My New Year’s Resolution
January 1st, 2013

This past Thanksgiving, my sister and I took a drive into town while visiting my parents in Virginia. We started plotting the Mom and Dad gifts somewhere in the discounted-fancy-things section at the back of the TJ Maxx, and I was forced to reveal that gifts from me were questionable this year. I had just entered one of those limbo periods between two acting jobs (of which I have two weeks remaining) and she asked if I would be getting something part-time until the new year.

“I hadn’t even thought about it, really.” Money wasn’t so tight that I couldn’t scrape by—my web design business finances me when I’m otherwise unemployed. I explained that part.

“Yeah, but you could be less broke than you are now…it’s not like design work takes up your entire day.” It’s true, a big chunk of my time is spent with notepad, book and pen, studying the what, why and how of story and its primal relationship with individuals and society. I’m also writing songs, studying Italian and working out. I told her I’d rather do that and be broke than spend all day bagging groceries. Of course there’s a lingering financial guilt that comes with that choice, but it’s one with which I’ve learned to live. She was sympathetic, but had to admit: “That’s kind of snobby.”

Fast forward to December 11th. I had just spend three days visiting Abingdon for the first time since leaving there for tour in May and was spending my last few hours in town at a coffee shop, reading a book about playwriting. Normally I’d feel guilty sitting in a coffee shop while unemployed, and I was just thinking that when a realization struck: I don’t care.

For the first time that I can speak of, something had reminded me that I was desperately broke, but that nagging financial guilt was missing and in its place was profound gratitude for my state. Yes I was broke, but that irrelevant fact had been powerless to remove the coffee from my table, the scarf from around my neck or the book from my hand. It couldn’t stop me from giving my time to something that I love. That feeling, uncoupled from any lingering financial anxiety, was pure bliss.

Of course I already had a job lined up for the new year, so you could postulate that it didn’t really matter so much, but at that moment I had less than a dollar in the bank, no work for another month and was only in that coffee shop because of a free drink accrued while on tour. Any financial anxiety, if it was to show itself, would have been tipping the scale; and yet, there was none.

It’s a blessing that there are institutions in this country which believe in financially supporting the work of creative people. Yes, I am hoping that one day I can choose to eat beans and rice without having to consciously make it stretch until the next payout and will be beholden to the person who decides there’s room for me in such a consideration, but I won’t wait until then to give all the time I can over to figuring out and executing this work. That’s a conviction I’ve always held, but the deeper I burrow into the exploration of my work, the less financial anxiety I feel in spite of that choice.

Back to Thanksgiving. My sister wasn’t being rude or condemning when she dropped the snob-bomb, just realistic. Rather than being financially responsible, I’d like to spend my day philosophizing, learning languages, writing music etc. Call me a snob if you think that’s what this is. Obsessed might even be a better label, and I’m perfectly happy with that, because I have a mission.

So my coffee mug is raised—thank you 2012 and here’s to 2013: I am resolved to spend the coming year (and each year following) charting the ever unfolding, difficult to understand gaps in the patterns of life, the under-answered and unanswerable questions and the mechanics of who we are and why things are; I will not trade my life away for a tank full of gas and a 401k, and—paramount to all of the above—I officially relieve my brain of any presumed responsibility to suggest financial changes which erode the already-decided-upon actions of my heart.

With that, Happy New Year to all!