I wish I could have a house.
I feel ashamed to say that. It's like saying I want to be an admired professional athlete, when I've done absolutely nothing in my life to merit such a thing. I have very little money, a freelance job that could disappear at any moment, insurmountable debt, and a worthless, embarrassing art degree.
But I don't even want a nice house. It doesn't even have to be a house. It could be an old trailer parked on some unbuildable piece of land in the middle of nowhere, or a tree house built for children. Just something to make me feel like I'm investing in my future and paying toward something that could someday be mine. A safety net.
But the cruel reality is that buying a house will probably be forever impossible, given the credit score I ruined by not being able to make payments to my student loans for several years, unless I find a bag of unmarked bills.
My debt, bad credit, and unstable income are the direct result of obtaining the art degree I decided to get when I was a seventeen-year-old who had never had a job, who was so surrounded by poverty that I believed my struggling, slightly-above-the-poverty-line family was "middle class," and whose entire concept of edgy/alternative art revolved around Andy Warhol. This teenage version of myself singlehandedly fucked shit up for every other version of myself forevermore. I like to think that I was actively cultivating my adorably self-destructive sense of humor, but I think I was just dumb, or maybe horny for the boys I thought would be at art school.
The only way I see out of this impossibly dark and claustrophobic debt hole (aside from the bag of unmarked bills) is the same bachelor of fine arts that led me into the hole in the first place. A BFA is essentially an expensive lottery ticket, with big payouts to the very select few who are somehow able to get people to pay them for their work. Ironically, the only way I can keep playing this lottery is to continue prioritizing making art over making money. If you're not willing to stop making art and you're not willing to be poor forever, you have no choice but to keep trying, to keep believing that this extremely unlikely payout could still happen to you.
I may be making this ratio up, but I think it's something like one out of every four hundred million artists is able to support themselves with their art. They're not great odds, but I've already put so much money and energy into this system, it would be a waste to disengage at this point. And sometimes it seems like I'm making progress, since last year I sold a book (although "sold" is a weird way to put it, since I got a $0 advance from my publisher (but I don't write books hoping for money (I don't know why I do it))).
My boyfriend, Ian, started sharing my home-buying delusion. Together we looked for $25,000 properties (raw land in undesirable areas), $50,000 properties (vaguely house-shaped things with a small possibility for habitability in undesirable areas), and $100,000 properties (fixer-uppers in undesirable areas). Ian has great credit and no debt, I thought. Maybe he could take out a loan. We looked through hundreds of properties, sent links to each other, researched zoning laws, priced the construction of off-grid cabins. We looked in cities we'd never been to and the remote suburbs hours outside of those cities. We talked about whether or not a flushable toilet was absolutely necessary.
Last year, Ian and I both started freelance jobs making emoji for a messaging start-up. It's my first art-related job (shout out to the nepotism of my high-school ex, who was in charge of hiring). To learn how to use Adobe Illustrator, as was required for the job, I took a course on lynda.com for $30. I tried not to think about the $3,000 Adobe Illustrator class I took in art school that somehow taught me nothing. The only thing I remember creating in my $3,000 Adobe Illustrator class is an elephant version of Oscar Wilde. My elephant Oscar Wilde vector art is very painful to remember because of how ugly and stupid it was, and how many weeks it took me to make it. Long Live Obsolete Hard Drives With Old Art on Them That You Are Eventually Forced to Throw Away!