2023-01-25: habits

i've read before that poverty never really leaves you. that it rewires you. when i was young, until i was ten or so, my family didn't have a lot of money; my parents were sessional lecturers in the arts, and i remember all our clothes coming from hand-me-downs, or value village, or church rummage sales. anything to stretch a dollar further.

but i don't really associate that part of my life with being poor, even though we were, because i was shielded from it and the love made up for it. i'm lucky now in that i've got a job that covers my expenses and lets me save a bit of money, so i save, and save. the reason for this: in the mid '00s i was so broke my weekly grocery budget was $30, for almost a year. all the habits that creates. all the fear.

i buy cheap meat in bulk, portion and freeze it. i have towers of canned goods — "just in case". extra bread in the freezer. i buy rice by the sack. all the things that keep forever: instant coffee (at least a half-dozen jars in the pantry and the basement), hundreds and hundreds of tea bags, enough toilet paper and paper towels to literally last me for years. if something's on sale, i stock up. doesn't matter if i don't need it. i just finished the ramen i kept buying in 2020. i think it was around three or four dozen packages. after i ate the last package, i made sure to buy some more.

today after work i decided to make chocolate chip cookies. i baked half a dozen. kept the rest of the dough to freeze.

i've often thought about how that year of being very poor and very alone caused a kind of shift in me. even when i was going through university, and didn't have a lot of money, i'd buy what i needed, or look for something cheaper i could substitute. but that bad year was defined by lack on a lot of levels (money, yes; but also touch, love...), and being alone, coming home to a dark and dirty house, changed how i thought at a very low level. it put a certain kind of fear in me. not just, what if this thing i need is no longer available, but also, what if i wake up tomorrow morning and i'm suddenly incredibly poor again.

i think about that a lot. the lens of that irrationality and the way it focuses all my light. how i hate taking on debt. how i try to pay cash for large purchases. if i carry any kind of balance on my credit card i feel like a failure, and i'm not sure what the solution is, or even if there is one. so i keep saving. keep a full pantry. if i see aid requests on social media for help with groceries, i'll kick in thirty bucks. anything to help people in that situation. anything to help temporarily silence that voice.