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“You can buy some new running gear if you want,” Skyspook said.

He’d been looking online at some leggings for winter biking. As he’s too tall for the frame of a standard bike, he had to have one custom built. So he built it himself. From scratch. He researched all the processes involved, ordered the parts, and assembled himself a high-quality bicycle built to custom specifications. It’s a massive bike. The biggest one I’ve ever seen. Tall and sturdy. It’s like a bike a giant would ride.

He’s worked extremely hard on this project over the spring and summer, and it follows that he needs gear to ride during the winter. After all, the plan is for him to bike to work (about a 10-mile jaunt each way) for the stress relief and exercise and allow me to drive the car to school at my will.

I was unprepared, however, for his suggesting I do the same, i.e., buy new winter exercise gear for myself.

“Oh, ah, uh, thanks,” I bumbled. “I really could use a new sports bra.”

And then the immensity of the implications of what he’d just said swept over me.

I recently quit my job to go back to school full time with my ultimate goal to become a social psychologist. Skyspook has a good job, and my industry in general and my company in particular of late trended towards pay decreases, outsourcing, and a dismal future employment picture. Before returning to college, my hourly rate had fallen to less than one-third of what it was 5 years ago, when I was a new graduate in my field.

Skyspook knows that I’ve felt guilty because of this, that while I can recognize that going back to school makes the most long-term sense, I feel like the fact that I’m not earning any income whatsoever for the time being and have instead thrown myself full force into prepping for grad school does hamper us in the short term. However, I don’t think he knew how constant and all pervasive that guilt has been. That every time I scoop up change from the floor or the change jar to feed into the vending machine for my 75 cent coffee or an 85 cent satchel of peanuts (because I’ve neglected to pack a lunch) that I feel like a mooch, a failure. It is worse yet on the days when I’ve purchased a 4 dollar lunch or a 2 dollar large coffee from the campus cafe by way of coping with stress or wanting to celebrate finishing a paper or exam.

It’s bad enough that I’m not bringing any money in; the fact that I’ve spent anything, regardless of the sum or the reason for the expense, is crushing.

And now there I was, and Skyspook was telling me to feel free to initiate this extremely elective, unsolicited, potentially sizable expense.

In that instant, my anxieties were and my cognitive distortion that I was a parasite and viewed so by Skyspook were challenged.

It’s funny how these things work.

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