In the red

October 10, 2016
In the red

I’m getting tired of it. Always being in the red is no fun. I am counting the years, the months, the days until I get out of debt. Every week, I look at the amount of my mortgage going down, and I know that compared to most other young adults in their late twenties, I am doing great. But still. I want it to disappear as fast as possible. I hate having such a big debt, and therefore I work more than I would like to to pay back this loan.

It’s the same at work. Since I have to miss half a day every week to attend my Master’s class, I need to make up for those hours on the other days. Although I am very grateful for the flexibility that my employer offers, I hate the fact that I always owe something to the organisation.

Most people wouldn’t mind. We live in an era of debt. People, organisations, countries, accumulate debt without looking too concerned. How come do I care so much?

It all comes down to the study of giving. Debt has a lot more meaning than the amount of money transferred from one hand to the other. If someone’s in debt, it’s because someone else accepted to give. Debt, or if you take it the other way, giving, is at the foundation of our societies. We give to receive, but we also give to establish a link between ourselves and others.

“Humans may be wired to be overly generous, and that proclivity can actually confer a large survival advantage.” – Maria Konnikova

The act of giving is very profound, and the act of receiving is as meaningful. It’s not only the what, it’s also about the how, as I keep repeating to my boyfriend. The attention you put into the shopping, the choosing, the wrapping, is as important for me as what’s in the box (when I am lucky enough to get a box, which is not always the case). And for me to accept your offering means a lot: I am accepting to get into that back-and-forth of gift exchange, since we never know when it will stop.

In this case, one+one doesn’t equal two. I could by myself my coffee, and you could buy yours, but as I buy yours on one morning, and you buy mine on the other, we get closer to each other. The gift is a pretext for bonding. The gift creates social ties.

For sure, it’s no fun to be in the red. I do not want to be attached to a mercantile institution such as a bank, or depend on my employer. But when it comes down to one-on-one interactions, I need to accept that being in the red is better than being free of any debt. That’s how we bond, that’s what makes us stronger: we are tied together by the red. The only way we can escape that is on the day we die, as our own blood loses its distinctive color, as we stop being in the red.


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