When I first started this blog, I wrote a post, it wasn’t always this bad.

I recall when I was the Arts and Culture director of a now prominent nonprofit in Los Angeles. After some struggles finding a job, I had worked my way up quickly in the LA arts & nonprofit scene. I managed a group of 20 people as well as a departmental budget of $300,000.

I felt important.

Although I had student loans, I lived on my own in Silverlake, a cute, and now almost too-hipster neighborhood. I went out often and had a blast. Everything felt like it was in place.

But I was addicted to bettering myself. I thought grad school, at NYU no less, would make me better — take me to the next level of my career.

And here is where the downward spiral begins.

I feel like all of you know me in a certain place, a certain time in history…when I was broke, partially employed, sad, and struggling.

It wasn’t always this way.

Somehow I feel like I’ve downgraded in status. The egotistical part of me wants you to know that I did indeed have a career job at one point and in my mind felt very successful.

But my story changed.

While it has been an utterly humbling and wild experience to have a career, go to NYU, move to Portland and be on food stamps, struggle to find work, eventually find work, then quit my job to work for myself, somehow I feel like who I come across is as this sad, indebted little girl.

Or maybe that’s how I perceive myself? I am not sure, but sometimes I wish all this stuff never happened. I want you to see me in the good light. When everything was together — at least it felt together.

I hope to change my story right in front of your eyes like some sort of magic trick. Become someone else. Not a victim of circumstances, but a survivor. Someone who was dealt unexpected turns, like many people post-Recession.

It wasn’t just about my choices or my failure. It was about so much more.

Now, at 30 I feel too old to deal with some of this b.s. By typical standards, I was more successful and making more money at age 23. That freaking sucks, let me tell you.

I can’t go one day without thinking of money. I’m always thinking about when the next payment will hit. I’m an addict, waiting for my next fix.

And I wonder, will I ever be ok with money?

When I’m debt free and getting my life back on track, will I be ok then?

Will it ever be enough?

I want to see a day when money is part of my lifestyle, but not an obsession or paranoia. It’s something I’m in control of, not controlling me.

So as I fight through this journey and wonder if I will ever be ok with my money, I have to ask, will I be ok with myself?


Melanie is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy, and empowering people to take control of their finances. She writes about breaking up with debt, freelancing, and side hustle adventures at DearDebt.com.

Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. In addition to her love of personal finance, art and music, she is also a karaoke master. Follow the adventure @DearDebtBlog.

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42 responses to “Will I Ever Be Ok with Money?”

  1. I’ve also wondered if I will ever stop obsessing over my personal finances… I love the analogy to an addiction, because sometimes it truly feels like one. 🙂

    Remember “success” isn’t always measured by money. Think of all the thousands and possibly millions of people who you are encouraging and inspiring through your writing. I would say you are quite successful. 🙂
    Nichole @Budget Loving Military Wife recently posted…Favorite ReadsMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Thanks so much, Nichole! I always say that I may be poor, but I’m rich in love. I found my love early on, have a great family, and good health. I am successful and happy in those regards. I do need to step outside myself and realize all that when I get like this. Thanks for the reminder. 😉

  2. Kassandra says:

    Money is capable of touching quite a nerve in all of us at times. You will, with time, become truly comfortable with money and find a definition for it that aligns with how you feel towards yourself. Until then, try to focus on the work itself that you do for money as opposed to the payoff, easier said than done but try anyway.

    You are extremely bright and talented regardless of how much you made then, what you make now and what you will earn moving forward. Sending you one of my famous hugs Mel 🙂
    Kassandra recently posted…The School Of FailureMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Thanks, Kassandra! I need a famous hug from you 🙂 Your words are really helpful. The thing is I do truly enjoy my work now — I love the flexibility. I just sometimes get upset about my decisions and my debt and feel like I’m always taking two steps forward, one step back. But we keep going and make it work!

