Those Emotional Hurricanes

Today was a little crazy.  We had some work drama in the morning that concerned me but wasn’t directed at me and then in the afternoon, we learned how close we all came to not getting paid in September, and then got a semi-reassuring email about how our workplace was going to stay afloat, hopefully with all of us above water.

That afternoon drama made me want to go to the purveryors of the morning drama and ask them… I don’t know exactly.  The two aren’t related.  But they’re related for me because the happened on the same day to and around me.

The Butcher is at a job interview as we speak.

I thought that we could make it just fine on my income, so I was not stressed about him not having a job.  And we can make it on my income, assuming that my income continues to, you know, come in.  But we, like most people, have no cushion.  I have $75 dollars in a savings account.

Everyone I talked to this afternoon is in the same boat.  People who have good jobs but just haven’t been able to get it together as quickly or as easily as they thought they would.  People who expected to be able to retire next year who now aren’t sure if they’ll be able to retire at all.  And none of us trust that the people who are guiding the boat, so to speak, really get the fear we have.

Maybe it’s not fair, but it’s hard for me to believe that, if you’re pulling down what our congresspeople are pulling down, that you get how those of us who maybe even still have jobs, feel like we’re riding the edge of disaster.

I don’t know.  I just know that I’m scared.  I’m scared for the Butcher, whose gone out every day for three months looking for a job and this is his first interview.  I’m scared for me, should I have to find something else.  I’m scared for the people who are struggling to find something else.

23 thoughts on “Those Emotional Hurricanes

  1. It’s scary, too, how long we’ve been living like this, how long it’s been coming to this. I and too many of the people I know have jobs that, when our parents had them, supported a family of four in some degree of security, if not comfort. But for us those same jobs force those of us who are single to decide between paying off our student loans (that we had to take out to get the degrees we needed to get the jobs) or saving for the future. Not both. And no luxuries. And some of us are losing even THOSE crummy jobs. Something’s been wrong for a long, long time.

  2. I’m glad you touched on this. I had this headachey conversation via email this morning, with someone I regularly speak with – the person works in a bank – mind you, not a bank that got a bailout & not a bank that participated very little in the subprime mortgage debacle.

    A little history – as most of you, but all might not know – I’m a freelance graphic designer. I’ve been living lean for years. Not becase I’ve always had to, but because I live in fear of the phone not ringing and email not coming in and work just stopping. I guess that’s just how I’m wired.

    Anyway, the friend sent an email this morning, lamenting the fact that there is a rumour floating around her jobsite that the employees are only getting a 1% bonus this year – and they are only going to get a 2% rather than 3% raise. She went as far as to call her workplace “cheap” – note: all of this went over her company email.

    I wrote back and told her that any person that is getting a raise or a bonus PERIOD in this economy, should be thankful – especially considering the huge layoffs that have been announced this week – 60,000 jobs on Monday and Boeing is laying of 10,000 people, it announced today. I honestly was nothing short of appalled.

    This week, I secured a part time job – not that I am broke, but I see which way the winds are blowing. Call me paranoid, but I like to eat and sleep in a warm house. I don’t have any shame in working a part time job and am very thankful that one was there for me to take. VERY thankful.

    She retorted, angrily, that her cost of living had risen and that raise/bonus was not going to help fully and that I could call her ungrateful but I chose my career path and it was my fault because of the situation I am in. My favorite part of the email was when she called my job “fluff.”

    So, am I a bitch for telling someone who has a good job to be thankful? I don’t think so – I could be wrong. I feel like I’m living in reality. Of course, this is a person calling me out that has yet to cancel a $200 cable subscription while pissing and moaning over not getting what she feels entitled to.

    If this is how someone in a bank feels about the rest of us having what they perceive as “fluff” jobs, I shudder to think how those fat cats in Washington think of us.

  3. J.S., I agree. I remember the point in my late 20s when I realized I was making more than my dad made when I left home to go to college. Now, my mom also worked, but often she wasn’t a full-time teacher, just a sub. So, often, he was the main provider for a family of five on less than what I’m making now.

    Granted, as a minister, he didn’t have a house payment. But I still wonder at how they did it when I’m feeling like I’m skating on thin ice (which, thankfully, is thicker than it was).

