Thursday, November 11, 2010

If I was a rich girl

Remember how when you were younger and in love, and you had this romantic notion that you didn't need anything else as long as you could just be together? That money wasn't important, and the only thing that really mattered was your love?

This is a rumour spread by poor people to make themselves feel better. I know this because I am a poor person who spreads rumours like this to make myself feel better.

I remember sitting on the old, torn couch at my husband's place, The Boys House, when we were seriously considering getting married, as we did the sums to work out how we could balance full-time university, part time jobs, and Centrelink allowances. I thought, 'Wow, Centrelink! We're rich!' HA. So naive. We were married and found a rental unit in Scarborough that were among the few that we could afford. We actually have a lot of fond memories of living there, across the road from the beach, sleeping on our mattress with our blanket. My husband loved that he could check the surf from our bed, and decide if it was worth it or not. (It usually was.) We would go for early morning dips and walk around Scarborough at night. We loved the feel of the area, kind of old, but with the beach vibe, despite some "scumminess", which came in the form of our neighbours. They spent their days drinking, not wearing shirts and having noisy, violent fights, with at least one involving a woman being beaten. The police visited often. At this point early on in our marriage money was very tight. (Still is!) I would spend $40 a week on groceries.

Back to that idea of "all we need is each other"- when you can't afford decent shampoo or to get your hair done or you legs waxed, you can begin to question some of these things! Financial hardship can be quite a strain. Last time I went to get some waxing done, my beauty therapist said, "It's been awhile, it's been four months!" And I said "Yes, it feels like four months..." based on scary high levels of hairiness I had been exhibiting.

This week our family car died. It is the sixth car we have had as a married couple, and we have not yet been married for six whole years. This is because we have only been able to spend a very small amount of money on a car, so we buy a bomb, then soon enough it requires thousands of dollars of work which we can't afford, or it gets a yellow sticker, or it dies. How much easier (or less complicated) would life be if we were wealthier? I wouldn't be leaving the car at the gym because it won't open and we couldn't afford to replace the central locking system. I wouldn't spend so much time pushing 3 kids around in a pram meant for two. And our car wouldn't break down late at night on a completely dark country road in the middle of nowhere when I have about $2 credit on my phone. Actually, if I was rich, I would have enough phone credit. Maybe my husband would have a pair of pants without a sizeable hole in the crotch (he calls these his "air conditioned pants"), or I could afford clothing that fits and was not previously thrown away by someone else.

After this last week of car trouble, my frustration has nearly reached boiling point. I have, however, started looking at the situation from a different perspective however. While it seems natural to say "Why me???" or wonder when thinks are going to start going right, I have tried to stop seeing the glaringly obvious negative, and start seeing some potential positives.

The other night when my car broke down, I honestly had to laugh, it just seemed so ridiculous, and also somewhat like an urban legend. I was thinking about how I was driving, singing along to The Fray (my husband hates them soooo much, haha) and the radio just cut out. I was concerned, but hoped maybe it was just an electrical problem (because that's so much better). Then I started to wonder, 'Are the lights always this dim?' And that's when I thought, 'Oh dear, my battery is going to die...please let me make it to my destination FIRST and not on this quiet scary dark part of Gnangara road!' Very soon after, my lights went off and it was pitch black, and I swerved off the road because I literally could not see. I am getting to my point now. It occurred to me that while I was aware only of the difficulties my family had been facing, I hadn't been paying attention to the blessings and the good things we have. When my lights went out and I swerved, things could have ended very differently. Maybe the blessing here was that while inconvenienced, I was perfectly safe. I imagine if I had been seriously hurt, I would have wished and prayed for these circumstances which I did find myself in.

As for being poor, I am pretty tired of it. I think I am an expert and having achieved expert level status I should be allowed to move up. But if the alternative to this would have been to delay getting married, or having children, and finding full-time work so we would be a double income family, I would still choose this. All my happiness comes from my family. They make my life worth living. For them, I will continue to endure life as a hairy badly groomed 25 year old. Still waiting to see if I have any long-lost wealthy ninety year old relatives though.


  1. One of my favourite sayings is:

    "They say money can't buy happiness, it makes misery a whole lot more comfortable" and a close second "I just want the opportunity to see for myself whether money can or can't buy happiness"

    Poverty does get old. Fingers crossed for the long-lost aged relative.

    On a more practical note, my friend Kylie of Kylie's Beauty Shoppe at 191C scarborough Bch Rd is very reasonably priced and gives 20% discount for Health care Card an Pension Card holders. (for the waxing)

    Your beautiful attitude will get you through.


  2. you should buy my car. Beck Davies has it at the moment as far as i know but it's supposed to be sold after christmas or whenever nic's parents are done borrowing it while they're over there or something. It's only a year old so you wont have any problems with it. Try having a talk to Beck, I don't know if they'll let me deal with it at all since i've been denied access to my australian bank accounts but they might be able to do you a good deal

  3. I live in Scarborough (moving out soon!) and I know what you mean! At the moment it has been taken over by Brazillians, who apparently love the high density housing that is similar to their home. Being woken up at 2am by salsa music does get old!

    I drive an '89 Toyota Corolla which I have had for 7 years. I love it! It rarely breaks down (has done once since Ive had it!) and has amazing air con. Even though it is nearly as old as me and has no central locking/ power steering, it has characer, it is enough.

    I think that is the trick... being happy with enough. Making life simpler. And all about character, not material wealth. Being all Zen and happy about it, and not comparing yourself to other people! My Dave is occasionally jealous of others with big houses or fancier cars, until I point out that you never know the whole story about those people. Maybe the couple who bought the house will break up and need to sell it in the middle of a housing slump and make no money off it. (Seen that happen.) Maybe they got in heaps of debt to get the creature comforts they have. (Seen that too.) Suddenly his debt free existence isnt looking so bad!

    When you dont focus so much on the material world you have more time, more energy and more resources. Jesus had nothing and people still thought he was pretty rad.

  4. Ah, I do love comments : ) makes me feel important!

    I know that given the chance, I would still choose this life over one that didn't involve my family. But some days being poor is so frustrating! And having a whinge into cyberspace is so therapeutic...

    Sometimes my husband and I talk about our lives, and our plans, and I have to remind myself (and this sounds really...cliche, I guess) that we could die at any time (and morbid?), and that it would really suck if we spent our whole lives being let's be satisfied now, and do what makes us happy now.

    I also don't want to be someone who is bitter and resentful, or jealous of other people. When I was 21 and had my first child, I was in a Mothers Group that consisted of women in their thirties, who owned homes in the Wembley Downs/Woodlands/Scarborough/North Beach areas, and I was way too embarrassed to have them over to my tiny 2 bedroom unit. One of them lived in a particularly beautiful home in North Beach with fantastic ocean views, lovely things, etc. About a year later she and her partner had broken up, so I guess their relationship wasn't very happy, which was a shame.

  5. I should add that I don't want to try to make myself feel superior to someone in that situation, but just to agree that we don't know what goes on in other peoples lives. I want to be the kind of person who honestly just wishes the best for others.


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