Financial Cushions: How a Mental Health Lawsuit Served as My Creative Launch Pad (Part 1)

In my recent post about lawsuit money (where I obtained $2,074 because my childhood dog was shot), I shared how to navigate a sad windfall by passing it on. Since the money felt dark and contaminated to me, it only felt right to use it in a positive way and invest it for my son.

Today I want to discuss larger amounts of money, mental health, and how having a financial cushion can assist with the confidence it takes to indulge in creative opportunities.

As stated in my first story about a lawsuit, I obviously do not support randomly suing people.  Neither do my parents. These situations came up, they were painful, we were contacted by lawyers, and we were rightfully compensated.

Thoughts on Disclosing Privilege

The personal finance community urges writers to disclose privilege in order to make blogs more transparent and realistic for readers.

I completely agree.  

  • If your daycare is free because your daycare is technically grampa and grandma, it’s really respectable to tell your readers that information as you max out your Roth IRA each year.
  • If your parents paid for all of your college (including a Ph.D.), maybe you should disclose such an advantage as you talk about living debt free.
  • If your spouse inherited a lot of money, people who are understanding won’t judge you.  It simply helps to explain why you are further down your path to financial independence than others with the same job title.  

You’re Still Savvy!

In short, I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about the above scenarios or think their savvy nature will be overlooked in light of select events.  Oftentimes, learning to work with (or maximize) whatever individualized circumstances you have takes insight, prioritizing, hard work, and a willingness to learn.  

Hopefully, with financial comfort, you can practice gratitude and gain insight into the broader meaning of life.  Hopefully, focusing on larger issues as your needs are met will put you in a great position to help others.

For me personally, I don’t have the above-listed fortunate scenarios regarding daycare, college, or an inheritance. I do, however, have two lawsuits from my youth that launched me into adulthood.  At 18, this lawsuit money made up half of my net worth. The other half came from working odd jobs as a teenager while saving, saving, saving.

Relevant Detour: Why I Love Forest Gump

Unlike 78% of workers, I’ve completely dodged the experience of living paycheck to paycheck. I was able to move out of my parents' basement with financial security and never look back.

It took me a while to realize how much of an advantage this was for someone in their teens and twenties wanting to play music.

I was an artist unmotivated by money, I didn’t view what I had as a lot of money, and I didn’t enjoy spending money (this wasn’t exactly healthy).  I was basically ignorant about adult living, social trends, and whatever normal people did or were doing.  

In short, I had social blinders on and didn't even realize this fact about myself.  At the same time, I narrowed in on select human behaviors and analyzed them excessively in a daily journal.  

I was literally a one track mind that woke up every day to write, read, smile, eat, sleep, and play guitar.

At the time, this was all I expected out of life.  I didn’t plan to meet anyone or get married. I didn’t plan to have children. I didn’t even plan to have a job.  I was just happy to be alive. I knew I had a story to tell through music, and I was willing to be as frugal as possible in order to tell that story.   

I look back on this part of my life now and understand why Forest Gump was my favorite movie.  I admired his simplicity and the irony inherent in his story.

You know the part where he unexpectedly makes major money as a shrimp boat captain?  I felt like that, navigated it about the same, and probably had the same ridiculous look on my face.

How I Found Myself as a Teenager with Some Money

A teenager with money?  Don don don. For one, I was lucky I enjoyed being frugal or I probably would have blown some serious cash without a fully developed frontal lobe.  I was certainly doing plenty of other stupid things. But in the area of money, I worked several jobs and saved as much as I could. As mentioned above, half the money I had when I moved out on my own was unexpected.  

While writing this series of posts, I realized I had A LOT to say about that unexpected money and where it came from.

More than I had to say in this song I wrote at 20... "Hung up on their cross, health care denied. Found tarred and feathered, they still called it suicide."

First of all, I knew I was lucky, and I didn’t take my situation for granted.  When I moved out as a teenager with $20,000 in my savings account, I had a very clear mission.

  1. Keep a large balance in savings at all times in order to ease anxiety while taking an unconventional creative path
  2. Launch a career as a singer-songwriter and stay an independent artist never having to sign a record contract or be shaped as a brand
  3. Pay for college without ever taking out a student loan
  4. Avoid all debt and try to buy a house in cash someday (I ended up having a mortgage for a little while, but I think this was a perfectly OK decision)
  5. Stay humble and never talk to anyone about money because such topics are "trivial things” (yep, I was a reverse snob like in Kristin Wong’s article)

Well, people change.  I now think it’s very important for people to have discussions about personal finance.  

I’m here talking about this lawsuit money now because the original story I wanted to tell as a teenager with a guitar has now grown much larger… and luckily, so has my original pot of money, my confidence, my mission, my butt, and my empathy.

The next post will go into detail about the premise of the lawsuit, what it meant for the broader public, and my first mismanaged hospitalization for anorexia as an 8th grader.

Disclaimer: As always, if you need psychological or financial advice please seek a professional for your specific situation.

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