  3. Man so I ever get this!! Try being 44 and feeling that way! lol! I feel like I’m now so associated with being a struggling freelancer, when I used to be the girl who always had a decent full time job and could get jobs no problem. Life was cushy let me tell you. I think about money every day too, and sometimes I wish I could go back to where I was just coasting along in life no problem.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…Simple Living and Saving MoneyMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Girl, I was thinking about you too when I wrote the post. I know how you feel. It’s not fun to feel like your younger self was much more successful. Yes, we may be older and wiser, but my bank account doesn’t show it!

  4. I think there is a love/hate battle with money matters. On the one hand, it’s important to think about it and manage it properly, but on the other, too much thought can send you to a bad place. I feel your pain about money fixations, but I know that in these times I am learning lessons that I will take with me through life. My husband and I joke about when my company takes off and all of the money we will have; however, I never want to forget the lessons we are learning about responsible choices. As painful as some are, they play an important role in our journey.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Music Mondays – Somebody to LoveMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Oh Shannon, you are my voice of reason. I always need to hear your perspective to find myself centered again. I have learned so much on this journey — I have faith things will get much better, I just need to be patient and enjoy the process.

  5. I can see how freelancing has changed me. I am now kind of like you describe, always looking ahead to when the next deadline is met so I can get my next payment. I think I’ve become a money junkie…
    Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore recently posted…October 2014 ResultsMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      I am definitely a money junkie! I think I will be less so once this debt is gone. I just feel the fire under my ass to hustle and make it work. Which is both good and bad…

  6. The good thing is that you are now self-aware of your money and the potential spending traps. I would not spend time comparing, you’re on the right track now and that’s what matters. It gets easier as you go, just think of things without debt. That’s our happy place now and your on your way there. 🙂
    Brian @ Debt Discipline recently posted…Net Worth Update: OctoberMy Profile

  7. I know how you feel, at times I think I was better off at 21 earning £18k a year. I only had about £1000 credit card debt and £500 over draft debt. I had much more disposable income then than I do now.

    You will get better with money, you have a PF blog!
    Victoria @frugaltrial recently posted…HAVE A SPENDING FASTMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Thanks for the encouragement! I was making more and had less debt when I was younger! I chose to go to school and now am in a situation that I thought would be better at this age. Oh well, gotta keep improving, trying, and growing.

  8. I think it gets better when you finally track things more efficiently, reduce debt drastically, and have consistent income from various sources. I feel people have a different view in how they perceive the value of money. This all plays a role in how you feel about it.

  9. This is one of those topics that will drive you mad if you let it. No, you may never be satisfied but that is okay. There is nothing wrong with striving to be better. The only problem co mrs when you let it impact your life negatively. would say you are doing just fine but the trick is believing that for yourself. BELIEVE ME, I know this is easier said than done.
    Debt and the Girl recently posted…We Paid off the Car Loan!!!!…And Got a New OneMy Profile

  10. “I hope to change my story right in front of your eyes…” I believe that you are : ) And I understand – because that’s what I hope for myself too. How we handle the humbling times is so critical to the outcome for our overall lives. I’ve got 21 years on you, and I look forward to what this time of nose-to-the-grindstone debt-reduction will do in the long term. I believe you will be OK. And I know that it’s OK not to be OK for now. In the long run, you’ll look back upon it as a pivotal moment that you handled well. All the best.
    Prudence Debtfree recently posted…Ghomeshi Shock: Confusion, Silence, DenialMy Profile

  11. anna says:

    I absolutely loved this beautifully raw, candid, and introspective post, Melanie. I know it’s a journey you’ll have to take, and you might not get the answers right away (or it may waver depending on the day/week/month), but I look forward to seeing where this journey takes you.
    anna recently posted…Rambly Update – Let the Nesting Commence!My Profile

  12. That’s so ironic, Melanie, because I see you as wildly successful!! You have kicked over half of your debt to the curb, and left your job of working for “the man” to do what makes you HAPPY. WOW!
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…Fruclassity: Two Sides of the Same CoinMy Profile

  13. I feel the exact same way only I was 21 making a ton of money, (living at home with little expenses) with an amazing social life and going on crazy trips. Now I am 27 and struggling to keep up. I feel like everyone goes through it at some point or another and then you learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them.
    Megan @ MeganAndEggs recently posted…October Goal Round up and November 2014 GoalsMy Profile

  14. Myles Money says:

    I’m reading through the comments and all I can think is how supportive everyone is, because most of us have our own money story and have learned the hard way about debt.

