How To Be Broke Without Going Crazy

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
How do you pursue your dream if you're not heir to the Bubble Wrap fortune? Sometimes, you quite literally need to go for broke. Making the decision to struggle now can have huge rewards later. But, choosing a broke path isn't easy, and it's not for everyone. It's also not a choice for many people living in poverty. Choosing to go broke while chasing a dream is a gutsy move, and one that comes with inherent risk and stress. When do you make the leap? And, how do you keep sane when your bank account dips to record lows? I may not be an expert, but here's my story.

When I was 19 years old, I stopped eating ice cream. This moratorium was directly linked to the beginning of my employment at a dungeon of hell called Cold Stone Creamery. The owner of this particular franchise was a woman named Michelle who took nothing more seriously than ice cream (except, perhaps, her French-tip manicure). Adding insult to ice-cream injury was Michelle's murderous insistence that everyone at her franchise have fun. At the end of every shift, Michelle bestowed upon us free ice cream — a really fun perk designed to prove that Michelle was such a fun boss. But by that point, I could barely look at ice cream, let alone eat it. Strangers on the street would gawk in confusion as I dumped my daily Oppression Sundae in the trash.

It was a shit job, but it funded my existence as I worked toward my degree in a hardcore musical theater conservatory. I needed cash to eat, drink, and buy regrettable jeans that showcased my butt crack. I was frequently broke, and I loathed working at Cold Stone, but the part-time nature of the gig meant I had time to pursue my passion.

I don't come from wealth, and I've always paid my own way through adulthood. As I grew older, my dreams shifted (TV writing replaced musical theater, proving that my dreams are consistently gay) — and so did my relationship to money. Over time, my string of day jobs morphed into a day career, and I ultimately wound up as a well-paid producer at a TV network. It was a great paycheck, but it came at a cost. Making the big bucks left little time for any actual writing.

Then, I got the biggest break of my adult life: I got laid off. Although it sucked at the time (coming on the heels of a breakup and major health crisis), it wound up being an incredible gift. I was cut loose and had freedom to move across the country and reboot my career — doing what I actually wanted to do.

With just my meager savings and an unemployment check, finances were tight, but I had something much more valuable than money: time. Suddenly, I was back in touch with my younger, Cold Stone self (minus the horrific jeans). I got a part-time job that paid peanuts, but which gave me space to bust ass for my dream. It was a valuable lesson, and I've been able to reevaluate my relationship with money as a result. Cash and I are no longer in a monogamous partnership, and I'm free to spend some quality time with my sexy soulmate: Dream.

Before you ditch your full-time day job, here are a few points to consider.