I am broke. I have no idea where my money will come from each month. That's the nature of being a full-time freelancer. I have some steady clients, but the amount of work I do for them is largely dependent on how motivated I am from week to week. (And sometimes, I am simply more motivated to make soup and watch the Food Network. I am not proud of my fixation with Paula Deen and Ina Garten.)
I send a money order to my landlord for the rent the second I have the funds in my checking account to cover it; after my basic bills are paid, it's a toss-up whether I'll make even a dent in my credit card balance for the month.
Christmas presents? Not sure how I'm going to swing those, especially as I've committed myself to shopping local and independent this year. (No Amazon; dear GOD, what have I done?)
For a long time, this financial predicament alone would have sent me into a tailspin of anxiety. But not anymore. I am so fortunate to have work at all, with the possibility of more at any point I'm willing to push for it. I am among the lucky few who get to work from their sofas, have a cat for an administrative assistant, go to group fitness classes at 10 a.m., grocery shop before the post-work rush.
Above all things, I am a writer. All the time, finally. I take the jobs I want; I don't have to compromise or sell my soul or do anything people claim to do when they work in an office, unless I want to.
This is not the life I envisioned for myself, but then again, I envisioned myself married at 26½ — yes, my plans for myself were that exacting — with my first child by 30. Thirty. No. So no it's laughable.
Though maybe, if I'd thought this life I'm living now would be possible when I was forming those ridiculous life plans, it's exactly the life I'd have envisioned.
I don't have a plan anymore. I have no idea what next month will look like, beyond lit with strings of colored lights and filled with warmth, food, friends and family, and that's actually a little comforting. It's not that I don't have goals…but if you don't have a plan, you can't screw it up. It's easier to forgive yourself if you don't have anything to apologize in the first place. And I don't. I forgive myself for minor transgressions, for accidentally oversleeping or missing a day at the gym or forgetting to call my grandmother. I simply resolve to be better the next day.
I like myself. Finally. I don't know how it happened or when, even, but I am genuinely proud to be Paige Worthy. My therapist would be proud. All my therapists of the past would be proud.
I am a new person. In the four years since I moved to Chicago, I have been so many people — and lived so many lives, really, though all my own — but I like this one best. I hope to be her for a long time to come.
I wrote sometime last year — from my little secretary, pushed against the wall in my awful Wicker Park studio apartment — that I cherished my stormy, whirlwind existence, that I couldn't imagine a stable life. That it would be boring.
I remember that the notion infuriated the Knight. This time last year, we were still fiddling at reigniting our sparks, trying to salvage something. (Again with the "so no it's laughable," though you can't blame us for trying.) He was right, of course. Craving conflict and turmoil is no way to live.
But it's hard to realize that when it's sort of all you've known. Granted, I've been happy during my time in Chicago. I've had a lot of happiness. But it's all been punctuated by a sense of constant change, or fragility, at least.
And as I embark on what feels like contentment as the holiday season begins — Vince Guaraldi on my iPod because I can't resist anymore, tray table down as my plane begins its descent into Kansas City — I think I've finally decided not to fight it.
I don't have the energy to fight contentment. Need to save all that energy for the thankfulness. And warmth, and light. And love.