How Pope Francis helped me survive five months of no income

At the beginning of last year, I recognised that this semester just passed would be a taxing one and so I made a decision to quit my job and live of my meagre savings for the semester.

It was hard. It was harder than I thought it would be. I didn’t have much in the way of savings and I would have had nothing left for the last three weeks of semester or for Christmas if not for a fortunately timed tax return.

Now, this all might sound like a whiny white girl who needs a bridge to get over her first-world problems. It is true that if I wasn’t living at home with my parents and they didn’t allow me access to an amazing pantry and fridge, wifi and electricity, I wouldn’t be even doing a Masters degree.

However, my parent’s don’t provide me with everything, I still have to clothe myself, transport myself, socialise and numerous other expenses that I had not really noticed until I had a finite amount of cash.

I wouldn’t have made it without having psyched myself up for it by reading Laudato Si. As I have already explained (here and here) Laudato Si is less about climate change and more about checking the objectifying consumerism that drives the destruction of human society and the planet we live on.

The hardest part was not the whole ‘being satisfied with what you have’. That came relatively easy, after a initial period of ‘detoxing’ from my old habits. The hardest part was letting other people do me favours.

My Italian heritage, a bad habit of pride and a love language of gift giving predisposes me to grabbing the whole bill when I take friends out, outdoing people in buying rounds of drinks, and spontaneously giving little gifts on birthdays, christmases and just because.

It was hard having to tell people that I could only afford to split the bill. It was hard accepting drinks and meals from my friends who insisted on treating me. It was hard not being able to spoil my friends and family as I had been used to.

Generosity is not a competition of course, I knew that! Living it though, meant a whole lotta pride swallowing on my part. The discomfort was however well worth it because I had the privilege of being the recipient of some of the most wonderful acts of kindness and generosity from those I love. From spending time with me, to buying me dinner or coffee when I couldn’t otherwise afford it, to respecting the fact that I wasn’t going to be a great friend for those crazy five months and not taking it personally; my friends and family rallied around me to give generously of their time, treasure and talents.

All the while I had Pope Francis with an encouraging smile. I couldn’t have done it without him. The blood (metaphoric), sweat (actual) and tears (actual) that this Master’s thesis plus two subjects cost me, was worth it in the end. I did extremely well and I’m on my way to a PhD. I am also a much better person. I don’t need as much by way of things. I’m more grateful for the things I do have and for the gifts I receive from my loved ones.

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