In one week, I will have been jobless for two months. In August, I will have to start paying off my Sallie Mae loan; my current HESAA loan payment per month is $220, and my Sallie Mae loan payment per month will be $330, bringing my total loan payments per month, beginning in August, to $550. In one week, I will have been jobless for two months.
This is difficult for me. I am registered with three different temp agencies, and I am not getting asked to work as a temp. I spend my evenings looking for and applying for jobs; in a good week, I’ll apply for about 40 jobs. I am struggling, and people tell me something will come along, something will come along, but nothing is coming along; I’m looking like my job is looking, and there is nothing, and I don’t have the luxury of sitting here and waiting for something to come along.
And working retail again would kill me. After quitting my job at Goodwill because of the poor management, working retail again would kill me. Working at Goodwill, I earned $350 every two weeks, if I worked 40 hours every week and didn’t miss one day of work. That’s $700 every month. I was earning $8.50 per hour, after New Jersey increased the minimum wage, and before New Jersey increased the minimum wage, I was earning $8.00 per hour. Can I live on $700 per month? That’s $8,400 per year. Taxes and everything out of the equation, can I live on $8,400 per year? After paying $550 per month to HESAA and to Sallie Mae, I’m left with $150, and can I live on that? Can I afford food, gas, housing? Insurance? Credit card bills? I can’t. I really, really can’t.
I keep dreaming about saving my money and moving out of my parents’ house, affording a rent payment, going on vacation, getting a new tattoo, not living paycheck to paycheck, paying off my loans. I am terrified. And when people tell me, “you’re not looking hard enough, you’re not trying hard enough,” I have nothing to say. There is nothing to say. I nod my head and my mouth bleeds a little.
Lately I’ve been a mess of feelings. I cried watching Saving Mr. Banks yesterday, during all of the moments where crying was not the natural human response, and during all of the moments where crying was the natural human response. I essentially cried during a good fraction of Saving Mr. Banks; I cried a lot, and I don’t normally cry a lot. How silly of me, welling up, watching Miss Travers sitting on the grass, remembering dropped pears, spilling tea from a paper cup into a handcrafted lake from the grass, crafting a remembered home in the Australia country with sticks, leaves, hands. I’ve been seeing my feelings differently lately. Where I’d normally answer something affecting with mettle, I’ve been answering with gloom and oppression. And I’ve been crying. I feel like I’m beginning to allow all of the depressing little somethings to pull me lower and lower. I don’t like this feeling.
Last Saturday, I went to the Englishtown Flea Market with my cousin, and during the drive there, I addressed my issues - my issues with my friendships, with my relationships - and after stressing a totally and egregiously disappointing experience, I welled up. I was disappointed, and my cousin was seething, and I understand how she was affected by my experience and how she was apt to collectedly tell me what I needed to hear: if it hurts you, you let it go.
you’re almost home, I’ve been waiting for you to come in. dancing around in your old suits, going crazy in your room again. I think I’ll go out and embarrass myself, by getting drunk and falling down in the street. you say I choose sadness, that it never once has chosen me. maybe you’re right.
There’s writing on the building where I work – black graffiti, in the poorest handwriting I’ve ever seen. One message reads, “How can an angel break my heart?” and one message reads, “The universe is wider than our views of it.” How can an angel break my heart? The universe is wider than our views of it. It feels a little worrying – stopping and reading the graffiti scribbled on the gritty building, before the sun carries day across the wall. There’s a melancholy there. I don’t know how an angel can break a heart. I don’t know how wide the universe really is. I don’t have answers for these questions. And this reality – this reality of not knowing and of not having answers – hooked me for a moment. I am currently in the middle – I am currently in the middle of taking a step forward and taking a step backward – frozen, like something tipped the hourglass of my universe, and the sand is still.
I use the word “still” commonly in my poetry. The concept of stillness is affecting and depressing and haunting to me – haunting in a way that makes me feel like a glass full of water that slipped out of a hand – that moment of stillness before the glass shatters and the water swells across the floor, like a flood marrying a tessellation of crystal. You can see it happening. And you can’t stop it from happening. That moment happens, and it’s seen, and you see everything. And I feel like my universe is a glass full of water, slipping out of my hand. And I see it.
Down the street from the building where I work, there’s a building with the same, black graffiti, in the same, poorest handwriting I’ve ever seen. The message reads, “There’s hope but not for us.”
No job. No money. Currently. I got my diploma in the mail three days ago. I was feeling like crying but for a different reason, for a reason that was not happiness or fulfillment or…
I am the first person in my immediate family to attend and graduate from college. I have a degree. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and Art History. And I have a debt to pay, too; I am $50,000 in debt. I am not indebted to the school I graduated from, and maybe I’m not seeing the bigger picture, or maybe the bigger picture is the year 2029, when I will be 39 years old and hopefully debt free. Being in debt. Being indebted. I guess what I was feeling three days ago was crippled by the reality of life, by the reality of not knowing how to pay my bills and by the reality of not knowing how to support myself with a job at Goodwill, by the reality of not knowing how to be autonomous when I can’t afford to not sleep in my bedroom at my parents’ home. I need room to bloom. I need to be rooted in a different pot.
I’ve been applying to jobs all weekend. It’s especially difficult for me to see myself working a full-time, traditional, 9 to 5 job; I’ve always imagined myself working a non-traditional job with erratic hours and with really, really cool people in a cool office (but not really office) setting with floor-to-ceiling windows (and everything) in New York City, and I’ve essentially imagined myself working a job that crosses art and writing and social media and is, in essence, a creative and professional career. And I’m dragging my feet across the Internet looking for that creative and professional career, for that one open door or keyhole opening to pass through, for that one opportunity. But I’m struggling.
But I’m trying, too. And I don’t feel like the people closest to me really understand the gravity of this feeling I have. Unfulfillment. Fuck.
Yesterday, over half-full espresso, one of my best friends announced that she’s moving into a stunning new apartment in Bushwick, and I was so, so thrilled. And I suddenly apprehended how still I was - how still I am - how I’m not moving at all. I’m not moving.
I took the bus home that evening. I was sitting next to a passed out man, sleeping off his St. Patrick’s Day high, a green, glittering four-leaf clover wreathing his neck like Christmas. And maybe he was my good luck. I was reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, and I completed Chapter 6, a chapter principally about Plato’s Phaedrus, before arriving at my stop.
But if this were all there were to him, analytic skill, I would be more than willing to shut up about him. What makes it important not to shut up about him was that he used this skill in such a bizarre and yet meaningful way. No one ever saw this, I don’t think he even saw it himself, and it may be an illusion of my own, but the knife he used was less that of an assassin than that of a poor surgeon. Perhaps there is no difference. But he saw a sick and ailing thing happening and he started cutting deep, deeper and deeper to get at the root of it. He was after something. That is important. He was after something and he used the knife because that was the only tool he had. But he took on so much and went so far in the end his real victim was himself.