It’s not as though I was broke. I’d worked through high school saving all that I could, but that was mostly earmarked for tuition and books. I landed a part-time campus job, taught piano lessons and played the organ in a local church on the weekends. While my cash flow was barely a trickle, I did have limited funds. And I had a checking account.

Having stuff now and paying for it later gave me some kind of a rush, a sense of beating the system. It was my little secret.

Along with new friendships came new expenses. Going out to eat, mall shopping and keeping up with my stylish friends came with a price tag. I couldn’t stand keeping track of my checking account, but hated even more not having money. Even when I was short, if I could figure a way to purchase things, it felt like I had money. Writing a check on a Wednesday even though I couldn’t cover it until I got paid on Friday seemed perfectly logical provided I could get away with it. And I did. Over and over. Having stuff now and paying for it later gave me some kind of a rush, a sense of beating the system. It was my little secret, no one needed to know how often I spent money before I actually received it. And when I bounced a check and overdrew my account, no one knew that either.

My pattern of life became one of deceit and manipulation. Every time I wrote a check I’d just hold my breath until I could figure a way to cover it. Over and again I’d try to reform. Somehow I’d cover everything and promise myself that I’d never write another bad check. Until the next time.

Knowing that my state of poverty was only a temporary condition gave me some kind of weird comfort. It also justified my actions. I was a poor starving student waiting for Prince Charming to arrive. While I didn’t know the particulars—like his name—I knew he’d be along someday. Then my money problems would be over because I’d be sure to marry well. I’d finally be rich and all of this nonsense with scraping by, juggling my checking account and worrying about irate phone calls would end.

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