my best friends is a concert photographer. It’s also because I spent most of my twenties splurging on tickets to see the likes of The Police, Patti Smith, and the Rolling Stones, even if I had to eat rice and lentils for weeks to afford it. My first two international solo trips were to countries where I not only didn’t speak the language, I couldn’t even read the alphabet (China and Greece in case you were wondering). I packed up everything I owned and moved from New York, the only place I’d ever lived, to Atlanta where I only knew about three people and didn’t have a job waiting for me. Because as I once told my husband, when even the little things scare the crap out of you, you get used to powering through the fear. Moving to a new city was no more or less scary than making a phone call and I’m forced to do that all the damn time.
But once I had to decide between which bills I could or couldn’t afford to pay in any given month, “I can’t afford that,” very quickly morphed into “I just can’t”; even when that thing required little to no money at all. Which is how I found myself driving home from this concert, having signed an offer letter only the day before, telling my husband that I wanted to do more stuff in 2020. He smiled and agreed, pointing out that with two salaries we could afford it now.
That wasn’t what I meant though. Or at least, not the only thing that I meant. Sure, I was already wondering what other shows we could go to and thinking of the trips I wanted to take. But I was also thinking about the doctor’s appointment I should have made last January and the nearby park I never went to because finding parking was hard, the movies sitting in my Netflix queue that I hadn’t watched even when I had all the time in the world. I meant, quite literally, that I wanted to stop avoiding so much crap and do more stuff. Because when you’re constantly scared, what have you got to lose? Actually, don’t answer that, Brain.