Last month, the day that I have feared pretty much my entire life, finally came. No, I’m not talking about a scare that only has to happen once before you’re just more careful in the future. This is much harder to avoid: paying your own excessive credit card bill. In college, even though you knew you had probably gone overboard doing Lord knows what, buying new going-out-clothes to lure potential suitors, or buying a round of shots for your friends because you’re awesome, you always knew you could worry about justifying it later with, “I owed so and so money for a class supplement, buying my dinner, (insert some other lie your parents aren’t truly buying, but you’ve given so much strategic thought to your justification of this clearly frivolous expense that they will let it slide due to lack of energy to call you out and argue with you on your bullshit).”
But you knew in the back of your mind the day would come when your parents would no longer support your freeloading lifestyle. If you’re like me, you acknowledged it, and then immediately discarded it because the thought of actually having to pay for those boozy, mid-week, four-hour lunches with your friends since patio-time with your other grad school classmates who are also on the bottom of the bell curve of giving a shit is a top priority, is a thought just too depressing to bear. After all, your mind is already preoccupied with other horrendous thoughts concerning potentially having to be an actual productive member of society one of these days.
I remember when my parents first gave me a credit card. It was to be used for reasonably priced meals and approved school and clothing purchases only. The modest budget established was $250/month. I first thought, “Yea, no problem. Thanks, parents!” I quickly discovered this number, as well as the uses in which I was authorized, was wholly unrealistic. Especially after I finally gave up that side-job when it started to get in the way of my “college experience,” this budget was no longer a budget so much as it was a misguided evaluation by my parents as they are now thoroughly regretting their kindness. By my last year of law school, after moving away from penny beer nights and bottomless pitchers that we enjoyed on the college strip, the expenses of drowning grad school sorrows in the big city, and hitting up the Ralph Lauren rack to keep up with my private school peers were well into the four-digits, as I prayed every month that my parents wouldn’t cut their losses by smothering me with my pillow while I was sleeping. Thankfully for me and my sanity, my parents bit their tongue, errr, I mean “understood” the stressful ways of grad school, ever hoping that the day soon would come that they could pass the reigns of payment and collect interest by making me the pro-bono family in-house counsel.
Well, that day finally came. I shed a tear or five as I changed the payment method to my personal bank account. It’s amazing how this huge life event/rude awakening/catastrophe, whatever you prefer to call it, changes you. Now, instead of upscale wine dinners with friends before hitting the town, it’s Tyson chicken nuggets and whatever bottle is on special for less than $10 bucks at the local liquor warehouse. You will also rediscover the art of pre-gaming. It was a few weeks after graduation when I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I had gotten sufficiently buzzed at the apartment before our nightly outings. This had to change immediately, as I picked up the phone and told my cohorts that we wouldn’t, in fact, be heading out by 8pm and to not show up empty-handed, times had changed. There are still some sacrifices I refuse to make, the first one being my refusal to go back down the McCormick’s Vodka path. I can still taste and smell the pungent aroma that it filled our young 20s nights with, and to this day have no idea how we withstood it for so long. This new crossroads in life is all about discovering priorities. Chicken nuggets I can do, cheap vodka I simply cannot.