Today, I paid the bills. Most of them, anyway. The utilities, the phone, my union dues. Even my car insurance. In full. Before it was due. This is remarkable, considering where I stood this time last year. So far behind on everything that, even though I was working like a dog, I was not able to get beyond the late fees and penalties. My phone had been turned off three times, and the final time it stayed off. The utilities were months overdue, and each bill came with a disconnect notice. I was paying only what would stall the power being shut off, but could not even begin to chip away at the outstanding balance. My car insurance had been cancelled. My car loan was in default, with only two payments left. My union dues were a year and a half behind, and I was considering dropping out of the union so I would not have to pay what I could not afford. The rent was two to three weeks late each month, largely due to the fact that I had a roommate who stopped paying his share of the rent. Nice guy, wasn’t lying or conning me, he just could not find work and had no money. So, even though I was struggling myself, I had to cover his rent in addition to mine.
Aside from that, my two credit cards had gone into collection and my phone was ringing all day from the creditors calling. Turns out that even if your phone service is cut off, collection agencies can still call you. Hysterical.
For five years, I had not filed taxes, not having the money to pay an accountant to get caught up. Which meant that my refunds were expiring unclaimed. Worse still was the constant pain I was in from a tooth which would have to be pulled. No insurance and no way to pay for the dental work.
At the time, I knew perfectly well how dire the situation was, but also had to believe things would improve eventually. Or, I would have to fold my hand and that would be that. Can’t pay bills with money I don’t have. What was that line from Four Weddings and a Funeral? There comes a point when you can’t get any wetter. I was determined to continue scrambling from gig to gig and pay what I could as soon as I could. Thank heavens my landlady is understanding, or I would have had to put everything into storage and live out of my car.
What a difference a year makes. Although I am not yet completely in the black, not by a long shot, I have been able to get out from under the most immediate debt. The utilities are all paid up. Union dues, too. Car insurance. Phone. Most of the taxes have been filed, and the painful tooth is gone. The roommate is also gone, replaced with a perpetually happy and positive guy who pays his rent on time. In the course of just one year, even though I have noticed the work has not been what it used to be, still it has been, and I find myself now able to pay a few bills on time. Amazing feeling, that.
We hear so much from the wealthy people in this country, about how the poor must be lazy or they would have found a way to prosper. What these narrow (or simple) minded people don’t wish to realize is that many of us who have chosen difficult career paths put in a great deal of effort in order to barely scrape by. It takes an enormous amount of ingenuity, tenacity, perseverance, dedication, sacrifice, and yes, effort to do what an actor does for a living. A very meager living.
When the times are tough and work does not come in, it can be more than a little scary. I’ve had a few of years of scary lately. This past year, I was able to book a couple of commercials, one of them a national. There was a little film here. An Equity contract there. Plenty of background work, for which I am so grateful. After a year like the one I’ve just had, by no means abundant, but modestly encouraging, it feels as if I’m almost… well, practically… rich.