Lately I've been struggling with the idea of how much is Enough. I read this blog post on poverty, which led me to this blog post on what being poor really means, which led me to a tangle of complicated emotions. Frustration at how easy it is to fall into the hole that is poverty, and how hard it is to climb out of it. Roiling, burning indignation at the stereotypes so often associated with the poorest of the poor (laziness, lack of motivation) when in most cases these stereotypes are not only untrue, but the exact opposite of true. And, finally, it has to be said, relief that I don't have to worry about where my next meal will come from, or whether to pay the phone bill or the electric bill this month. Upon reading these posts, I recognized and was grateful for the fact that in this sense, I truly do have Enough. I have enough money to buy food and gas. I have enough to buy fancy coffee in paper cups when I want to without feeling overly guilty about it. I have enough to pay rent every month on an apartment I live in alone in one of the most expensive rental markets in the country. I have enough to have a cat and even to pay for pet insurance for the cat so that if something terrible and expensive happens to her she won't have to die because I can't afford to save her. For me this last bit seemed like the (completely arbitrary and also ridiculous) tipping point of Enough-ness. E.g. You know you're not poor when...you can afford insurance for your cat. Yeah.
However, no matter how grateful you may feel to have your basic day-to-day needs met, it's impossible to have a mental discussion with yourself on Enough-ness without also looking at the other side of it; the Not Enough. Not enough to travel or go on vacation, except maybe, if I scrimped and saved and wiped out my emergency savings fund. I could scrimp and save to build it back up again, but it might take me a few years. I have enough to pay my monthly student loan payment, but on the income-contingent plan the amount I am required to pay barely covers the interest, and not much else. At this rate I will quite literally never pay off my loan. At the current rate it would take me 38 years just to pay off the principal. Once you add interest in you can see how 38 years turns into quite possibly never, but I can't afford to pay any more than I am. Not enough to contribute to a retirement fund so that I can one day afford to retire, and in the event that I can't, no guarantee that anyone will actually employ a person of retirement age and few specialized skills when there are so many younger and cheaper alternatives.
Basically, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of knowing that I have everything I need at the moment, while still being utterly terrified about the future. Knowing how quickly Enough can slip into Barely Enough or its cousin, Almost Enough, and how from there it's a rapid descent into the mire and muck known as Not Enough. The even scarier prospect of Not Enough becoming a relentless cycle of Never Enough.
The mental gymnastics required of this dichotomy are, frankly, exhausting: I am fed, warm, and clothed. (I might not always be fed, warm, and clothed.) I have Enough. (I will never have Enough.) I am grateful. (I am terrified.)
If anyone else wants to chime in, I am interested in knowing, in broad terms: Do you feel like you have Enough? Do you sleep at night?