Friday, October 19, 2012

Depression (Economic) And Why It Sucks

"I would lay rest the grace in my tongue and speak plainly." - Geoffrey Chaucer "A Knight's Tale"

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken as quoted by Ace of Spades HQ (check the banner)

I try to keep this blog free of conflict and contention - and bringing up anything remotely political is a good way to shoot that all to hell.  But when things connected with politics bring strife and heartache to your own doorstep, it's hard to keep your mouth shut, no matter how many people tell you to keep it to yourself.

Well, my friends - I am tired of keeping it to myself.   What good are words if I can't use them to point at something and say "Hey, there's something wrong here! What the hell?"  If you're having a good day and wish to continue in that vein, please be on your merry way.  I'll let you know when I have a movie or book review to geek out over. 

Here it goes.

I warned you.

*clears throat*

This economy is shit.  Pure and utter shit.

I don't know this because of anything on the news or what some talking head on TV told me.  I know this because today I spent over $80 on basic grocery needs at Wal-Mart.  Basic grocery needs for one person - AT THE FREAKING WAL-MART - cost over $80.  Things like bread, milk, orange juice, sausage, cereal, yogurt, frozen pizzas, spaghetti noodles, eggs, peanut butter, jam, butter, shampoo, soap, tampons, toothpaste - you want I should go on?  And I'm not buying the expensive brand-name crap - this is the Great Value El-Cheapo Soviet Commissary stuff.  Nothing is under $2.00.  Wait - a container of yogurt was 58 cents (Whoo-hoo - what a sale).  Every time I put something in my cart, I was on the verge of tears.  And I saw moms with their young children grocery shopping and all I could think was that I cannot imagine what it must be like shopping for a family.

It got even better - I spent $50 filling up my gas tank.  Last year, I rarely spent over $30 a fill-up.  I don't go very many places - work, errands and home.  Again - moms carting their kiddles to school and soccer and piano lessons and every where else they go.  I don't know how they do it, but God bless them.

I would not be so tender about this if my job situation were more secure.  Tomorrow is the last day for a while that I will have regular work shifts every day.  I'm a substitute librarian - I only work if someone else takes a day off.  Right now, work has all the shifts posted to the end of the year so managers can plan schedules for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  And where I was getting 30-40 hours a week in the summer - now I'm doing good if I get barely 20 hours a week.  I've applied for so many jobs, but everything is the same - I'm over-qualified for some jobs because of my MLS and I don't have enough experience for other jobs because they found someone else from out-of-state that's been in the game for 20-30 years already.  And why take a chance on some young gun when they can get someone already tested and proven?

I understand all this very well.  Hell, I never spent a moment in a business class (wish I had) and I get it.  I would do the same if I was running a business and needed to hire someone.  I hate that I understand how this all works because it would be a hell of a lot easier to sit here and whine how the system is so unfair and I never get what I want and what I wants is a pony, Daddy, and I wants it RIGHT NOW, DAMMIT!!

(Actually, I'd ask for a pink unicorn. The kind that craps golden ice cream).

I am nearly 28 years old.  I should be well into my career by now, paying off my student loans, living in my own place, with a nice car and insurance and with a healthy nest egg.  I shouldn't be scraping by and living paycheck-to-paycheck, praying for someone to come down with the plague or something just so I can get a measly 4-hour work shift (and I don't want to wish misfortune on anyone - maybe just that someone's kid has an orthodontist appointment).  I shouldn't be worried that I can't make rent or that I'll have to resort to moving back in with my parents because living in the big city didn't work out for me.  I don't want to be that person - that person looks lazy and unmotivated when I am anything but.

They told me I could go to college and be whatever I wanted.  Well, if I had advice for my 17-year-old self right now, it would be to screw college.  Everyone goes to college and everyone has a degree and they aren't worth the paper they're printed on.  Get a job as a secretary and save your money.  Better yet - go to a trade school and become a diesel mechanic.  Or some kind of warehouse worker.  Or a truck driver.  It's hard, back-breaking work, but you'd probably be in shape and out of debt.  Maybe you'd even find a nice boy to marry.  Don't get into these useless art fields.  You can read and write on your days off.  Libraries and English departments are luxuries anyway - work in a field that a functioning economy can't do without.  Maybe if you didn't have that stupid literary bullshit from Creative Writing 101 tainting your brain, you could have actually finished your novel and possibly even self-published it and made a little bit of extra money on the side.  Yeah, you got straight-A's in high school, but life isn't high school and it isn't college.  Life doesn't give a damn how smart you are - it's how well you get the job done.  And you can't show that on the Dean's List.

