I remember my first time getting a paycheck like it was yesterday. I picked up an envelope in the mail and it sank in almost instantly: This money is mine.
It felt amazing. At fifteen, it made me feel like I could do whatever I wanted with it. I felt independent, something I always wanted to feel. I wanted to be an adult at the time — to be taken seriously, to have agency over my spending — but I didn’t think about the potential added stressors.
Many paychecks later, I moved out of my childhood bedroom to live in a college dorm. Now I work two jobs. But since I’ve needed to buy necessities like groceries and gas, I’m finding myself feeling much less free.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very fortunate to have parents who help me out tremendously. They’re paying for most of my college tuition and they help me with expenses that I can’t handle myself. But even with their support, I’ve had to take on additional financial responsibilities and be significantly more aware of my spending.
In December, I got into a minor car accident. In the moment, I was terrified of too many things to count. But more centrally, I was terrified of the financial impacts of my actions. I still can’t believe that in a situation where my safety could have been in danger, all I could think about was money.
I quickly realized that the ticket was just the first of a long list of bills. Increased insurance costs and car repairs became huge concerns for me. With my parents’ support, I know I’ll be okay — but the older I get, the less my money feels like mine.
Next fall, I’m going to begin paying my own rent. And while I’m excited to live with my friends and have a space of our own, the car accident still haunts me. I’m scared to make any mistakes — because growing up means I have to be accountable for my own actions.