a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

99% or Just Plain Poor?

Posted on: February 15, 2012

“I decided long ago/never to walk in anyone’s shadow/If I fail/If I succeed/At least I’ll live as I believe/No matter what they take from me/They can’t take away my dignity.”

Whitney Houston, “The Greatest Love of All”

Back in October I wrote a piece for Jewcy on why I support the Occupy Movement.  Here’s a little snippet:

“When I lost my job I had to take an inventory of my meager savings and reached out to family for help.  I’m on a payment plan with Con Edison that I can’t actually make payments toward.  My T-mobile bill is so passed due that I’ve been without phone service for over two weeks.  Which means that if you want to get a hold of me, or if I needed to call for help I cannot.  I cracked my tooth in July and it’s starting to hurt.  Without insurance I’m not sure when I’ll see a dentist.  In both September and October I paid my rent 15 days late-and every time I come home I hope that the lights will be on, that I can cook another meal of beans and rice on my gas stove.  My story is not unique.  You can read the rest here.

I’d like to get all Dan Savage and have a nice, happy ending for this story, but unfortunately it hasn’t gotten any better-It’s gotten much much worse and I’m trying to figure out how to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Or to see the silver lining.  Or to look on the bright side.  Or to trust that Gd will make it better.  Or to stay positive and keep on keepin’ on.  Or to know that all of the hard work I’m doing will pay off in the end.

What I really want to do is to  have a monster “welfare martini”* and say fuck it all.  I’m literally to that point where not only do I come home at night and wonder if my lights will be off, but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop-literally.  I portion out my food like my grandparents did during the Depression and I look around and wonder what I did to get here.  Should I have continued working retail where I felt like my soul was turning to mush but I brought home a decent and reliable paycheck.  Is it all that important to me to do non-profit work?

I realized, when I got all of my tax returns and the Unemployment statement at the end of the year, that I made $25,000 less than I did in 2010.  Is this the 1%’s fault?  Should I blame them for being almost completely destitute?

Am I whining?  To be sure, there are people who are fall worse for wear than me.  People with mouths to feed, I only need to feed myself and my cat (who eats better than me).  Is it the government’s fault?  Should I blame the President that I’ve been without healthcare for almost 9 months, that because of the amount of money I made before I got fired that I don’t qualify for Unemployment on top of SNAP benefits.  Not to mention the fact that just because I’m barely making enough money to cover my $1000 rent doesn’t mean I’m not required to continue to make payments on my student loans.  What do people do in this situation?  How do we live in the world’s richest country and there are so many people suffering?

Then I remember that my suffering isn’t real suffering in comparison to a mother with children to feed down the street.  It’s nothing compared to people with no access a warm bed at night.  It’s nothing compared to people beyond our national borders who know what it’s like to be so food insecure that they don’t know where their next meal comes from.  I’ve got mason jars filled with rice, quinoa, dried beans and spices to make it all taste edible…but really, what am I doing this all for?

To throw in the towel on the non-profit dream and re-enter corporate America or to stick it out and hope something else happens?

 

*Amy Sedaris as Carrie Bradshaw’s editor in SATC Season 6 Part One

4 Responses to "99% or Just Plain Poor?"

I love that you acknowledge the privilege you’ve got, but make no mistake you’ve got it rough too. Just because someone else is in a hard position doesn’t invalidate that you are too.

I don’t think it’s “blaming” our government or “whining” to point out that smart, dedicated, hard working people can’t find a job to make ends meet. We WANT to work and we want to do it in a way that adds value to our community. The fact that people who want to do that can’t is a symptom of a broken system.

I wish I could tell you to stick it out and that things will be ok, but I don’t know if that’s true. What I can tell you is that your writing is powerful, your perspective is important, and that if you’re ever in the L.A. area and want to come over and eat a fellow convert’s rice and beans for a change you’re invited :-)

Thanks so much, Sarah! I’m planning a West Coast Trip in the summer with my lady and will be taking you up on that rice and beans offer!

I’m definitely weighing my options right now, I’m trying to stay confident that something will work out. It’s just incredibly hard to see the silver lining.

You had better come to San Francisco. That is an order.

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