Last week and this week are my weeks for doing paperwork. The end of last week I went into the storefront–which is Higher Education’s beach head in our town–and filled out the paperwork for the two writing classes I’m scheduled to teach this spring. Today, I finished and submitted the paperwork for bankruptcy. By the end of the week, I’m hoping to have my tax information all organized and off to the tax preparer.
It’s a funny thing: these three pieces of paperwork hold my past (I’m going to be teaching, the thing for which I originally trained long, long ago) my present (what else are taxes if not a status report on my current financial state?) and my future (the bankruptcy is necessary if I am to have a future at all; like many of us, my finances have pretty much been savaged by the last couple years. I’ve finally faced up to facts, decided to declare bankruptcy, deal with the fallout, and move ahead in my life.)
I should be more worried about this. Where is my sense of shame? Where is my fear? Where is my knowledge of my own failure? Gone, apparently. If the last couple years have savaged my finances, they have also taught me a little wisdom. There is shame in this bankruptcy, but it is not mine. There is failure, but it is not mine. There may be fear, but it is not mine, either.
And that’s the gift of these years. My priorities have shifted. I’ve learned that we can live happily on less, that we have amazing friends, that my skills and creativity expand under pressure. I am not alone. I took Patrick and some of his friends out for pizza and a movie a while back. It had been a long time, and the evening was something of a splurge. But even as I reveling in the luxury of it, I could hear the boys talking amongst themselves, seeking ways of keeping costs down.
I can’t speak for the children in your life, but the children in my life are learning the value of a dollar, and that a penny saved truly is a penny earned. They are learning to appreciate things that just a few years ago they took for granted.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with the economy, but I feel like in our house, we’re closing out a part of our lives and turning to our future. I find myself thinking again of Harriet, who takes the opportunity in a broken-down car to not just repair it, but to completely change her car into a thing of which she has only dreamed. These hard years have just handed me gift–an opportunity to step back into the classroom and teach people who believe they can’t write that they’re wrong. And in doing it, I will be handing them some of the tools I’ve found most useful in my own life.
I’d say ‘wish me luck,’ but I think i’ve already found it.