I don’ t even know where to begin posting this, so I guess I’ll start here.
Life on this side of the world can get tough. Really tough. America is still in a national recession. There aren’t enough jobs and there isn’t enough money. And yet, prices do not change to reflect this. Inflation makes everything go up, up, up.
Most of us young, inexperienced, underqualified workers end up in minimum wage jobs that have no upward mobility. We work for corporations that don’t care. If we can even get jobs. More and more I’m watching places like McDonald’s hire someone older who’s way overqualified for the job because they can’t find any work either.
Minimum wage is not a living wage. It doesn’t give us nearly enough to stay above the poverty line. We don’t get paid enough to live, and most of us start out in the red every paycheck we get anyway. It’s why some people buy the things they can’t really afford anyway. If I’m already in debt, I may as well be happy being there. That’s the mentality anyway.
So those of us in those deep, dark waters struggle. And some of us fail. I’ve been having a rough going of things myself recently. This time last year, I was on-time and up-to-date with all of my payments for everything, with a little money to spare for books or other small, guilty pleasures I wanted.
This year, it was more than just not being able to afford Christmas. Or my sister’s 21st birthday (though I did get up enough to get a round of drinks for her and I.) This year, I had a few major upheavals and when you’re already exhausted from treading water your whole life, upheavals can sink your ship.
In May, my little sister moved out of living with me and started living with her boyfriend. Our lease agreement was up so she paid up everything through May and left. So all the reliable payments to the apartment I was living in went right out the window. I couldn’t blame her. She basically lived there and why pay rent at two different places? So I was stuck with a house I couldn’t afford.
I got a recommendation for a roommate from a friend I trusted. Almost immediately after he moves in, he loses his job for stealing from them and I never see a penny of the amount that was owed to me while he lived there. He only lived there a month and still owes me $600 for the whole of June that he lived there. I agreed to find a new apartment with two other friends through my current landlord (see if he had any bigger spots) and moved in with them. While it took me a full fumbling month full of car rides to get moved in, I did it and rent was all taken care of.
I transferred over all the utilities, because at the old apartment they were in my name anyway. I re-instated the payment plan with the electric company and started making new payments to the gas company. Then in November, I lost my job of 5 years and with it all the benefits that come from working for a place for 5 years, including an hourly pay rate of $8.50. When minimum wage is $7.25 and you’re making over a dollar more than that, at full time that money can go to a lot of places.
I got a new job soon at a Subway where one of my best friends works. The commute is long, but it’s a job and I needed one desperately. So I took that dollar plus cut in pay. It makes a difference. I had already defaulted on rent for December because I was unemployed and had no money left in my bank account. The bills had all backed up from November and December because, again, I was unemployed and had no money coming into my possession.
I was sinking, drowning if you will and honestly refused to see it. When I started working, I began trying to pay stuff off one thing at a time, little by little. First was my phone and birth control. Its the only phone I have so I immediately paid (I keep wanting to spell it “payed” LOL) the $60 to keep it going. My pill is still riding on the health insurance I had from my former employer, so I’m eeking that out for as long as I can to keep my pill at $30/month instead of $72.
But after that, I became concerned about my rent. I was looking at being $550 behind, so all my spare money (aside from the $40-$60 I keep in my bank account per week for various unseen things) was going towards that. I didn’t want my landlord to start complaining again because, for some reason, he complains to the boys instead of calling me directly. And while I was unemployed, I didn’t ask for any utility payments because I couldn’t hold up my part of them and didn’t want them shouldering it all and me being in their debt as well.
I’ve gotten the rent somewhat down, and I thought I was starting to come up when I got a nasty little welcome home surprise. The gas company’s little 72-hours till shut-off tag. And a very upset (rightfully so) roommate. So I took a look at what I need to do (which I was very, very scared to do.)
Somehow, now I’m pissed even more at them. This time last year, about the same time had passed between payment (I got behind because of the holidays) and I had more to pay them and never got that notice. The bill is only for $162! Once I got started, it got a bit easier, but it got me thinking of how we’re all really just treading water at best and near-drowning at worst, if not already completely sunk like the Titanic.
Of the bills I really should pay, I still have about $300 of rent left. I have the gas bill and a good chunk of the electric I can pay (with the boys’ help.) But, since the holidays have passed, the store where I work is slow. I’m only getting 2-3 shifts a week now, instead of 5. That’s a pithy paycheck, lemme tell ya. My manager wants me to help out at the other stores, which I’m all for but I’m still now considering getting a second job just to be able to afford a place to live.
This is wrong on so many levels. And all over we keep hearing about how we need to improve our lives and eat better and exercise more and and and… I can’t afford to eat period, much less eat stuff that costs more than a couple dollars a piece. You want us to live better, but make the stuff to do it way more expensive than the stuff that’s bad for us. Scream your health crap all you want, but we are po’. (A term for being so poor, you can’t afford the “or” at the end of the word.)
And there’s not a lot of help out there. The stuff that is out there is being threatened by our own government. They don’t want to put money into social security or food stamps or welfare. That’s for lazy people. Bullshit! It’s for those you’ve made unable to live any other way!
I’m drowning and I feel like crying and curling up in a ball and letting the world move on without me. And there’s not a lot of places I can turn to. What can you do when the whole world seems focused on keeping you without everything that you need to live?