|Ok, not quite this. But it feels like it.|
So I'm a big fancy-pants professor now. Like my name is on the door and everything. It's a lot to adjust to in many ways, not the least of which is moving from what is unquestionably the greatest city in the world to a town that may or may not be ok.
I've only been here for 4 days and have done basically nothing but unpack, so in many ways it hasn't really hit me yet, the many role adjustments I'm making in the transition from graduate student to assistant professor.
The one way it has hit me like a ton of bricks, though, is in the wallet (in both the literal and figurative sense -- my wallet actually is more full than it has ever been at any previous point in time). Sparring you my life history, I grew up in a working-class family. We were never hurting for money (at least as far as I could tell), but we were far from living in luxury. Though I'm sure a substantial portion of it could be attributed to my parent's...ahem...thriftiness, we never had many nice things growing up. Used cars, small t.v., technology acquired only many years after its first introduction, etc. Again, pretty standard working-class experience, if such things existed anymore, buoyed by the Clinton economies of the 90s.
After college (which I assume to be a poverty experience for all but the most wealthy, right?), I spent a year doing social work, and then went to grad school. The most money I made any year in my twenties was when I made a little over $20,000 on the first-year fellowship I got for grad school. But my average income for the decade hovered between $14,000-16,000/year. The last few years of my graduate training got especially lean, as I largely self-funded my dissertation and then tried, with marginal success, to finish up before I ran out of money.
Anyway, point being, I've never really been able to buy stuff on a whim. Pretty much every non-essentials purchase I've ever made in my life has required consciously saving for some period of time. Even little luxuries, like eating out, for the vast majority of my adult life have had to been carefully allocated. I'm not complaining about it; I'm glad my folks raised me not to have much interest in accumulating crap. I'm just pointing out that the little crap I have coveted has always been somewhat hard to come by, and it's obviously been much more so the case since I left the nest.
I should also point out that I'm not making a ton of money right now; this is all relative. But I am making over three times as much as I was previously, so I feel like C. Montgomery Burns.
And I've been reminded of this constantly since I received my first paycheck roughly 5 days ago. For instance, this afternoon I was reading a review of an interesting sounding book (specifically this one, in case you're curious what I qualify as "interesting sounding") and I did what I always do when reading about something I think I might like -- I made a note of it to ask for it for a holiday or to buy it someday if I have extra money sitting around burning a hole in my pocket. And then I realized, fuck that shit, I have extra money right now. I can just go straight ahead and drop $20 on a new book! What's that? Another $5 for shipping? Who cares, for I have entered the hallow halls of the wealthy!
Or today, when I was walking home from campus around noon, I was thinking it would be nice to just eat out so I didn't have to cook this afternoon. And then I realized I could! At a place that even serves real food! I sat down at a mother fucking cloth napkin restaurant for lunch today. Me! On a monday! I left an egregiously large tip, too, because $10 means nothing to this new titan of industry!
And as amusing as all this is (and it will take a loooong time for the novelty of having a real income to wear off), it blows me away a bit to think I'll never again have to worry about money in the ways I used to. Sure, someday I'll probably have a mortgage, and I'll worry about money then. And when I want to retire, I'm sure I'll worry about money then. If I'm trying to put kids through college, some unforeseen situation, etc.
I get that I'll worry about money again in my life, but never in the shitty ways I was forced to for the better part of the last decade. Never again will the worry be about rent versus basic nutritional needs, dog's medicine versus being able to have any discretionary spending money for the next few weeks. They'll be all kinds of new and horrible worries I'm sure, but right now, they feel like there's no way they could be as fundamentally soul-crushing as the money worries of riding the poverty line.
And that to me seems like a basic summation of bourgeois living -- oh, you'll still have plenty of worries, but they won't be nearly as terrifying.