I don’t really mind taxes. I kind of believe in them. I like to live in a society where we all contribute to our collective benefit. I hate doing my taxes until I’m doing them. I use TurboTax, so it’s pretty easy, I just dread it.
This year, doing my taxes for what might be the last time, felt like a kind of referendum on my relationship with capitalism. I literally wept while filling in the numbers. It was an earnings funeral. My time as a profitable person is over.
In my whole work career I never made more than $52-53k in a year, and that only a few times. That amount of money seemed ok — I could live, pay rent, bills and college loans and not really worry. But I couldn’t buy a new car or a house without family help. I felt like I should be middle class, but there was never any money left over or much savings.
I had been imagining that I would catch on at one of these colleges and start building a career. Get on the tenure track and work for 30 years. My mom worked until she was like 74 and I figured I’d do the same or die trying. I really liked thinking about art, talking about art, making art, teaching art — all day long.
I remember thinking that my 13 years in Brooklyn were a kind of early retirement. I was always trying to work less. Even though I worked those years, I probably only worked full time for half of them. Otherwise I was finishing my graduate degree, between jobs, or going to artist residencies. I wanted 3 day weeks and to work from home. I wanted to read books in cafes on weekdays.
I realized at some point that my problem with work was that I always wanted to be somewhere else, doing something else. It wasn’t until the economy crashed in 2008 that I was finally able to take the opportunity and apply to artist residencies. It was such a revelation. To be an artist all day, every day. It was transformational. I finally felt like an artist. Even deep down.
Now my career feels over. I don’t know that I’ll ever work again. It’s been almost a year since I stopped teaching and I’ve only gotten more fatigued and weakened by the cancer treatment. Working full time hours feels like an impossibility. I’m probably more likely to go on permanent disability than I am to work full time again.
During the days I work in the garden. I take lots of breaks. I rest. I stay hydrated. I go to doctors appointments. If I do too much in the yard, or if I go to the doctor and the grocery store, I literally don’t have the energy to walk my dog. If I take a walk with the dog, I won’t want to leave the house in the evening. It’s extremely limiting, this finite daily energy. I don’t know how I come back from it.