Ten Years Ago, Today: On Paying Taxes and Taking Chances

Ten years ago today, I paid my taxes.

That’s not noteworthy, at least, in my opinion it’s not. Everybody pays their taxes.* Or, at least, they’re supposed to. And, as great as it is when you do what you’re supposed to, it isn’t something you should win points for.**

Regardless, it probably wasn’t even ten years ago today that I paid my taxes because I wouldn’t have had time. I wouldn’t have had time, because ten years ago today I had my first real grown-up job interview. I was 23 and had thrown together a mismatched suit of sorts. I had a fake briefcase and a pair of penniless loafers.

My old office.

My old office.

Because I was young, and naïve, and it was in New York City, my parents came along.*** Because it was in New York City, and I had to fly, I took time off of my two part-time jobs. Because I was good enough, or maybe just had a pulse, they offered me a job. Because I was desperate and wanted to live in New York, or maybe just young and naïve, I said yes.

I said yes even though I was terrified. I said yes even though part of me wanted to say no. I said yes for a million reasons, and because I said yes, I had to find a place to live and then live and then live and then live, and it was that last place, my fourth apartment in three months and the third one in the month of August alone, that finally said yes to me.

Home sweet home in Brooklyn.

Home sweet home in Brooklyn.

I was half-starved, and they let me eat their grapes. I was soon-to-be homeless, and they gave me a nickname. I was ready to give up and move back to Wisconsin, and they helped me paint my new room. So many people took a chance on me: Stan, who hired me; the roommates of 10P; the people on my work team who stopped calling me “Other Sara(h)” pretty quickly and instead just called me “Turner” or “STurner.” And I took a chance on them, too, I suppose. I try to remember that when I’m on the other side.

The job was working for the city and its citizens, listening to people complain about varying degrees of misconduct. New York City taxpayers provided my salary. Sometimes it felt like not enough. Sometimes I felt like not enough. I’m sure some of them would agree on the latter. I often felt beholden to them, even when I found them annoying. I’d like to think I made a difference; that salary sure made a difference to me.

Today, when you’re paying your taxes or you’re thanking your past-self that you already paid your taxes, or you’re enjoying some of the things your taxes help pay for, remember that part of all of that is taking chances, in a way, on strangers**** and recognizing that we are part of something larger than ourselves.

*I had a terrible roommate who bragged that he didn’t pay the previous year’s taxes because (he claimed) he didn’t make enough, which, considering we relied on him to pay his rent, was not a great endorsement of himself as a roommate.

**Unless you’re my complainants. Some of them wanted credit for everything. One woman told me she paid one mil-lion dollars in taxes the year before, drawing it out like Dr. Evil in Austin Powers. Her complaint was that the officer didn’t identify himself. Apparently, she thought (based on what she paid) that she owned him.

***To the city, not the actual interview. I wasn’t that young or naïve.

****Like me and everyone I worked with at that job.


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About Sarah in Small Doses

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