Six years ago, I was working in pensions. I would have a personal training session before work, spend the day fiddling with spreadsheets and having meetings with Spanish men in expensive suits. I lived alone in a two-bedroom house with a garden, trained for an ran a half marathon, and went on a hospitality trip to Silverstone to watch the Grand Prix. My company put on regular fancy-pants events for us in marquees with free ice cream vans and all sorts of nonsense. I had four weeks’ holiday per year, which I usually spent laying by a pool alone in Benidorm. Once I went on a cruise down the Nile.
I earned approximately three times as much as I do now, and I worked 9-5, Monday to Friday. Once, I spent over £100 on having my hair cut and coloured for the work Christmas party, to which I wore a £100 dress I bought especially for the evening, and never wore again. I had a chest of drawers specifically for the beautiful underwear sets I would buy on a regular basis. Once in the M&S sale I bought eight sets on a whim.
Then I had a breakdown, and then I became a single parent.
Nowadays, I rely on benefits to make ends meet. I earn around a third of what I did before. The last time I took a holiday was three days in Benidorm when I was mid breakdown. I am not a member of any gym, and I don’t have a garden. I have neither the time nor the inclination to train for and run a half marathon. I work whenever I am able: between 8 and 4 while S is in nursery and then from the moment she goes to bed to the moment I go to bed. I haven’t been to a hairdresser in over a year and yesterday I got a massive attack of the guilts because I spent £10 on underwear for myself – even though the last time before that I’d bought new underwear was over a year ago.
I share my bed with a snoring, scratching, kicking, 3am-waking snot machine who kicks the covers off me at least twice a night because she is too hot. In my bed I regularly find lumps of dried snot, missing library books and hard plastic toys I had thought were in the toy box until I found them sticking into my back.
Can you guess which time of my life has seen me the most happy?
Before my breakdown I had a disposable income, a respectable job, shiny high heels and expensive highlights. And I was as miserable as I’ve ever been. My job might have been reasonably high brow, but nobody dreams of working in pensions and my work really didn’t set my heart alight. I lived alone, and spent most of my time outside of work alone. I wouldn’t say I hated my life – until I got really ill, at least – but I was in this weird state of apathy where I wasn’t particularly bothered, either way.
Now, I love every part of my life except my bank balance. I have a daughter I absolutely adore who regularly teaches me important life lessons (such as: all you need for an hour of solid giggling is a balloon). I love my work, and even more than that I love that I have this blog and am able to make some money from it.
Six years ago, if you had said to me, this is what will make you feel more happy I would have laughed you out of the room. I believed that what I needed in order to be happy was a boyfriend and more money. And to be skinny.
Apparently, most British people think they would be happy if they had more money.
Don’t get me wrong; it would be nice not to have to rely on benefits in order to survive. It would be nice not to worry about whether I’ve invoiced enough to cover rent and food this month. But my life is good as it is. I don’t need a boyfriend; I don’t need to be skinny; I don’t need money. At a push, I could probably do without a balloon.
Money can make you happy, but only in the short term. For the first few weeks I’m sure I would wake up every morning thinking, I don’t need to worry about the rent! Let’s have caviar for tea! but after a while, the novelty of that wears off, and having enough money becomes just part of every day life.
Meanwhile, S continues to challenge and surprise me every single day. She grows and learns and… kicks me in the middle of the night. She has taught me where to find my happiness!