Home > diary, handling instructions, personal > The other side of the coin

The other side of the coin

Feeling sooo rough. And its a gorgeous day outside, but can’t face it. Managed outside a small amount yesterday, but was tough.

What happened? I way overdid it at the weekend. Best laid plans and all that – I had planned on taking it easy on Friday night as was away for a 4 day festival, where the 3rd night, Saturday, is always the biggy… however spontaneously took up a friend’s offer lateish on Friday evening, and that, on top of Thursday night’s session pretty much wrecked me as I still went for the party on Saturday night, crashed early (well, from about 3am) but was determined to keep dancing (the music was amazing!) so went for the caffeine and ended up a jittery and unable to sleep mess. Which wrecked my Sunday and still feeling terrible.

So, why did it happen? Because I tend to say yes, spontaneously, to almost anything! I’m up for random adventures, new things, fun, new experiences etc. And that spontaneity does have its negative effects, as those around me Sunday can attest, and I was in full-on regret mode (because I also lost out on dancing Sunday, and had a less good weekend than I wanted/needed) when I remembered how I also lost a lot of money, and that this was similar.

So, in the late 1990s I was working for a company that floated on the nasdaq and I ended up with share options in it, which I exercised, but then was lax about doing anything to reclaim the tax which I’d been erroneously charged by USA IRS. Why? Because at that point I had enough money to live on, and I’m not very financially focused. I managed to eek out this money plus the savings I’d made when working for couple years of budget living / travel, only running out end of 2003.

I just don’t really value the material very much. I do get uncomfortable when in debt, so avoid that as I find it stressful, but otherwise I just don’t make decisions around it. And the time in my life when I was earning the most (4 years of working as a programmer) reinforced how unrelated money (as long as I have my basic needs covered) is to how happy and meaningful my life is. I’ve been super broke. I’ve been homeless multiple times. I’ve had to sleep in squats, in homeless accommodation, or sofa surfed (the worst of the lot imo) and eaten out of rubbish bins. It wasn’t always fun, to put it mildly. It could be very cold. I’ve been hungry and desperate. But I’m not there now. I have sorted my life out so that I do have a roof and electricity and money for food. I haven’t been that poor since 2004 and I’m very happy about that.

But beyond that, I really don’t take money highly into account when deciding whether or not to do a thing. I know I can survive on very little – I’d prefer not to, but its a much smaller preference than, for example, going somewhere I’ve not been before, or helping someone out, or having a meaningful life, or having fun.

That was all context for what happened a few years ago when I was saving up to travel and I remembered that the USA IRS owed me a couple thousand dollars. They’d (incorrectly) taxed me on the nasdaq shares, despite me not being USA tax payer. So, I went along to the IRS department at the USA embassy in London to reclaim it. The woman there was super nice and helpful, but when we checked the dates (from emails when I’d cashed in the shares) she told me (she was gutted!) that it was too late and past their time limit for refunding me the tax. She tried super hard to figure a way round it, but there was nothing – I’d basically handed a bunch of money to the USA government to spend on bombs and had left it too late to get it back.

I managed to hold myself together to walk a block from Grosvener Square and then collapsed into a doorway and wept, raging at myself. How could I have been so stupid and incompetent? I kicked myself over and over. Why had I done this? And the answer came – because I don’t care enough about money and so had allowed this particular TODO to be squeezed out by all the rest I’d been doing over the years. And actually I’d never prioritised money when making life decisions and that has led to an incredibly awesome, full, meaningful life. Sure, at times like this it sucked really fucking hard, but that was the unavoidable other side of the exact same coin which had made my life so rich and wholesome.

I was still upset, but somehow felt better and more that it wasn’t completely inexplicable and stupid that I’d lost all this money. I know my biases a bit better so am better able to account for them in future, and be aware that I might need to put extra checks into place if I’m in a similar situation when I need to do x in order to sort something financial out.

And so with this. Yes I had less fun over the weekend than I wanted, and yes I feel horrible now because I spontaneously said yes to a friend on Friday night, but oh wow has my life been full of adventures and experiences exactly because that is my tendency!

Now I’m gonna go force myself to go out on my bike and enjoy the sun. Because last year I thought that riding from Land’s End to John o’Groats sounded like a fun adventure, and so I did it even though it made no sense financially, nor was I adequately prepared for it, and now I am a cycleholic with another great journey in my life.

Next time though, I need to be careful that I don’t overdo it when I’m partying and be aware that I will tend to say “yes” and that I need some kind of check to make sure that really is what I want to do :)


End of Saturday night, and just about still smiling!

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