Today I woke up to find that the time on the cable box has been replaced with ‘—-‘. Those four dashes are more than just a display change, it’s the shift in wind that indicates a sea change in my life. The cable has been ‘interrupted’. More money now, please, or else it gets disconnected.
Those four dashes have been a constant alarm clock in my life over the past few years. Indicators first of my own forgetfulness, but lately they’ve become the four dashes of the apocalypse.
I can’t compete in this economy any longer. I haven’t been able to make ends meet for a long time, and what’s worse, I’ve been employed full time as a communications professional during that time. The effects of watching what was, in the late 90’s, a lucrative and engaging career choice in advertising and graphic design slowly grind down to sweatshop business models and dehumanizing lack of mental engagement have cumulatively taken a massive toll. Tons of promises, an almost equal number of horrifying financial and remunerative disappointments when those promises were supposed to materialize. And the slow build of horror as all of the fun, creativity, and innovation became ground out underneath the heel of horrible business and strategy decisions implemented by stupid-assed Baby Boomer senior managers who are so completely insulated by their own self-selected ignorance and carefully cultivated ineptitude that they no longer seem to be able to even recognize the horrible price their decisions have exacted on the talent pool of employees and the so-called ‘best practices’ of the industry.
Time is running out.
My time is almost up. If not for the expected arrival of student loans within the next month or so, I would be facing the prospect of giving away my cats, filing for a divorce from my completely-dependent civil union parter, selling all my stuff and checking myself into a mental hospital for the massive breakdown which is coming. Which has been coming for a while now. As it is, it’s going to be a case of holding my breath against the crushing economic pressure while struggling to last until the payments come… I’m betting sometime in April.
And the scariest part of all of this is that I’m sinking very quickly … and I’m working full time still. My current gig, which readers will recall I have just tendered notice on, is not paying enough for me to live off of. My landlady speculated heavily in the real estate boom and was attempting to single-handedly ‘gentrify’ our neighborhood, but the rest of the neighborhood resisted such an effort quite successfully. The result is that she’s got tons of recently refurbished rental property listing at prices that no one in the current neighborhood can afford. Everyone who might be tempted to move into the neighborhood takes one look at the loud neighbors and strange twisted local drama in this ghetto-esque barrio and say, “Too expensive” and move on. The result? She’s feeling the crunch of the real estate bust, and shit rolls downhill to us. We are now being nagged to death, and we’re also having trouble coming up with the rent on time. We never go more than a week or two at the most behind, all part of the juggling act required to keep heat and electric and internet connected, but that’s beginning to get her agitated in the extreme. And yet, she can’t seem to attract anyone but Section 8 folks to come and take a look at these beautiful apartments, because the neighborhood is so shitty. (And frankly, the landlady went for surface looks over actual refurbishings, and at heart she’s still a slumlord wondering why the hell her professional tenants complain so much.)
The allure of academia
Going back to school was an economic decision for me. Change or die, really. I’ve been suffering the breakdown and erosion of my livelihood for the past three years, bouncing around from job to job seeking desperately a situation where the compensation was sufficient to live off of. People look at my salary on paper and wonder how I could be making over $50,000 a year and still struggling to get by, but with one full unemployable dependent (going to school for undergrad on full scholarships to fix that), a debt load from hell, and rent and cost of living prices in Fairfield County, Connecticut that amount on paper doesn’t really translate into anything remotely resembling wealth or survivability.
Unfortunately, grad school is much more expensive than my undergrad education was. If I weren’t already seeing the benefits of this education on my job prospects I would have quit after the first semester, but there’s real value in the perceptions of the marketplace today with having a professional Master’s Degree. Unfortunately, the corporation I’m running away from screaming right now wanted to offer me…. $55,000/year. Yes, that’s right. The same salary ballpark as I’ve *been* making since 1995. Only with over $20K in educational bills to look forward to repaying.
Ummm…. no. Absofrigginlutely not.
This is part of the problem for me. I look around at the job market and wonder whether or not I’ll ever be more than a corporate serf. And when I actually dare to say something about it during salary negotiations or job interviews, *I* am the one with the problem, or so I’m told.
I’m coming pretty close to just giving up entirely on life and letting myself become a homeless person. Or else maybe commit some victimless crime in an attempt to crawl inside the penal system. Use the time inside to hone my criminal networking skills, earn some street cred, get in shape, and come out in a few years with the contacts and connections to begin handling cybercrime for the druglords. I mean, work smarter, not harder, right? Prison has become a vehicle for economic security and potential future career work for those intelligent enough and motivated enough to work the hustle and cultivate a rep for reliability and discretion.
Nah…. I don’t look that good in orange.
Hyperbole aside, it’s bad. Really bad. And getting worse.
I watched The Secret. Hell, I even own a copy. For a while, it was the only thing that helped me to cope with the massive depression that greeted me every morning. There comes a point when all the positive thinking in the world just rings like more hollow promises and unfulfilled opportunities. I loaned it out to a friend and haven’t seen the dvd since. Which is fine by me. The ‘gratitude rock’ I’ve been carrying around since watching it has become a talisman of futility for me, and now serves as a reminder to not be suckered by false hope, but instead insist on cash on the barrelhead.
The way out.
It’s a long shot climb, but I’m aiming high. I’m aiming to own property before I buy property, meaning a house before a headstone, if you catch my drift. I’m going to keep trying to take the project gigs I get as they come, keep going to school (although the gas prices it takes to commute up to Quinnipiac every time I need to get online will eventually kill me, I’m hoping the money comes in just enough to keep me afloat until the semester refunds restore online service at home). I’m going to press on with my education beyond QU. Next semester I will start taking Chinese classes, and try to continue those language studies into my PhD studies as well. Armed with a PhD an a rudimentary fluency in spoken Chinese, I will be in a prime position to either
- a) finally land that cushy senior management job I’ve seen other people flubbing,
- b) emigrate easily to a developing nation, leveraging my language skills and my advanced degree to land a government job as an attaché between said developing nation and China, who will be providing the economic assistance the US once did to developing nations, or
- c) manage to eke out a tenure track position in academia, earn tenure, and live a life of relative poverty but incredible job security.
A or B seem most likely. And if all else fails, there’s always:
- d) get a law degree and become a Big Law document reader because that’s the only position available and give myself a heart attack through overwork or else build up enough despair and despondency until suicide becomes, finally, an improvement on life, passing on my massive educational debt to my named next-of-kin, my old landlady. 😉
Well, it can’t be all bad. The sense of humor is still working. But I’ve got to figure out a way to get through these next couple of years, because otherwise, I’ll be making my homeless-assed way down to the steps of the capitol building and chaining myself to a pillar until something is done to fix the shit that Bush and Dick have left us with. If nothing else, it’ll earn me 15 minutes of fame, a headline, and a footnote in history.
What I don’t understand
What I don’t understand is… if things have gotten this tough for *me*… how the fuck has everyone else managed to get by? I was making a nice bit of cash before the economy made it less than the cost of living. What the hell is going on with the folks for whom $50K annually is nothing more than a pipe dream? Where’s the social revolt? The uprising? The call to arms and solidarity? Why aren’t we storming Sing-Sing like the French did the Bastille? No calls for the head of Laura Bush by the starving masses? How are -they- getting by? I mean, fuck… Connecticut is one of the richest states of the union, and if things are so goddamned miserable here…. wow. It just boggles the mind.
I’m scared, man. I’m scared for myself, and I’m scared for the world. Time is definitely running out. You can tell by the dashes. ‘—-‘ No time left. Just dashes.