So there I was, sitting cross-legged on Jeremy's bed, staring down speechlessly as I tried to comprehend the fact that I was staring at $20,000 in cash. The first thing I remembered thinking was “Really? That’s what $20,000 looks like?” Then again, I’ve never actually been that close to such a large amount of money so I had no idea what to expect. I guess maybe the movies always make it look so much more massive.
When Jeremy had been into my work earlier that evening and told me that he had a proposal for me, I was pretty sure it wasn’t a ring. However, at this point, I think a marriage proposal after only two days of being together would have surprised me less.
Jeremy is a professional gambler. I mean this in the most literal sense. It’s what he does for a living. The first night we were out, he asked me if it bothered me that he sometimes carries more money on him than I make in four months; stating that he always wanted to be ready should a financial opportunity come his way. It doesn’t bother me in the least, but it is something that I am not used to at all. There are times in my life where I have felt prosperous, but they have been short lived and very quickly I fell back into scarcity.
I don’t come from a wealthy family. I never minded this. In fact, I always felt a lot wealthier than even my rich friends as I had a mom and dad that were still together and gave selflessly to me and my brother throughout our entire childhood. Everything we ever wanted was eventually gotten for us, even if it took longer than we’d like. Only now do I realize the sacrifices my parents had to make in order to keep us happy. However, I know that my parents have spent their entire life together trying to make ends meet and not always being successful at it. My dad has made multiple efforts to bring in additional income and while there have been points in their life where they were definitely more stable financially than other times, eventually they end up back in a position where they don’t have as much as they’d like to live the life they want.
I have been told and led to believe that it is my own personal feelings about money that cause me to manifest so little of it in my life. I’ve had close to twenty jobs in the last fifteen years ranging from minimum wage to healthy salaries with bonuses yet I have never felt any different about my state of wealth. I’ve always had enough, and just enough, to get by. Anyone who has ever lived paycheck to paycheck for any length of time will completely understand how this feels. There have been times in my life where I have spent my money frivolously and without intention and other times when I literally count every dollar I spend, making sure it is going into the right hands for right reasons. However, in both circumstances, how I feel about what I have never seems to change. At the end of the day, or week, or month, my finances balance out – leaving me with close to nothing in the bank, but no hungry mouths either.
One of the best things that ever happened to me, financially speaking, was filing bankruptcy last year on my $30,000 in credit card debt. Obviously, it was nice to have that burden off my shoulders and ended the countless telephone calls from debt collectors that rang at all hours of the day. However, that wasn’t the best part about it. Filing bankruptcy made me feel unworthy of ever having anything ever materialistically substantial in my life. Why do I deserve a big television now when I couldn’t hold myself accountable for all of my other useless purchases over the years? Nothing felt worse than putting on my cheap suit with my cheaper shoes, driving down to the courthouse and sitting in front of a judge with a room full of people behind me and having to declare publicly that I was choosing not to repay the money I had borrowed. I felt like a failure as the judge looked through my intimate information (bank statements, pay stubs, identification, oh my) and then with a sigh of frustration – probably because the entire room behind me was waiting to declare the same shortcoming I was – he told me I was free to go start over.
When I left the courthouse, I cried. Only some of the tears were shed because of the leftover feeling of pity and self-loathing; most were out of relief. I truly felt like I had a clean slate after spending almost ten years feeding this debt monster that started out as just a baby and then grew into this destructive and hostile force that eventually turned on me and started to threaten my daily lifestyle. I made a conscious vow in that moment to never let myself get out of control again and to live within my means which meant cash only for everything and if I couldn’t afford it, I couldn’t have it.
I remember in California, Eric had received a settlement from a worker’s compensation claim he had filed years before we met. He gave me $3,000 of it to pay off my credit card debt. He said he wanted us to have a fresh start as we began our life together. However, based on results, I didn’t exactly learn the kind of lesson that would have been useful later on in life. I just happily paid off my credit card and promptly took out another line of credit in order to pay off my student loans; leaving me with a nice looking payoff as far as my college was concerned and a credit card bill that was more than four times what Eric had just given me to get us “off to the right start”. Sometimes, I don’t learn as fast as I think I do.
All of these memories came rushing back to me as I continued starting dumbly down at the 200 one hundred dollar bills that Jeremy had tossed on to the bed in front of me. Here I was, at a point in my life where I felt like I had finally gotten my finances under control. My job wasn’t high paying by any means, but I was able to have my own apartment with my own things, eat good food and enjoy an active lifestyle. However, life always has a way of throwing a wrench into things right when it seems like they are under control.
Jeremy explained to me that he was prepared to make a bet with this money. He was betting that if I quit my job serving and focused all of my attention on writing that within six months, I would find success as a writer whether it be through a book advance or perhaps contributing to an existing publication or something of that nature. He wasn’t really attached to what it looked like. He told me that he had such a strong faith in my talent that he was willing to put $20,000 on it. He said he had thought about the idea earlier that afternoon and came into my work that night for a couple of reasons; first, he wanted to see me (totally adorable) and second, he wanted to double check my work ethic as he knew that if I were to accept his proposal, the only way he could be sure that he was making a smart bet was to see me working hard and taking my job seriously. He knew that if I was willing to work with such integrity at a simple serving and bartending job, certainly I would do what it takes to make myself a success.
