Living through the pride of March
The month inevitably brings my financial precariousness to the fore, and the uncomfortable reality of having to borrow from loved ones
The word is 'pride'," the boyfriend told me during our long-distance video call last evening. It was hard to swallow. It's always a challenge when someone you love and who loves you holds a mirror up to you, compelling you to re-examine and question something fundamental to your personality and identity. I had to confront this piece of information. I've been focussing so much on self-doubt and empowerment, I hadn't been negotiating the complexities of my pride.
So last night, after his call, I decided to introspect. I'd relegated the word pride to queer parades. I love the insinuation of taking pride in an elemental part of one's identity, especially when it is non-mainstream and non-heteronormative. I had to agree, though, that because I had begun to derive a sense of pride in my pursuit of independence and autonomy, I had inadvertently positioned myself as someone more comfortable with helping others and accruing their gratitude, thus actively discouraging others from assisting me in moments when I felt most precarious.
March is a month that triggers a slew of unresolved feelings about my own inadequacies about validation and legitimacy. Because it is poised as the final month of the financial year when investments must be made for tax benefits, I have conditioned myself to feel unsatisfied about my 'progress'. Why, at 33, am I still in such a financially vulnerable state? I know the answer to this question, it's because I've chosen to live an unconventional life where I work exclusively for myself, so that I am not accountable to anyone, so that I cannot be exploited by any institution, so that I feel the liberation of being the mistress of my time. Adopting a freelance lifestyle is not for the faint-hearted. Payments are always in the pipeline, and the interrupted, intermittent cash flow facilitates a sense of permanent precariousness. Because I have no official employer, I am not eligible for a credit card. This means I've had no credit history, which further endangers my
chances of being given a credit card by any bank.
As a self-employed professional who is literally paid by the word, it means I cannot enjoy many of the luxuries to which my colleagues who work full-time have access. My sole privilege, I tell myself, is the gift I give myself of unstructured time. But that often feels like a myth, especially when I find myself inundated with deadlines, constantly chasing payments. There is also the realisation that despite the prolific nature of my art writing, there is very little acknowledgement within the industry I operate—the South Asian art world—of my many accomplishments. I start to wonder whether anyone even reads all the long-form pieces I spend hours researching and composing. There is little credit that I have received from the sector to which I have given so much of my physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional labour. What's the point of it, I frequently ask myself, and rarely seem to evolve concrete responses.
Applying for the PhD programme was a validating experience. I was able to showcase how all the work I had been doing over the last seven years made me a perfectly primed candidate. I got accepted to the University of East Anglia, to which I had applied through the department of art history and world art studies. However, because of my lack of means, I can only enroll if I am granted the funding I have sought from the university. I have to wait another month for any sense of what shape my future trajectory will assume. March 2019 therefore feels uniquely more challenging than all its previous avatars, because added to my consciousness of my financial precariousness is the very real uncertainty over my future.
The prospect of having to borrow money from close friends or family does hurt my pride. It makes me feel as though I were incapable of getting my act together even at 33. It makes me feel like a failure. Also, why am I so apprehensive about feeling indebted to someone I love for their generosity towards me? Such anxiety must obviously come from a
place of pride.
Having now registered it, I'm working towards remedial action. I'm learning to allow myself to be taken care of, for a change; to allow myself to be more dependent on my loved ones for more than emotional and moral support. It's not easy at all, considering I've always fancied myself to be the 'godmother' figure, the one that takes care of others, that bails them out in their moments of urgency. I've spent so much energy actively ensuring I'm never a damsel in distress and yet, I now find myself to be precisely that. How I am to reconcile this current state of being with my feminist inclinations is the subject of ongoing reflection.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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