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Until I was 40, I lived (and spent) like there was no tomorrow
Gary Nunn watched his gay forefathers die young and learned to live for today. But turning 40 convinced him to plan for tomorrow for the first time.
About the author: Gary Nunn is a human interest features journalist who writes for the BBC, the Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald and the ABC, among others. His debut book, The Psychic Tests, is being adapted into a one-man show. He tweets at @garynunn1.
It was the first time we were allowed into a pub after Sydney’s longest lockdown, and I could already taste the delicate foamy coffee froth of my first espresso martini tickling and then evaporating on my lips before the cold creamy liquid made its way down my throat.
I’d been dreaming of this moment for four long, tedious months. Drinking martinis on your own in your flat just ain’t the same.
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Of course, cocktails aren’t cheap, but, after the ravages of COVID, I was more than ready to knock ‘em back. At $20 AUD a pop, I must’ve easily spent $100 within the first two hours. A sense of carpe diem pulsated through me. This is how I’d lived most weekends pre-COVID.
Then during the long overdue catchup with my Sydney Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras troupe, a few of the members mentioned a luxurious cruise around the Mediterranean they’d booked with Atlantis, an all-gay cruise company. I’d always longed to go on one.
They’d been planning it for months, with payment plans all set up. Within an hour of them mentioning it, on an impulsive drunken whim, I booked myself on the cruise and paid for it there and then.
The next morning, I remembered booking it, but I couldn't remember how much I'd spent. I winced as I remembered doing two transfers from my much depleted rainy day savings to cover it. When I saw I’d spent over $4,000 for a 10-day cruise, I gulped. This had better be good!
I honestly wasn't always convinced tomorrow would come.
I'm still scrambling to earn back the money a year later. The cruise was gobsmacking: 10 days of gay heaven, where I sang at piano bars, danced in fancy dress at nightclubs and saw spectacular shows, in addition to exploring some of Europe’s most fascinating port cities.
But it was the biggest in a long list of indulgences. The cruise had also been a 40th birthday present to myself; I hit the big 4-0 shortly afterward. As such, it capped off two decades of hedonistic indulgence for me — and heralded the start of a new era.
This year, I made a resolution to say no to more things so I have the time and money to better enjoy the things I say yes to. I decided to try to enjoy the joy of missing out — and the financial savings that’d follow from not being at the theater three nights a week, eating out five nights a week and at the pub at least twice a week.
Up ‘til now, my life was dictated by carpe diem for a very good reason: I honestly wasn't always convinced tomorrow would come.
I watched my gay forefathers die young. They died of HIV, suicide or homophobic hate crime, or lost many of the best years of their lives to the closet. I don’t remember having many older gay role models — in real life, on the scene, celebrities or in the media. They were a missing generation.
They’re the role models who might’ve been there, done that and advised caution and restraint. Without such advice from those whose lifestyle had been similar to mine, I just spent, without thinking too much about the consequences. Somehow, I avoided debt. But I also avoided saving.
As such, I resigned myself to spend for today, rent, not save, and forget about tomorrow as it probably wouldn't come. It sounds dramatic until you think about the scores of men we lost to an epidemic and an aggressively hostile society.
As I turned 40, I had an epiphany: I'm officially doing what many of those in the generation above me didn't enjoy the privilege of doing: entering middle age. I realized it was time to mature my attitude toward money: mortgage, pensions, savings, the lot. I’d already started doing some of these things in the lead up to 40. But now I intend to take them more seriously.
The problem with living for the day, every day, is it can leave you drained: of time, energy and money.
The problem with living for the day, every day, is it can leave you drained: of time, energy and money. Now I need to start living for tomorrow. If nothing else, out of respect for my gay forefathers who fought for this better future for me, despite many of them not having the privilege of being alive to appreciate it.
Now that I realize I might live to 80 or older, I'm going to be more frugal and mindful with money. In addition to saving, I’ll make more considered financial choices — not just spontaneous ones.
That said, I still think — and hope — I’ll be able to use those savings to book at least one more all-gay cruise in my life. I think my gay forefathers would approve of that goal with gusto.
Image by Ronê Ferreira via Pexels