Last week, the five of us shared a little bit about ourselves with you. This week, we’re sharing a bit more of our individual stories.
So much of what we share on our blogs is funny, happy and/or pretty. But there’s a reality behind all that. Here goes.
Most of you are familiar with our story to some extent. Our work is in the arts and both of us freelance. Freelancing is challenging at any time, but for the past two years it has been especially challenging. My husband has been a professional actor for over 40 years. He has worked in the theater, television and film. He’s a very, very good actor. Theater doesn’t pay very much and theaters have had a tough time in this economy. Television – where Don has worked a lot during his career – has been taken over by so-called reality television, which has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with cheap entertainment. It has put actors, directors, costume designers, set designers and a host of other people out of work. The next time you sit down and watch some obviously staged reality television show, think about that.
Don has had to take a job with a car rental company in the meantime. After 40 years as an actor, he has had to learn new skills. The pay? Not good. But the job gives us health insurance and after being hospitalized twice last year, I am only too aware of the perils of not being insured. Thank goodness we were insured at the time. Don needs to work as an actor. It’s the talent he has been blessed with and it also has the potential for the most income. But we need health insurance. And so the cycle continues.
My work comes and goes and sometimes requires me to be out of town for several weeks at a time. When that happens, we are paying for food for two households – doubling our expenses. I’ve looked for work here at home. I’ve worked at other jobs in the past and am perfectly willing to do so now, but I can’t find anything. As far as teaching, which is what I did for 20 years, no university will even consider someone with my experience and resumé. They’d have to pay me too much, so they pass on an interview and hire someone ‘up-and-coming.’ And local companies don’t necessarily want to put money into training someone my age. I also need to be near my ill and aging dog, Riley, who needs help getting around the house.
We don’t have children, but we have two dogs that require prescription dog food and medications. We eat simply. We hardly ever buy new clothes and when we do, they are on sale. We are down to one car because the very old second car we were using requires expensive repairs that we can’t afford. Since we’re down to one car, I am limited as to where I can work. We live in the country – I can’t just walk or take a bus to work. The one car we do have is 11 years old.
I have a job coming up in April and May. After that? Nothing on the horizon.
Thrifty? I’ve always had to be thrifty out of necessity. I’ve never had the luxury of impulse spending. In my world, impulse spending is buying a bouquet at Trader Joe’s for $3.99. I’d kill for a new pair of jeans right now. At the moment, that would be an extravagance.
We don’t take vacations. We very rarely eat out. We almost never go to the movies – too noisy, way too expensive. We’ll catch the film later on DVD or cable.
I’m exploring other avenues for income: advertising on this blog, an etsy shop. In an ideal world, I’d be able to make a fairly good income from work online. That is my hope for the future.
Our mortgage payments are high. Our house is worth much less than it was when we bought it. If we were to consider selling, we would lose lots of money. So far, we’ve never missed a payment in 6 years of living in the cottage. Miracles do happen.
Like so many of you out there, we are approaching the years where we had hoped we would feel a measure of security after a lifetime of work. But the reality facing us is entirely different.
Even with all the worries and stress, we find joy in our daily life. We laugh, we get silly and we are thankful for the blessings we have. Times are tough, yes, but we’re already used to tightening our belt. We’re simply pulling the belt a bit tighter.