(Amazing what you learn from life... after the fact).

I could also go into how this recession (aw hell, call a spade a spade - we're in a depression. As far as I'm concerned, you get two years to fix it before it becomes a depression) affected my family very pointedly.  But that is not my story to tell (not without clearing it first and I don't think I'd get clearance anyway).  All I can tell is that I never wanted to be living hand-to-mouth in my late-20s.  These past five years (minus the 18 months I spent on a church mission - but you're poor as a missionary anyway) have been sheer and utter hell.  This is not life, this is not living.  If something doesn't shape up soon - I have no idea what I'm going to do.  I don't want to be dependent on anyone but myself.  My goal has always been to be self-sufficient and that is exactly the opposite of what's been happening.

Perhaps I should feel blessed that I'm not one of those mothers with two or three kids around her grocery cart, wondering how she's going to afford lunches to send to school, never mind clothes and a house payment.  Right now, those women are my heroes - the ones who are making it work in this economy.  Even the ones who are trying their hardest and coming up short.  For what's been heaped upon them these past five years or so - they deserve a medal.

I will say this - when your #1 priority for women is making sure they have free birth control or abortions, your priorities suck balls.  How about making sure women have good jobs where they can afford to pay the rent, buy groceries, maintain a decent car and maybe have a little extra for a rainy-day fund or maybe a bit of a weekend movie splurge or something?  Quit playing this bullshit game with "women's issues" and stop with this "Vote with your lady parts" crap.  You know - I spent four years in Lit Theory wherein we discussed feminist theory and other assorted horse manure and the one thing feminists carped about was against anything remotely resembling the objectification of women or the infantilization of women.  Well, I'm a woman and I'm tired of being treated like I'm too stupid or too shallow to care about anything other than what's going on in my - ahem - "Lady Parts."  Honestly - I don't think my lady parts are going to matter too much if I can't afford to buy food to nourish them.  And the rest of my body as well, come to think of it.

Nothing else is going to matter if basic needs are not met - that's what this boils down to.  Books, movies, TV shows, geekdom in general will not matter if I'm too worried about how I'm going to afford a tank of gas to get to the store or if I'm going to have to default on a student loan and shoot my credit all to hell (without your credit, you basically have nothing in this world).  I don't want to lay down and let Sugar Daddy government take care of me, either - not when there are people more in need of it than I am.  This sounds horrible and I don't mean for it to be, but I can think of little else more awful or humiliating than to have to be dependent on someone else.  I would rather be a help to people who really need it than to have to be a burden.  Doesn't matter if it comes from my parents or my church or a government program - I've worked hard in my life and I want to earn what I get.

But lately - it's felt like I've worked and worked and worked and earned less and less and less.

I don't want to be whiny here.  But this isn't normal - I know it isn't normal.  I almost think this has to be a bad dream or a terrible joke and I'll wake up or get to the punchline, give a nervous laugh and get on with my life.  But it's none of those things and I'm not the only one that's noticed.  I'd like to hope that by writing this up, it can be a comfort - let someone else in a similar situation know that there is another person that knows how much this sucks and they aren't the only one sitting in the driveway crying over a half as many groceries as usual and a depleted bank account on payday and wondering how they're going to make it to the next paycheck.  Even a single person with no one else to support can feel it.  This particular single person is sick of it.

When is it going to get better?

This post is likely going to piss more than a few people off - maybe even some among my friends.  But these are my words and I own them.  I'm tired of censoring myself just because something I have to say might make someone else a teensy-bit uncomfortable.  Lord knows I've been in many uncomfortable conversations and haven't said a word.  I've extended plenty of polite courtesies to people I don't agree with and I'm asking for the same.  Even if I don't get it - well, I'm used to it.  After being told for 27.5 years that you're an idiot because you believe X, Y and Z, your skin tends to thicken up quite a bit.

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