It’s odd to have no money when once you had plenty of it. It feels vaguely unreal, like an unconfirmed rumour. The memory is in the muscles still, that ease and certainty is there still, but now boxed in, fenced off. If it wasn’t such a pain in the arse it would be a point of great anthropological interest.
Still, I find myself quite dispassionate about it much of the time. It is greatly inconvenient, and even a threat to my health sometimes – but there is also something fascinating about it. It’s not so long ago that I was earning $7,000 a week. I fully appreciated what that meant, and was quite delighted by it – but it also had a warping effect upon me. If I wanted something I’d generally just buy it. I lived well, though not extravagantly. One effect it had was diminishing the value of money. No matter how much I spent I always ended the week with a lot more than I started it with. It was not that it was easy – I had to work for it after all – but it sometimes felt unbalanced.
Now the shoe is very much on the other foot. I’d laugh about it if I could find the humour, but I can recognise something of the absurd in it. These days the value of money has never been higher for me. It’s a fact of life, strange as it is. I often reflect on how weird it is, how much has changed. I wonder if there is a moral in it, and think there must be. Above all there is something deeply humbling to descend from being one of the entitled few to being less than the ordinary man.
It was brought home to me today as I wandered around KLCC. I paused at the Zegna store and gazed at a navy blue jacket I had instantly fallen in love with. 18 months ago I’d have likely entered the store and bought it – expensive perhaps, but still less than a days work. I walked on. I passed by shop after shop that once upon a time I’d have stopped at and lingered in. Today there is no point to it. I ended up at the Kinokuniya store. As always I found some books I’d dearly loved to have purchased, but gone are the days I’d walk out with a bag of books worth a few hundred dollars. Today I weighed up the pros and cons, and reluctantly realised that the cons held sway.
Later I stopped at a toy store I’ve walked by every time I’ve visited thinking that the boys would love the stuff in here. I thought it again today, and so wanted to get a credit card out and buy the things I knew would delight them. I couldn’t though. I walked out vowing, next time.
You might think times like these would change me, and perhaps they have. I don’t know if I feel it though. There is scarcity where there was once abundance, and tough times in consequence – but you just deal with it.
There are plenty of times I get all wistful, no denying it. I get nostalgic sometimes about the days when all I ever had to do was reach for my wallet. I miss that utter and unconscious ease. One of the things I miss most is good food – I live frugally, and so, dully. But it just is. I make do, grumbling sometimes, sometimes utterly pissed off, but mostly looking to make the best of it.
I don’t know what it says about me. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to those halcyon days of yore, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I’m certain that I’ll find myself in comparative comfort again before too long, the money once more flowing. It’s been a busy, challenging time all round, but I cope, I think, by sub-consciously thinking of this time as a season that will pass. It’s a threadbare season of trial and some woe, but it will pass, the sun will come again.
It’s not always as easy as that, but it seems my default setting. I don’t really understand any other way. I think it’s how it must be, but realise that mostly it is not. Right now I am losing, and have been for a while. I’ve not yet lost though, the game is yet afoot and I’m still in it. Why give up? Why believe it’s too hard? What choice do you have ultimately? Curling up into a ball is not an option, and besides, I still have designs on that Zegna jacket. One day it will be mine.