Thursday, February 13, 2014
Fear and the $5 gift card
I have been carrying this Starbucks gift card around since 2007.
Seven years ago I was laid off from my job at the literary agency. I was feeling very broke so I'd answered some survey just to get this gift card. So that even when I had no spending money to speak of, I'd still be able to treat myself to a super-deluxe-grande-latte-frappuccino-almond-hot-chocolate-with-gold-dust-and-hopefully-organic-whipped-cream-on-top.
This little gift card was a kind of security blanket, there to help me feel less poor.
After 5 months of job searching, just when the unemployment benefits were about to run out, I found a full-time writing job in February 2008.
Did I celebrate by spending my $5 gift card?
No. I hung onto it. Because you never know.
Fast-forward 5 years.
Once again, I'm a dislocated worker.
I make the brilliant decision to spend two months in London. No sarcasm! I have no regrets about that decision. While in London, I drank my share of comforting caffeine concoctions. I also ate a lot of desserts with intriguing names like "Banbury Tart" and "Victoria Sponge."
But did I use my $5 Starbucks gift card in London? Or when I got back to Minneapolis? Or during any of the subsequent 7 months of joblessness?
I have to ask: What's going on here?
True, I am not a fan of Starbucks, or of super-deluxe-grande-lattes-frappuccinos-almond-hot-chocolates-with-gold-dust-and-hopefully-organic-whipped-cream-on-top. Let that be said.
But I really think it goes deeper than that for me, and maybe for you.
I think it is about telling ourselves that we don't have enough, and we can't get enough, and we ourselves aren't enough.
And maybe about how a mean part of us whispers that we don't deserve the good things that come our way, only the bad ones. Or that we have offended the universe by spending our severance package on a trip to Europe instead of saving it for a month of rainy days, or that any good thing might disappear at any second so we'd damn well better hold on to it with the grip of death or suffer the consequences.
Ursula Le Guin wrote,“Fire and fear, good servants, bad lords.”
I start a new full-time job next week. It sounds awesome. And do you know how I'm going to throw off the shackles of fear and lack and celebrate?
That's right. I'm gonna use up every penny of this G.D. $5 Starbucks gift card.