    What a shame we don’t have sufficient financial education in schools to help young people understand the pitfalls before they get into debt.
    Myles Money recently posted…Monetizing Your BlogMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      This community has completely changed my life and day in and day out, it’s what keeps me going. I have a lot of good days, and other days, not so much. When I wrote this, obviously I was feeling pretty low. But my hope is to be honest about my struggles and hope other people can relate. The pf community is so wonderful! Thanks for being part of it. 🙂

  15. Lisa says:

    Success is relative. To me, when I think of you, I think of someone who has done what I am DREAMING of doing – being able to work for myself. The hardships make you who you are and make you appreciate where you’ve come from. I’m sure it’s tiring, but girl – you’re doing great!
    Lisa recently posted…October 2014 Net Worth UpdateMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Thanks, girl. I’m loving what I’m doing now, but sometimes I feel so insular. I haven’t fully embraced the BOSS in me yet. I’m getting there though 😉 Thanks for your encouragement.

  16. Virginia says:

    LeSigh. I resonate. I had a sweet overseas job from the ages of 21-28, saved a ton of cash, then moved to PDX and spent it all (and then some) on grad school. Blergh.

  17. I feel you! I feel like all the insecurities that come with not having money never really leave. I’m the child of immigrants and still remember getting crayons for Hanukah. It’s different now, but I feel like that stuff never leaves you.

  18. Sarah says:

    Hi! New reader 🙂 I completely agree with this. Lately I’ve been wondering “When will enough be enough?” and I’m realizing never. Unfortunately money rules the world and dictates what we do and don’t do. I hate it!! I’m trying to work more on living in the moment while also saving…it’s tough finding that balance!
    Sarah recently posted…What stocks to buy nowMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      So glad you are here! Thanks for stopping by. Oftentimes it feels like it will never be enough. For me, it’s so hard to find that balance, but I’m going to keep on trying. 🙂

  19. Your story is exactly why I never judge or feel sorry for myself when reading about younger people’s lives. I had the most money I’ve ever had in college. Before I was 25, everything was great! But life gets complicated as you get older and things change, your change, you make different decisions.

    Every time I read a 22-year old saying “I’ve never had Credit Card debt” I think to myself… “yet”.
    Leslie Beslie recently posted…October Monthly Expenses in NYC 2014My Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Yeah, perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Things change and do become more complicated. I just hope for my sake, I can make more money than when I was 23 some time soon.

  20. Sally says:

    I need to go back and read your full story! Yes, you will be. You’re still right in the middle of a new chapter it sounds like and we have to give ourselves time to figure stuff out. Last year, I started a new job and am making more than I ever have. 1.5 years later, it feels like I have to figure out how to get to the next level or I will be stuck here forever. But then I remind myself I am in a good place. We all go through our ups and downs!
    Sally recently posted…When You Think You Have No Choice, Remember that You Always Have a ChoiceMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      It’s been quite a ride, Sally! I’m glad I’m here, I’m just eager for things to get better. But they are already a lot better, so I need to practice gratitude and patience 🙂

  21. NZ Muse says:

    I hear you Melanie. Not for myself so far, but certainly for T – who started out making a good wage but got derailed by the GFC, has done a lot of different jobs since but not managed to increase his income. I think about the fact that his hourly wage has not really changed for years, PLUS the fact that minimum wage has increased significantly, PLUS general inflation, and he’s actually earning less.
    NZ Muse recently posted…The plight of the ‘banana’ (Yellow on the outside. White on the inside)My Profile

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