We Will Pay For Everything

I've been worried about money since I was 8 years old. Mostly, it comes from a long-running fear of poverty, but I can't trace where that originates. Maybe at a particularly impressionable age I saw my first developing world charity donation hotlines, one of those Sally Struthers commercials, and that ruined me forever. I say, "ruin" because my paranoia and discomfort with having less than stellar security has often caused me unfounded stress, even as a miserable little child.

It's always just felt so heavy. As a small child, sure, I could be spoiled and ask the world of my parents. But when something clicked and I became motivated more by fear and less by desire, I started to tame my wants. I never asked for clothes, I didn't purchase much more than a $12 paperback book once a month. New toys and video games would come out, and I would tough it out as a 9 year old and learn to just deal with the longing. I was the only kid without a SNES, PlayStation, and later, a PlayStation 2. I wouldn't have been in that console generation at all if my friends hadn't pitched in to get me a GameCube for my stupid birthday.

As the most financially concerned child in the world, I was even worried about the things my parents bought with their own money. They brought my sister and I along for one of their biggest major purchases: a brand new, dark green Saturn. It was nerve wracking and I didn't understand any of it. The dealer told us the price, and a vague whining noise fell out of my grimaced face. My parents had to explain that this was just my thing. I worried about money. It was funny.

At one point I even invented a new economic system. I told my dad in sister my idea of a world where the means of production were owned by the government, who could evenly distribute it on, like, a weekly basis and we could all have the base level needs. Turns out it already existed, and it was called communism, and my dad said it didn't really work.

At Christmas time, I was the worst. The family party is usually an opportunity for us young ones to shore up our savings or spending money. For me, it was a chance to make everyone else's lives better by refusing every single bundle of money. Of course, this led to more problems. Some offense, some demands. None of my relatives took it as me being charitable, but more like me being a fussy 12 year old.

I got better at it. I still minimize the amount of money I ask of my parents for superfluous bullshit like eating out and wearing t-shirts. But I don't worry about them paying car insurance, or buying cell phones, or doing the things all adults do with their checkbooks. What changed was that I started to get to know other kids, and see what nightmares they were according to my standards. Their normalcy was my apocalypse, and somehow, that made me sleep a little easier.

It still lingers. The weight of money never goes away, especially as I come of age and start to be responsible for making my own money and picking up my own expenses. I can't make any purchase over $50 with ease. I get stressed out when my bank account statement doesn't have an adequate safety net. 

As heavy as it gets, it's a useful kind of fear. People like that I don't insist they spend money on me. I tend to understand the value of a dollar. In video games with economies and money, I do pretty okay. But the pressure is still there, and sometimes, more than anything, I want to be able to care as little as everyone else.