I Can’t Afford My Life Because I’m Too Busy Paying to Celebrate Everyone Else’s 

Thirty-one is the 13 of adulthood; I had as many weddings and bachelorette parties this year as I did bar/bat mitzvahs in the days of yore. The biggest difference this time around, however, is that I’m fiscally responsible for myself.

It seems that this was the make-it-or-break-it year for relationships. My friends with significant others either decided to head down the aisle or head their separate ways (and some who did both, but those aren’t my stories to tell).

Coming into 2017, I noticed the rapid pace with which my funds were claimed by early planning for bachelorette parties, wedding showers, and weddings themselves. So, I made myself an Excel grid to properly track my spending. It was not a petty pursuit; I was merely curious how all the guest and bridesmaid costs would add up.

The Facts:

For January to November of this year alone, I was invited to eight weddings, six of which I attended, and five bachelorette parties, three of which I attended, one of which I planned. I was a bridesmaid once.

For those as nosy as I am, I missed one wedding because of distance, cost, and proximity to other travel and one because it was the same weekend as the wedding in which I was standing. I missed one bachelorette party because of distance, cost, and proximity to other travel and one because I had a panic attack outside the airport and missed my flight.

All things being equal, I think it is important to note that I have an excruciating fear of flying; every time I get on a plane, it is truly a tiny miracle. I take Xanax that may as well be a placebo, without which, I wouldn’t even get myself to the airport. For perspective, I once took an Ambien-and-a-half and still slept zero minutes on a 20-hour flight. A panic attack when going through turbulence is not uncommon, and as young as 6-years-old (according to my mother), I believed if humans were meant to fly, we’d have wings.

Not to mention, spending time away from my cat…

Cost aside, this year was taxing (no pun intended).

The Cost:

I am lucky enough to work at a company that has a moderate PTO (paid time off) policy; I started the year with 10 PTO days, five Personal Days, and three “surprise” Summer Days. It is December, and I have one day left that I’m using to go to Portland to meet my new baby cousin (and I guess see some other family).

The aforementioned Excel was divided by person into Wedding (engagement gift, shower gift, wedding gift, dress, flight, hotel, other – hemming, shoes, cabs, food, etc.) and Bachelorette (flight, hotel, other – decorations, food, booze, cabs, gifts, activities, presents sent to non-attended weekends, etc.).

For weddings and wedding-related activities from January to November of 2017, I used 90% of my time off from work and spent just over $7,000. (I estimated I’d spend $10,000 so as I see it, I came out ahead.)

The Meaning:

I have friends still from elementary school, junior and high school, camp, college, post-college life in Chicago, work, and improv. Unsurprisingly, my friends are spread out all over the country, and it is beautiful to be close enough with people from every stage of my life to be included in their celebrations. These events provide a great excuse to reunite entire groups of people, which is no easy feat these days, and chances to make those I love feel truly special.

Every bachelorette party and shower and wedding is the bride’s one weekend, one day, one moment. And it should be. But this night, this weekend, this cost and time spent for each one day is only one of several for me.

Spending more money than I have and every day off to celebrate other people’s moments left me with no way to build my own. Time and resources to audition for shows or take a class, to perform on weekends, to write, to visit my now ex-LDR or date, to work toward my goals, to relax was nonexistent. Any quiet moment I had this year was used to run errands or catch up on life. And the biggest thing: being able to save money to freeze my eggs (since I am not close to my one day yet) was devastatingly not realistic.

As my coworkers have persistently pointed out, I could have declined more invitations than I did, but it feels selfish to refuse another’s celebration out of hopeful self-pursuit. There’s a sense of obligation, of FOMO quite frankly, and sincerely a desire to celebrate. (I can’t skip this wedding; we’ve been friends for 20 years! And I can’t skip that bachelorette party; she’ll be so mad at me!) But at the end of a year, when everyone has celebrated their last days of maidenhood, gotten married, and/or gotten pregnant, I’m left sitting alone on the couch with my cat worrying about the insurmountable debt I’ve accrued and lamenting another year further from creating the life I want to live.

I can’t help but wonder where I would be if I spent a little more time (and money) investing in myself.

As the bags under my eyes and excess of Xanax in my bloodstream should make clear, I am reeling from 2017. The end of the year forces us to take stock even if we don’t want to, and while it will be much easier because I have far fewer obligations in 2018, I think it is time to make my reality a bit more of a priority. And hopefully one day, I can throw a reasonably priced, one-night-only, come-if -you-can, go-to-bed-early, BYO-rescue-pet party of my own.

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