    I look back and I think about all the things I could have done differently–but the truth is that I’ve always kind of only had that one opportunity. I went to the college I went to because my parents had no money to send me to school and IWU was the least expensive for them out of pocket. I ended up with a bunch of student loans, but I’m not sure how I would have gone to college otherwise.

    Or I could have said, “Fuck you” to the job I had when I got here, where they said I’d be making $24,000 a year, but when I got here and it was in writing, it was $18,000, but I was out of money. I couldn’t move home again; I couldn’t afford it. And I couldn’t afford any longer to be out of work.

    And so on and so on. I mean, yeah, Beth, maybe we do have “fluff” jobs, but what are you going to do? I made (and I’m sure you did) the best choices I could to utilize the talents I had and to make money off of them.

    Sure, it would have been nice if I’d been born shrewder or a computer genius, but I wasn’t so…

    Yeah, I do feel like something’s been not right for a long time, but since it’s been borne on the backs of people who didn’t know if or how to articulate it, it’s been unnoticed.

  4. I’m a SAHM, who has half a college degree and no “real” job skills (this is neither the time nor place to bitch about how much of my daily work SHOULD translate to the coporate world but doesn’t, because I don’t get paid for keeping a budget, running 5 schedules and spending days teaching, counselling and feeding three children…). And there’s all the free-lance writing is used to do (and hope to work back in now that I sometimes find a whole 15 minutes to myself). My husband has a great job. Well, sucky benefits, but a good salary. And it seems secure, but there are a lot of people who “seemed” secure that don’t have work! So we keep trying to put back money for “just in case,” but costs keep going up, and, no matter what I shave, the grocery bill doesn’t drop. And something on the house breaks. And I needed thousands of dollars of dental work and new glasses last fall.

    My baby is big enough for me to go back to school, again, but when I applied for student loans, there just wasn’t anything out there to loan! And, say I did finish my degree, there is just no guarantee that there’d be a job to take to pay off those loans!

    I was on the phone with my mother, nearly in hysterics, worrying about how close to the edge we live, and how there’s nearly nothing I can do, on my own, to protect my kids and myself, and there was nothing from her. SHE never made as much pesimst does, so what’s there for me to worry about? It’s not just “law-makers” who don’t get it. It’s a whole generation that didn’t face a world with an economy collapsing that’s clueless!

    And, for those of us who’ve chosen alternate-seeming career routes, there’s even less understanding. On our local PBS news the other night, I heard someone say “what’s $50 million to the National Arts Endowment going to do to create jobs?” I nearly puked. So those of us who make a living on artistic talents shouldn’t? We don’t deserve security, because a lot of us don’t have to wear suits to work?

    The crisis isn’t just in the economy, it’s in the mindest of the people with the power to make or break the economy…

  5. Pixie, I agree. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the generational facet since reading this, because the other thing I’ve been thinking (and I don’t know how old you are, so maybe this doesn’t apply to you) is that, for myself, being a Gen Xer, for as long as I’ve had a sense of myself as part of a demographic, that demographic has always been told “There’s not enough for you.” First the baby boomers had everything and then their kids had everything, but even when we were in college, we were shaped to not expect jobs, to not expect to live as well as our parents, etc.

    I think part of the reason I feel so anxious is that, after hearing all my life that there’s not enough for me, I’m afraid they’re going to start getting really serious about that shit, that we Gen Xers are expendable.

    I also have to say that the way I’ve been feeling lately gives me a lot of sympathy for men who are the sole earners for their families. It’s terrifying to know that everyone in the house eats because you work.

  6. I don’t know why everybody thinks boomers have everything. Many of us have almost nothing, because we went into emotionally or socially rewarding work instead of going for the big bucks. But we’ve been able to put a little towards retirement, only to see it get wiped out in the market. We get laid off a lot, since we have higher salaries than younger folks, but it’s hard to find new jobs when that happens since all the HR managers these days won’t hire us because they don’t want to hire people who are old enough to be their parents. I don’t know who fed Gen Xers the line that they couldn’t have anything because I had it all, but it wasn’t true.

