I left teaching at the end of June 2017, but my salary stopped at the end of August, so I see 1st September as a key date; last year I was sitting in Dobbie’s coffee shop thinking, ‘this is what the world looks like when you’re not in class…’
I’m going to blog this in two parts; personally, and then professionally. Personal is probably easiest. The biggest lesson can be summed up with one word. Enough.
Over the last year I have developed a new relationship with money. For the twenty years before, a salary was parachuted into my bank account at the end of the month without fail. The money was almost completely divorced from what I did; I earned the same amount whether I had 19 pupils, or 33 (my largest and smallest classes). Now I have to think how long will the job take? Are there expenses? What is my time actually worth? Is that too much or too little?
And of course, the big money question, will there be enough?
This has, without doubt, been a huge head shift for me. I’m a detailed financial planner. We paid off part of our mortgage early. We bought our last car outright. We don’t pay interest on our credit cards. Ever. I have always lived in surplus. We often have a small monthly surplus (we seem to have made money stretch), but much more than before, we are learning to accept that while we no longer have extra, we have enough.
I haven’t perfected acceptance, though I have got better at it. Surplus Guy is still bound and gagged in a corner of my head, but occasionally he gets free and runs around yelling. I use journaling to help see things rationally in moments of meltdown. Most of my journal entries, therefore, do not make light-hearted reading, but here’s a more positive entry from March this year:
I have said this before, I’m going to have to learn to live with enough. I am not good at this. I prefer to live with surplus, knowing that there is always extra money to tap into should we need it. We have a small buffer, but it’s getting less and less.
And so, I have asked myself two big questions this week. One, is the road you’ve taken still financially viable? (Connected to that is the sub question, are the people around you suffering because of lack of money?) Two, have you changed your mind; do you now believe the work you are seeking is no longer important? If the answers are yes, no and no, then you need to hold the course you’re on. The going is difficult, but there are no reasons why you should give up.
These are good questions. For everyone. When life is scary, strange, confusing or uncomfortable, is there enough to do what you need to do right now?
Don’t get me wrong, we are not scraping by. We all went to Italy for a holiday, and Lorraine and I went to London for a weekend to celebrate our actual anniversary. Financially, you’d have to say we actually have more than enough, it’s only scary because it’s a lot less than we used to have. This leads me to wonder what we were spending money on before. I can only reflect that the western world is not built upon enough, it is built upon more.
Keeping going has required me not only to embrace enough, but to widen its definition. There hasn’t been enough paid work, but I have had more than enough time to reflect and create and write, as well as look around and see what else is going on in the world (remember, I was in the one building for twenty years.) There have been enough opportunities to learn, develop and try things out. These opportunities continue; more about them in the next post. There has been more than enough time to be present (where before I felt I lived at ninety miles an hour), and more than enough love and support from friends and family.
We have much more than many in the world possess and I start year two grateful. I am also mindful of the theme of enough in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is explicit about not storing up. (Funny, the General Assembly didn’t go after that one as a ‘credible expression of faith’.) He lists all the things we’re not to worry about, concluding with, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Eugene Peterson translates it better, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.”
I’ve read it a thousand times before, but now the challenge is more meaningful; stay present, not when you have reserves, but when you have enough.