Julie grew up close to Versailles, France. Her father, in an effort to offer a comfortable and happy life to his family, was seduced by the world of finance. After thirty years of financial deregulation, the financial realm became the centre of gravity. Money was falling from the sky like shooting stars. Who could imagine at that point that one could fail? The spectacle was so beautiful that no one wanted to delve deeper and see what lay behind the successful formulas.
My parents thought they were in love. But believe me, they weren’t. When my mother and father met, my mother was completely lost and depressed and my father was a very calm person. He reassured her. Somehow they found each other and they began a comfortable life together. They had a nice wedding, a big house, beautiful children and enough money to live happily ever after… almost.
He started to play. Actually I shouldn’t say ‘play’ because it wasn’t a game—I think he really meant it. My father started to invest money in the stock market. He really wanted it to work. I don’t even know how he got into it, actually. It wasn’t his thing, but he was an intelligent person and he knew how to use numbers, so I guess he thought that that was enough for him to be successful. Back then, playing money on stocks was very trendy, and fucking worthwhile. My father started to make loads of money. Shitloads of money. Everything was so easy and beautiful. That is, until the first blast of wind.
My mother was never fully happy with my father. He wasn’t ever able to please her. He was a good husband, but they were just not happy together. And so he tried to please her with money. He thought that an easy life could make her happy. He was so wrong.
The first time I went to the US, I remember I was twelve. It was the first time the Queen Mary crossed the Atlantic. And we were on it! My father really wanted to please us. I remember that during the holiday he was distant; he seemed worried. He was not talking a lot to us kids and even less to my mom. I didn’t know what was going on and I thought maybe my parents were going to divorce. Actually, he was just concerned by the hundreds of thousands of euros he had just lost.
He continued to gamble, even more this time. The pressure increased. His goal was not only to please my mom; I think he also felt ashamed. Ashamed because he lost the game. He wanted to win it back. In reality, he just wanted to show her that he was able to make her happy. He wanted her recognition. Even though he was falling into a dark spiral, he won again. He won enough money to get back on track. He was once again full of confidence, maybe too much. Balance doesn’t exist in finance. One day you win; one day you lose. He was on the good side at that point and he had won so much money that he could have stopped working forever and enjoyed a happy life with my ‘happy’ mom. But then he saw it—that big opportunity, the final one—and he invested everything. Absolutely everything. It was his final shot. And he lost everything. Absolutely everything.
At first, he didn’t tell my mom. He tried secretly to win it back. So he invested what was remaining. And what was remaining was my mother’s money: all her legacy and her savings. That was half a million. He lost the game, one more time.
One morning, when I was in high school—it was a Saturday or a Sunday—I heard my mother crying and screaming. I didn’t know what was going on, but I understood that something bad had happened. My father came out of the room crying. It was the first time I’d seen my father cry. He was desperate. He knew he had just lost everything. I was standing there, still wearing my pyjamas in the middle of the tears and the sobs. My family was in chaos.
I didn’t cry. I wasn’t actually scared at all. I couldn’t quite comprehend the situation we were in. I just asked my father to not kill himself. I told him that this was just money, nothing but money, an amalgam of numbers. We were still there, alive, in our house. He was so desperate; we could see his guilt in his tears. My father explained to my brother and me that we would be going through hard times and that my mother would probably go through a depressive episode again. My only hope at that moment was that my family would still stick together and that no one would commit suicide.
In 2010, my father started to contract several loans to continue to pay for my brother’s and my studies and to support the family in general. I was at work one day and my father called me. He seemed anxious. He asked me to go to the bank with him to sign some papers. The reason he gave me was that he transferred all of our accounts from our bank in our town, where we were living, to the central offices in Saint-Germain. For practical reasons, he said. I quickly went over the paper I was reading. My father had actually taken out a loan in my name. So that was it, where he had landed: contracting a loan in his child’s name because he had already too many.
My parents didn’t know each other; they were living on different planets. They were two strangers who wanted to be happy, at any price. They thought that wanting it would be enough. My mother forgave my father every time. But his last shot just ruined everything. He tried desperately to win my mother’s trust back again, but it was too late. In the end, they did what they should have done since the beginning, or at least what I had always expected them to do: when my brother finished high school, they got a divorce. They did a good job during all those years though. What brilliant motivational skills they have! They tried, despite the lack of love and happiness, to offer us the best life they could.
Today they are happy, finally. My father is in love with another woman, and my mother is in a new romantic relationship as well. She is spending time working on her garden, she’s started studying again, and she is learning hypnosis. She has no money, but for the first time in her life, she’s happy.
I went to business school. How ironic, I know, for a person who sees finance as the devil himself! But in a certain sense my family’s experience made me aware about how fucked up things are. I’m not sure if without it I could have figured out that absolutely everything is a game. And it is all a game, whether you’re the fucker or the one being fucked. One day, some people decided to make the game more complicated, trickier, by putting some numbers together. They were proud of their ingenuity. They didn’t realised that what they had created was just a monster, a killing monster. A monster they lost control over because they abolished the rules of their own game. How fucked up is that?
The monster is huge, and it’s there, waiting for you. What happens when you get in front of it? It kills you. My father was a geek—what a joy it was for him: a game of numbers that makes you rich! But he didn’t know. He didn’t know the monster was so big.