  7. On our local PBS news the other night, I heard someone say “what’s $50 million to the National Arts Endowment going to do to create jobs?” I nearly puked. So those of us who make a living on artistic talents shouldn’t? We don’t deserve security, because a lot of us don’t have to wear suits to work?

    Pixie hits on the thing I’m dancing around – it’s almost as if people who wear the suits resent those of us who don’t – i.e. the people who hate their jobs resent those of us who don’t.

    And there is a tradeoff – it seems to me that the people who are content to spend their lives doing something that make them completely miserable on a daily basis get rewarded greatly – and that’s fine. I’m totally content to live with less stuff* as my greatest rewards are not monetary – there is a lot to be said for self-fulfillment on a daily basis. But don’t belittle my job or my worth because I enjoy what I do. And don’t expect me to do it for free or for piss poor compensation.

    * I have zero interest in keeping up with the Jones’.

  8. I’ve felt for awhile that there’s a very judgmental attitude out there that any of us who have the skills to take a high paying job should have done it. If, instead, we chose to do something lower paying and service oriented it’s our own damn fault and we shouldn’t bitch about just holding on by our fingernails.

    But this petty, mean attitude assumes that a society made up only of investment bankers, engineers, and high speed lawyers can function. It can’t. We need elementary school teachers and librarians and retail managers and social workers. And, yes, artists.

    It feels to me like the mean pettiness comes from an “every man for himself” attitude, instead of recognizing that as much as you might wish it weren’t so, we’re all in this together. If enough of us fall down we’re all falling down.

  9. W, that’s what fostering huge wealth inequality that pinches the expectant rising educated middle class will do for a country.

  10. What’s old fashioned about it? It’s been going on for the past 30 years. The only thing that’s changed recently is that the folks who have been losing are starting to think about fighting back.

  11. The whole ‘us poor folk versus them nasty suit wearing rich folk’ vibe developing in here just makes my head hurt. Telling yourself it’s someone elses fault you aren’t doing as well as you would like is a traditional human pastime. Enjoy it.

  12. First, few people here are saying anything about “nasty suit wearing rich folk” other than that we’re tired of them saying that we should have been like them, so I think what you’re interpreting as an opening shot, most folks here are seeing as return fire.

    Second, who here is blaming the rich folks for us not doing as well as we like? We’re merely saying, I think, that we wish they understood we were in their boat, too. Should we never make noise or do anything so that they recognize that we are here for fear of upsetting them?

    That doesn’t cut it for me.

  13. I think we’re also saying that something has changed, fundamentally, in the nature of the medium-range-kinda jobs that I and my friends hold, such that they no longer provide the modicum of security they did when our parents held those jobs thirty or forty years ago. And those who are paid much better than us are removed enough not to see that something’s gone hinky with the whole system.

  14. I mean, really. I have more education than my father does, and hold essentially the same job he did. He supported a stay at home wife and two kids. I, with spending habits pared to the bone, can’t afford a cat.

  15. I suggest that the stay-at-home wives that everyone assumes husbands “support” are simultaneously supporting them. Just because you don’t get a wage doesn’t mean that your work doesn’t have economic value. Historians like Jeanne Boydston would argue that much of what at-home women did (do) has economic value and that their work at home allowed (allows) their husbands to work for lower wages and yet still live comfortably. It makes perfect sense that without that supplementary work (of making meals, of mending clothes, of saving money on little things here and there), a contemporary worker earning what amounts to a lower wage (with less purchasing power) would struggle.

  16. We’re all artists of some sort or another, so I doubt many of us are armed. It won’t be much of a war, I’m afraid.

    I own a gun. And am a card carrying member of the NRA ;-)

  17. Bridgett, thank you for that validation :) LOL

    I have commented to people who ask when I’m “going back to work” that I can’t afford to work. Child-care and clothes and meals on the go and gas and doctor’s bills for a baby around every germ out there and so on and so forth, I’d have to make more than I *can* to make it worth my time.

    My biggest fear is “what would we do if something happened to pesimst’s job?” The job market here hasn’t taken the hit that a lot of places have, but most of my friends have watched lay-offs at their jobs. They’re still hanging on, but for how much longer? And none of us have a cushion.

    It’s just all gone wonky…

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