I continued to sit and stare at the money in silence. It’s not often I’m left speechless, but this was not an everyday ordinary occurrence. And of course, just as quickly as he had left the other night, the cynic had happily come running back into my head, laughing joyously and calling me a fool for even considering this ridiculous notion.
“You don’t know how to be a writer! You have absolutely no experience, very few contacts within the industry and you don’t know the first thing about how to market yourself. Look at what a brilliant artist you are and you couldn’t make anything more than a few thousand dollars a year doing that. How in the world do you expect to maintain your lifestyle after the $20,000 runs out? Do you know how long it takes to get a book deal? Or to get anything published for that matter? You’ve finally gotten things under control and your relationship with money is cordial. There is no reason to get out of your comfort zone now and risk losing it all again. Besides… you don’t even know this guy!!”
The cynic is not worried about hurting my feelings.
I kept looking at Jeremy though, expecting to see a waiver of doubt behind his eyes, waiting for him to crack open a back door. Instead, he stared right back, already confident in his choice, regardless of my next move. And he continued reinforcing the fact that he had more faith in me and my writing than anything he has ever believed in before. He also wanted me to realize that his proposal was completely separate from our relationship, although naturally, it’s going to be a little difficult to segregate the two of them. I know that more than anything, he wanted me to realize how absolutely serious he was about this.
“What’s in it for you?” I asked.
He explained to me that he had spent years struggling with the idea of what living big looked like. He always knew he wanted to have the kind of life where he could live every day with purpose and without permission. He knew that there was nothing more freeing than being able to write his own paycheck. Recently, he had finally come to a point in his life where he wasn’t going to have to worry about money for a very long time and the idea of being able to live the kind of life HE wanted to was the biggest gift he had ever given himself. He told me that nothing would make him happier than seeing me reach this same level of freedom, especially given that I had made the biggest strides in my life after putting restrictions and guidelines into place. Now was the time to be rewarded for my efforts in living my life in excellence.
He also told me that this was truly a gamble. While he believes that there is only a 5-10% chance that he’ll lose this bet, he’s ready to lose if it means that I’ll give it all I have and if it’s not the right time for me or if circumstances simply don’t allow that kind of success in the given time frame, at least it’s something that I can say I tried and put all of my effort into. And then we can reevaluate it at that time. The one thing that I know for sure is that while Jeremy says that the money and the proposal is separate from our relationship, the fact that I have a partner in this is what will make it truly interesting. All I have ever wanted was someone that had my back and was willing to do whatever it takes to build a life of substance with me. Time and time again, when going through yet another break up, all I needed was for someone to fight for me and ask me to stay. Instead, I was always allowed to leave. Staring into Jeremy's eyes, I knew that he wasn’t going to let me go without a fight, and in that moment, money or no money, I surrendered to the fact that this man was the man for me.
My favorite movie in the world is Kill Bill. Beatrix Kiddo is Uma Thurman’s character and when asked who my hero is, it’s usually a coin toss between her and my dad. What I love so much about her character is that after deciding that she wanted to leave her life of violence and chaos for one of love and compassion so she could raise her daughter, Bill shot her. However, she survived the wound and after spending four years in a coma, she awoke with only one thought on her mind: Kill Bill. That was her vision and it was stronger than anything she had ever felt before. Everything she did from that point on was to reach her goal and nothing could stop her. Battle after battle after battle brought her closer to realizing this vision and finally, when all of her other wars had been won, she drove to Bill’s house and found that her daughter was still alive, and the most beautiful creature in the entire world.
Spoiler alert: In the end, she killed Bill. And even though her vision had finally come to fruition, she ended up gaining the most important thing of all and that was the gift of having her beautiful daughter back.
My vision for the longest time has been to meet that partner – that special person that was willing to climb to the top of the highest mountain and declare his love for me to the world. I wanted a person who would not only be my comrade and counterpart for everything life had to offer, but who would also help guide and support me in times when I doubted myself and my capabilities. I searched and searched and gave many men an opportunity to fill this role. In the end though, I always felt like I was settling. Many friends have asked me in the past if I thought I would ever find what I was looking for. I always answered that I didn’t know, but I wasn’t willing to take anything less in the meantime.
In less than a week, I have felt for the first time in my life, that I have finally met my match. All I wanted was someone to love me and support me but what I got was so much more than I could ever have expected. And boy does he put the cynic to the test!
So, I am going to take the money and put in my notice at work with September 30th being my last day. I’m scared and excited and have no idea what I’m thinking. All I know is that opportunities like this come along once in a lifetime and if I don’t jump on it now, I may end up living smaller than I know I’m capable of for a long time.
We can’t be afraid to dream big, my darlings. Because small will always be there.