Jennie from the Block

The letter request:

I do a few different things to pay the bills but mostly I’m just working on my art.  I’m happy enough living in near poverty, it’s all part of the game, but after a recent demoralising trip to the accountant I am considering topping myself.


The letter:

Dear Jennie from H&R Block,

Thank you for doing my tax for me this morning. It’s not my favourite thing to do. I don’t mind earning the money but I really hate the part where I have to gather all my paperwork around me and look at what I’ve got. I find it’s a little like vomiting after a big night out or cleaning up after a party. Possibly because I haven’t got that much money to count.

I have to admit to feeling a little animosity towards you almost immediately. I found it didn’t really help me when you laughed heartily as you were asking me the questions. Sure, it would be nice to have overseas assets or a family trust fund but I wouldn’t say it’s particularly funny that I don’t. When you looked at my group certificates and said ‘Are you sure that’s all there is?’ I had to nod apologetically. I didn’t earn a secret 50K that I forgot to tell you about.

And while it was nice of you to read up on my file to fast track our relationship, it didn’t really make us feel like friends when you said, ‘Well, one thing I know is that you have a huge HECS debt.’ My friends all know my preferred method of dealing with debt is denial. Maybe you can note that on my file for next year.

Jennie, I know you were baffled by my eight different employers but the tenth time you asked me how we could categorise my primary occupation I was no more likely to answer you than the first; I do some random jobs to earn some money but that it all this is.

This frustrated you, I could tell. My overall income frustrated you. Instead of climbing up the ladder I’ve been climbing down. You couldn’t quite work it out.

You offered ideas of how I could take better advantage of my situation but it’s no secret that I’m lazy when it comes to all things administrative. When you said ‘log book’ I was thinking about your pot plant. Not thinking anything in particular about it, just thinking about it. When you suggested I break each day into quarter hour blocks and record how I have spent my time i.e. is it personal time or am I working in a way that contributes to my business, I glazed over.

I mean what about this, here right now? I’m sitting here on the couch writing you this letter, is this recreation? I guess it is…I do have one foot up on the coffee table.

When you said I would only have to record my quarter hourly activities every day for a month I started humming under my breath – a distracted tune. As you continued to speak, the tune became clearer in my head and I realised I was singing ‘Jenny from the Block.’

Do you know that one? It’s by Jennifer Lopez, aka J-Lo, about her days in the Bronx. She used to have a little and now she has a lot but she’s still Jenny from the Block.

Anyway we did what we needed to do, you and I. We bonded in baffled silence as we contemplated whether my job as a yoga teacher had a desired and measurable outcome.

We avoided the temptation to have a cat fight when I was unable to qualify the depreciation of my laptop. You said, ‘So 75% of your time on the computer is personal time, not related to work?’ And I said, ‘Yes, yes it is.’

You probed again, ‘So in terms of work relating to your business…’ but by now I’d become really secretive and refused to answer you. It was like I had been arrested, I had the right to remain silent.

I decided to let you believe that I spend 75% of my time playing Tetris. I decided this was easier than explaining to you that some jobs just don’t pay. Because really, how do you explain to an accountant that for this whole financial year I’ve been sitting down every day working on something that has not earned a cent? That probably will never earn a cent?

Maybe one day I’ll have foreign bank accounts, Jennie and if I do I’ll make sure you are the first to know. Until then I’m okay with earning less than an apprentice hairdresser because I really like Tetris. A lot.