Empty wallet. Full heart.

I am broke.

I have no idea where my money will come from each month. That’s the nature of being a full-time freelancer. I have some steady clients, but the amount of work I do for them is largely dependent on how motivated I am from week to week. (And sometimes, I am simply more motivated to make soup and watch the Food Network. I am not proud of my fixation with Paula Deen and Ina Garten.)


I send a money order to my landlord for the rent the second I have the funds in my checking account to cover it; after my basic bills are paid, it’s a toss-up whether I’ll make even a dent in my credit card balance for the month.

Christmas presents? Not sure how I’m going to swing those, especially as I’ve committed myself to shopping local and independent this year. (No Amazon; dear GOD, what have I done?)

For a long time, this financial predicament alone would have sent me into a tailspin of anxiety. But not anymore. I am so fortunate to have work at all, with the possibility of more at any point I’m willing to push for it. I am among the lucky few who get to work from their sofas, have a cat for an administrative assistant, go to group fitness classes at 10 a.m., grocery shop before the post-work rush.

Above all things, I am a writer. All the time, finally. I take the jobs I want; I don’t have to compromise or sell my soul or do anything people claim to do when they work in an office, unless I want to.

This is not the life I envisioned for myself, but then again, I envisioned myself married at 26½ — yes, my plans for myself were that exacting — with my first child by 30. Thirty.
No. So no it’s laughable.

Though maybe, if I’d thought this life I’m living now would be possible when I was forming those ridiculous life plans, it’s exactly the life I’d have envisioned.

I don’t have a plan anymore. I have no idea what next month will look like, beyond lit with strings of colored lights and filled with warmth, food, friends and family, and that’s actually a little comforting. It’s not that I don’t have goals…but if you don’t have a plan, you can’t screw it up. It’s easier to forgive yourself if you don’t have anything to apologize in the first place. And I don’t. I forgive myself for minor transgressions, for accidentally oversleeping or missing a day at the gym or forgetting to call my grandmother. I simply resolve to be better the next day.

I like myself. Finally. I don’t know how it happened or when, even, but I am genuinely proud to be Paige Worthy.
My therapist would be proud. All my therapists of the past would be proud.

I am a new person. In the four years since I moved to Chicago, I have been so many people — and lived so many lives, really, though all my own — but I like this one best. I hope to be her for a long time to come.

I wrote sometime last year — from my little secretary, pushed against the wall in my awful Wicker Park studio apartment — that I cherished my stormy, whirlwind existence, that I couldn’t imagine a stable life. That it would be boring.

I remember that the notion infuriated the Knight. This time last year, we were still fiddling at reigniting our sparks, trying to salvage something. (Again with the “so no it’s laughable,” though you can’t blame us for trying.) He was right, of course. Craving conflict and turmoil is no way to live.

But it’s hard to realize that when it’s sort of all you’ve known. Granted, I’ve been happy during my time in Chicago. I’ve had a lot of happiness. But it’s all been punctuated by a sense of constant change, or fragility, at least.

And as I embark on what feels like contentment as the holiday season begins — Vince Guaraldi on my iPod because I can’t resist anymore, tray table down as my plane begins its descent into Kansas City — I think I’ve finally decided not to fight it.

I don’t have the energy to fight contentment. Need to save all that energy for the thankfulness. And warmth, and light. And love.


20 Responses to “Empty wallet. Full heart.”

  1. Purple Panda Says:

    yay! I love your evolution. I am also broke but finding myself happier these days. Even if I live in a slum and sleep on the floor. I also freelance. but now took a full time job to cover my basic.. Though I’m still hungry. The job won’t pay for my student loans anytime soon, so freelancing, building a business, getting workflow, is still my heartsong

  2. Dan Heinz Says:

    Great post, keep them coming. I have been in a similar situation lately and I took a step back and eliminated out of fat. For example I cancelled my cable and returned the dvr, I restarted my diet that is strict and keeps me out of most fast food restaurants, and before that I wanted to see how little I could get by on in terms of food. I essentially ate peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches or some variation for about a week. I ended up spending almost nothing on groceries and it helped me realize how much I was blowing. 

    As fa as marriage and everything else and having a plan, as long as you have good intentions everything should work itself out. 

  3. Roberta Jansmann Says:

    It’s amazing what happens inside us when we allow ourselves to be human.

    Well done. And well written.

  4. Lisa Murtaugh Gangi Says:

    Wonderful! Yes, energy focused in the right direction is a powerful thing, indeed.
    🙂 Happy Thanksgiving to you and your entire fam, Cuz. xo

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Just one of the many reasons YOU ARE AWESOME. Happy heart-full-of Thanksgiving, my friend!

  6. Laura Scholz Says:

    As someone who used to thrive on turmoil and chaos, I can say that I, too, am embracing the uncertainty and enjoying my many blessings. Because yes, some days my clients drive me insane, and yes, others hold payments hostage, but there’s no one forcing me to sit at some desk for 8, 10, 12 hours a day doing things that I find either dreadfully boring or openly offensive. Glad you’re found yourself, Paige Worthy. I like you. 🙂

  7. Matt Cheuvront Says:

    I can’t tell you how much I relate to this AND how happy I am for you, where you’ve come from even since I’ve known you, and where you are. Big ups, PW, big ups.

  8. Mitchel Byrne Says:

    Great post & happy holidays!

  9. Kyle Akerman Says:

    Love your attitude and your candor.  While I’m not in the Empty Wallet category yet my only income is my unemployment checks and a very small amount from one freelancing gig.  I worked 15 years in the cubicle corporate world. And I don’t miss it for a second. I’m trying to completely reinvent myself (new job/new industry). While it is challenging and at times scary, I have never felt so alive. 

    I share many of the same feelings you talked about. I love the freedom of scheduling my own time and working on things I enjoy. I cut back on many nice-to-haves and developed a deeper appreciation for the wonderful little things in my life. I don’t necessarily want to work on my own but in the short term I’ve had to adopt the mindset and skills needed to do just that.

    It’s so great to know that you have reached the place where you are proud of yourself. I’m still on my journey so it’s nice to hear when someone achieves that milestone.

    Sorry to have rambled so much but I guess your post struck a chord with me.

    I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    • paigeworthy Says:

      Kyle, you aren’t rambling at all. I’m proud to know so many people who have taken the plunge into self-employment — whether by choice or by circumstance. I look forward to hearing about when you reach this milestone as well. I’m sure I will have days when I like myself less and feel less proud of myself, but I’ll hang on to this feeling for as long as I can 🙂

  10. BrianD Says:

    you may have an empty wallet, but as i age, i am starting to realize that while im not poor, the thing that makes me the most “rich” is my friends…so while your wallet maybe thin, you are rich with friends, and that Paige is the MOST important…

  11. Helena Says:

    I also thought I’d be married a bit younger than I will be and that I’d have my first kid by 30. Things haven’t worked out that way.

    Anyway, it’s awesome that you are happy with where you are. That’s huge. People spend most of their lives trying to get there.

  12. Renee M Kloeblen Says:

    What a beautiful post… I like Paige Worthy Too, at least the Girl to Woman I’ve ‘read’ grow from KU to Chicago.. Good Work Kid!   Liking who you are is half the battle of life. Now it will all open up for you, just watch. I can’t wait to read about it.

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