The Balancing Game

So much of life seems to be a balancing game between two crucial resources: time and money.

When I first started working full-time, I earned so much that I didn’t know what to do with all the money. Going from the sufficient income of $250 a week to  $1000 a week was mind-blowing. I found ways to spend it of course, a creeping sense of entitlement that I had always hoped to avoid when I was living comfortably enough on humbler means. “Why yes, I have worked hard this week, I do deserve that cup of coffee from the cafe rather than the instant stuff.” “Why yes, I am working more now, and that means I can definitely pursue a third martial art while I practice the other two.” “Why yes, I am having a bad day, I do deserve to buy myself a new video game, because gosh-darn it I’ve earned a little treat.” And so, in a short span of time I had cancelled out much of the extra income I was making to keep myself happy amidst all the stresses of working full-time. And that wealth that I did not spend accumulated, waiting dormant in my bank account for whatever long-term investment, grandiose holiday or material whim I could throw it at. When I told people honestly that I didn’t know what to do with it all, they joked that I could give it to them. My mother, a passionate believer in saving every cent, was happy that it was accumulating for the day I might need it. I found it so hard to fit in housework, relationships, video games, martial arts and every assortment of errand around my new work schedule. In short, I was working so much that I didn’t have time for anything else in my life; I didn’t have time to live.

This pattern has played out before, when I was working as a youth worker and a library assistant simultaneously. I found I was too busy and resigned from one of my jobs (the wrong one, perhaps), and I suddenly had a wealth of free time to pursue every pleasure in life, and not very much money to do it with. All those things that I’d been neglecting were suddenly available to me, those books and games and friends and hobbies and passions and interests that I’d always wanted to dive into… And yet no long-term goal, nothing beyond “enjoy the pleasures of today and make sure you earn enough to do the same tomorrow”. And enjoy them I did.

I face the same dilemma now. At my current workplace, I work three days a week. I’ve been offered a fourth, possibly a fifth working in another (highly stressful) team. In truth, I think three and a half days is about the right amount for me in terms of enjoying my life and managing my wellness without slowly breaking down over time. I’m sorely tempted to leave it at those three days, and yet that fourth would add an income that I am finding myself needing for the first time in my life. Yes, all my material needs are currently being met. And now that I have that much financial stability, I long for the next big expense: a house of my own. To afford such a luxury would require me to work more than I want to. And that’s the age-old problem: we work not because we want to but because it gives us money in return. If we loved our work so much, would we do it for free?

Logically I know all that. I guess I’m just stuck at the moment between working harder than I want to so that it enables me to live a more comfortable and luxurious life later. That is, if I don’t burn out from the challenge of trying to sustain more than I can handle. It may just be temporary, but I find myself slowly collapsing under the weight of this new opportunity for dosh in exchange for, it seems, my health, my wellbeing, my life. Is life worth the cost of money? Maybe. I think I’m being a touch dramatic because my mental health is not the best today. Well, I guess we’ll see how things are going a week from now.

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