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The importance of some show
Long-term planning is pretty overrated when there’s no interim payoff
My partner and I spend just about every Sunday morning with endless cups of coffee, comparing HELOCs and workloads and budgets and meal plans, trying to figure out how to keep making things work when inflation never stops and interest rates keep rising. We talk spreadsheets and car trades and expense cutting and bulk buying and how many dentist cleanings are really necessary.
Managing money these days feels less like financial management and more like emergency triage. I don’t know if it’s just us, or if it’s everyone and we’re all too scared to talk about it.
We took a break to sit outside, and he said something I can’t get out of my head: You know, I think we’re stuck, not because of the money or the time or the work. I think we’re stuck because we never see any show.
We sat outside and tried to remember the last time we had some show – something that reminds us that all this is worth it, that life isn’t just work and inflation and interest rates.
We realized we hadn’t taken the kids to a movie in four years. We haven’t booked vacations. We haven’t, for the love of all that’s holy, painted our freaking house. Three years after finally saving enough to buy a house, we’re still living in the sales-ready white and greige, because there’s always something more important than paint, that cheapest of all roomchangers.
We forgot the show – the whole damn point of it all.
If all you see when you slow down is how tired, burned out, and hopeless you are, I think that means you’re doing it wrong. That is, at least, the lesson we wound up taking from that conversation.
No goal – financial, or otherwise, whether it’s studying to get into grad school or building a business or making a career change or having a baby or moving away – is worth hopelessness. If you’re stuck in apathy on your way to a big goal, that doesn’t mean you’re doing it right, contrary to the hustle culture propaganda. It means the goal isn’t worth it.
It’s not feasible to feel hopeful when your entire life plan is a cycle of struggle, overcome, struggle, overcome. It’s absurd to think that we can emotionally and physically handle a never-ending stream of goals that will never be met – and yet we all do it, all day, every day, expecting ourselves to just…continue.
Continuing is not living.
If you’re in the same boat, whether it’s trying to get out of debt, or save for a house or a trip, or complete any other kind of long-term plan for yourself: consider sitting down with your goals list and your plans and your budget and reexamining them from the perspective of having a little show.
We did this, and it was hard, and I had to be reminded about 97 times that the world will not actually end if I meet a goal a few months later.
Does it hurt anything to delay your debt payoffs by a few months, so you can take a few days off?
Does it burn things down if you give yourself a day in bed or a long weekend or a concert or some shoes?
Do you instantly become a loser of a person if you spend a little extra at the grocery store to cook a good meal for yourself, instead of putting it towards that thing you’re working towards?
Does the world end if you include joy in your long-term planning?
Much to our surprise, no, actually. The world does not end.
Not only does it not end, but it becomes beautiful again. Dancing in a city that isn’t ours to a band we love – that happened. Walking on the beach at sunset with my daughter before she leaves home, talking about boundaries and friendships and life goals and seashells, that happened.
Although we didn’t spend that much more, or change too many things, what we learned is that the tiniest amount of show has enormous leverage. It’s gonna be hard at first - trust us. (We finally booked those movie tickets for ourselves, and then…five days after the show…we realized we’d forgotten to go. Like, completely forgot it was even a thing! That was, in its own way, a really good wakeup call.)
But we did go to that concert. I did splurge out on real protein and fresh vegetables and feed everyone. And then, when we’re right back in the shit, at least we have the memory of that sunset dance, that beach walk, that good meal to remind us what this whole thing is supposed to be about.
The more show you give yourself, the more joy you get, and it amplifies itself.
It’s a rapid and exponential way to stave off hopelessness and get back to the point of all this – not money, not goals, not houses or cars or kids or trips, but life. Just life, in all its messy and joyous realness.
It is, in a way, surrender and agency all at one time: accepting things as they are, and refusing to let them change you.
Cheers, friends. Don’t let the bastards get you down.
Until next time,
PS: This piece took two months because it just kept growing…probably to the length of nine essays about everything from feminism to millenials to poverty to scarcity and back. I’m so grateful to the Scorpius crew for the time to work on it and to Kate, Manish, Paul, Sabrina, and Alex for talking me through this mess of an idea and helping me break it down <3