At this exact moment in time, I’m happy broke. While I have projects launching in the near future that will bring in more consistent income, right now, I’m reinvesting every spare dollar in my creative work. It’s been well over a year since I’ve gotten on a plane and I’ve only made it as far as Montreal in my travels. Were it not for the fact that I live across the border from Detroit, it would be the first year in many years that I’ve barely left the country.
The fact that I’ve settled into a place that I actively avoided returning to in the past is a testament to my contentment. More than that, my focus on the creative work that matters to me means that I’m able to enjoy the daily grind most of the time. This is new for me. I’m not necessarily a happy person and I have a long history of making my life way more difficult than it needs to be.
Still, here I am, financially well despite my temporary, limited access to capital. It’s a privilege to be happy broke. To have the option to put my creative work first. To make money in a way that feels aligned for me. To heal some of my past creative trauma. To take up space creatively so I can support others in doing the same. And I am taking full advantage of my privilege. I am using it to help other folx with less privilege elevate themselves as well.
When I’m happy, I’m more creative. Problems feel less like catastrophes and more like exciting challenges to be solved. Not to mention the fact that I sleep better, eat better, and can be more present with the people I care about. And without the ability to indulge the many facets of capitalism, I discover newfound appreciation for what I already own. I finally get around to reading the books that I bought but never started.
Of course, I don’t want to be broke forever. Nor do I want to exalt being broke in the way the outdated “starving artist” narrative makes struggling financially seem like a creative right of passage or permanent way of being. It’s also important to separate being broke from being poor. Being broke is largely situational where as being poor is the result of larger social and political realities. Broke is not forever, it’s just for now.
Over the years, I have spent a lot of time with folx who are extremely financially successful. And while it was not unanimous, a large portion of these people were miserable despite their hefty salaries and luxurious lifestyles. Which is to say, their level of happiness did not correlate to how much money they had. So while happy broke might be difficult at times, it’s still happy. Waking up feeling creatively filled is priceless. Especially when you look at what’s truly valuable.
So, what’s more available to you financially when you’re happy?