It was 9 o’clock when it was my turn. He looked at my papers, trying to tell by words all my life. “Hmm,” he said, “hmm.” They told me that I would pay a tax bill in the low thousands. I almost blacked out. “But,” he said softly, “it means that you are successful. You made a lot out of writing it.”
My accountant taught me that even in a life of advancing art, where uncertainty builds, some plans can be made, to plan, to plan for success, and not just to aspire to succeed. According to the plan, and offered some ballast against nothing in planning itself. This is a difficult lesson to learn – the lives of great artists are full of instability. But he also reminds me, every 15 April, not to block my blessings, not to decide that I already know how my artistic career will end, this life will give you good things to do. -Also can surprise the bad.
At the end of our first meeting, he told me critically, “You’re good at it. You’re going to make money as an artist. You need to be prepared for that,” and he told me that next year What is the amount of money to invest for, including retirement plans. I went back to him a year later, when I was getting married, and he advised me for my taxes. He told me poignantly, “Don’t get married on Christmas or New Year. It will ruin those days for you.”
By then, I had talked to him long enough to know that he had been married and divorced, and had seven adult daughters of his own, all trained as accountants – he spent his tax hours during the tax season helped. Sometimes I would call their office after talking about a contract or finding out about the grant and all I would get was a machine. This was because, as he explained to me, he took six months out of the year to travel to West Africa to collect the art he had seen in his office.
The last time I personally saw him was in the 2019 tax season. I was five months pregnant, my then husband lost his job, and we were both suddenly living off a research stipend for a fellowship. He sat with us and assured us that it would be fine. I was stressed about money, stressed about my child’s future, stressed about how I would pay my emerging hospital bills. Talking to her was one of the few times during that tumultuous pregnancy when I felt that I was being cared for by someone else instead of caring for someone else – a gift for which I will always be grateful.
The tax season of the last pandemic was again pushed towards catastrophe. I put my tax on the back porch of the house in June that I was living in during quarantine, paying a masked $ 20 per hour for the privilege of talking to my accountant on the phone without a child in the background . I realized that my relationship with him is the most positive I’ve ever had with a person on money. As I updated her on her pandemic year – the marriage ended, the job offer went away, quarantined in another state – she grumbled only on the phone. He saw it all. “But I did what you told me last year and paid my estimated tax,” I said.
“You listened to me?” He replied, with a father’s warmth. “Of course,” I said. “None of my customers ever do,” she laughed. And then he said that he would set me for 2021, because I would follow his instructions. It was one of my proudest moments in a foggy, alcoholic year.
Katilyn Greenidge is the author of the upcoming novel “Liberty” and the feature director of Harper Bazaar.