Spending to Piss Off My Father

She built her life to prove she’s not her thrifty dad—and worked frantically to afford it. Then an accident forced her to reassess her splurges

by Pam Houston
little girl sitting near broken piggy bank image
Photograph: Nina Leen/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

So a couple of months ago, I took a deep breath and for the first time turned down a $5,000 writing assignment, and it felt good to say no. Of course, soon after, I fell into nothing short of flat-out panic—this, as we know, is the way with addictions. But the better part of me was inspired, and I decided to perform an experiment in 2013: I am going to (force myself to) say no to 20 percent of the work I am offered; I am going to (force myself to) spend 20 percent less money on travel and treats; and then I am going to (force myself to) enjoy the resulting downtime. Before too long, I’ll probably begin to enjoy the psychic space I’m opening up. I’ll be a better friend and mentor and partner to the people who have always made allowances for my workaholic ways. It will be a little bit thrilling to act from the center of my own desires with regard to the money I make and the money I spend, and to stop living to please or annoy or subvert my father.

Next: Ready or Not, Your Job Is Changing

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First published in the February 2013 issue

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