Dear Ask A Punk- So far 2011 hasn't been any better than 2010. Like everyone else trying to make their way in a medium-sized but surprisingly expensive city after lay-offs and stuff, I find I can still "get by" but that is about it. In fact it is getting harder to get by in spite of all the personal cutting back I have done. There isn't much more that can be cut back. While this is a scary situation to be in, a part of me also feels like it was time for this to happen... and I don't mean just to me, I mean it feels like the shit has finally hit the fan for the wasteful lifestyle we were all living, me included. I'm not a hippie or anything, I just think it might be a lesson we needed to learn. I used to go out drinking and spending money and seeing shows, stay home where drinking is cheaper, invite over some friends and play music or videogames or something. We're written tons of songs and stuff for no reason other than it is fun. So IS this the upside to all the crap we're going through? - USA-
Dear USA -
You might be on to something. Necessity might be the mother of invention, but poverty is the mother of free time, that is for sure. The trick is to SEE that (as you have) and use that downtime constructively. Of course, "constructively" can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I might suggest that some of your copious downtime be used to help other people somehow, through volunteering for a cause you hold dear, creating a space for more people to use their downtime constructively or even just teaching one kid how to make a 'D' chord. Know what I mean?
You're right that, as a culture (a 'consumer culture') we've collectively spent a lot of time chasing happiness and trying to spend our way into fulfillment only to discover that these things are easier to 'catch' if we just sit still, breathe deep and sort of trap them when they come to us. Regular readers will know that I have been "under-employed" for longer than I care to admit, and it is really starting to wear on me, however: a part of me has never been happier, I have more time for my friends, my significant other and my own creative pursuits, including night-times where, if I was working more I would feel the urge/need to go out and spend cash and do more 'external' things... none of which would be nearly as fulfilling as reading a good book, writing a bad book, jamming with friends or taking a long-ass walk. ... of course I've never been a spendthrift, but if I was to suddenly land a big-dollar job tomorrow, I have trouble imaging that I would forget these lessons overnight. I think (or perhaps hope) that my fellow countrymen are feeling the same... I mean, SHOULD an economy be based on a model that says, basically - in order for the country to function, everyone has to almost immediately spend most of their hard-earned $$ on things they don't really need?
The sad part is that, of course the rich are still getting richer and the previously-not-quite-poor are getting poorer, but that is a rant for another day. Keep doing your best, keep an eye on your budget and when things start looking up for you, me, and everyone else, try not to forget this stuff.