My Boot Straps Snapped
It’s 9am on a Sunday morning and I’m home, unable to go to sleep now. I picked up an overnight shift at work, and I should be in bed so I can have some semblance of productivity the rest of the day. Instead, the pile of kindle in my brain has caught fire again.
I struggle to find the words that won’t sound like I’m grasping for attention, or sound more like the whining I’ve done the past few months. After all, the hardships that have come my way lately are my own doing, as I’m a squishy believer of the idea of calling into existence the things you think about, and I haven’t been thinking great things. I know, I cringe at those Facebook posts too, the “I can’t catch a break, it’s always something…blah blah blah,” too.
I did it all right though. I did well in high school, I received a hefty scholarship, went to the expensive college, I did three tours overseas, I have chronic bronchitis and the VA still can’t direct me who to go to in order to get registered for the Burn Pit Registry, I paid off over half of my education loans, I got the responsible job that paid well, I bought the house, I paid my GD taxes. Then, when I wasn’t happy, I followed my dream. I took time off work to finish the book. I sent it into the world, I did signings, I did friggin’ bumper stickers. It did phenomenal by my standards. YouTube guru’s would applaud my efforts.
Then, I had to lasso my hopes from the clouds, and I had to rejoin the real world. My dream wasn’t big enough to pay for oil changes and groceries. So I got another real job, one I showed up to, but cared about, working with the developmentally delayed. I did well, I got promoted. In the meantime, I still tried to sprint after a dream I wasn’t sure I even wanted anymore. I put out a blog post here and there, and made an outline for the next book. I didn’t know if writing was what I was meant to do anymore. I dug in, I swore it was my thing. People wanted more, they said.
“When’s the next one coming out?” they’d ask.
“It’s coming,” I’d mumble, embarrassed that I couldn’t hack it out in silent agony for a few more years until I could make a living out of putting words down. If J.K. could do it, rejection after rejection, poor as poor could be, why couldn’t I? I know I complain a bit, but generally I think I’m pretty positive. A few years ago, when someone sideswiped my newly paid off car, I laughed. It wasn’t a normal reaction, but my friend who told me it happened, took me off to the side and insisted I brace myself for bad news. I was prepared to hear mom was in the hospital or someone had died. A broken mirror wasn’t bad at all, I was relieved.
But at some point, the barrage of “not so bad,” turns into… “what the actual fuck, not today Satan, this is getting old…if one more GD thing happens I’m really going to regret using the phrase GD so much and will have to start praying and apologizing for saying GD-it so much, and I don’t even believe in that sort of thing.”
This is how success is supposed to go though right?
We’re told we just need to work harder, pull ourselves up by our boot straps, and we’ll get the dream life. I don’t think I’m asking for too much, when my dream life consists of being able to shop at Kroger’s instead of Walmart for groceries, better produce ya’ll. I don’t want a boat, I just want a muffler that doesn’t sound like it belongs to a race car because it’s cracked, I just want a life that allows me the time to take my 13-year-old-car in to get fixed.
“Do it on Saturday’s,” someone might suggest…well, I work on Saturdays too.
So, what really gets my pygmy goat is, Joe Blow, screams out of his conservative corner, “Get a better job, if you want a better life, lazy ass!”
Ok Joe…a living wage in Indiana, the last I checked was $10.23 an hour. I made more than a DOLLAR LESS than that at my last position. This job consisted of taking care of living human beings, those who couldn’t quite take care of themselves. Those who, until not that long ago were put in dark rooms and mass facilities with very few caretakers, left to be sexually, physically, and mentally abused, left to rot in this world because no one thought their life was worthwhile because they were “disabled.”
I digress. This job I worked at, was partly paid for by a…brace yourself..a socialist program… called Medicaid…you know, that dirty sector of “handouts” you complain about all the time, Joe. You think it all goes to illegal immigrants, but are too lazy to look up the fact that illegal immigrants don’t qualify for such services.
My purpose wasn’t just to take care of them, though. My job was to document their life, document their goals in life, and to help them achieve those goals. It was to display to them that they were owed dignity and respect, simply because they were alive. That’s what we all deserve.
So, Joe, let’s go down your road. Let’s say I take your advice, and I get a better job, and then what? Who picks up the slack? Who do you want taking care of them, when the wage earned isn’t even a living wage? You have no problem electing officials to office who will cut those benefits that ensure my client’s care. Yet you cry out in anger when there’s an abuse story in the news, but you’re not there to champion them in the way it matters.
Joe, you scoff at the idea of raising the minimum wage. “Ain’t nobody flipping burgers gonna’ make $15 an hour on my watch!” Well, here’s the thing, fucking Joe, not all minimum wage workers flip burgers, and even if they were the only ones…you could finally stop complaining about them getting your order wrong, if just maybe, they made a living wage and gave two shits about that order. Minimum wage workers take care of our children, they take care of our elderly, they do the things you’re too good to do, Joe. And they deserve to live. If that’s an issue we have to debate, I got nothing, as I can’t debate empathy and a general sense of being a good person.
I worked overtime this weekend and I’ll get a whole $100 bucks extra for my efforts. Manfriend will make that in 2 hours in his overtime during the same time frame. My point being, I shoulda’ skipped college and learned a trade. They don’t tell you that when you’re growing up though. “GO TO COLLEGE,” is the rhetoric, when college tuition has gone up 150 some percent in the last 20 years. So, I’m tired. Tired of everyone calling the next generation lazy and worthless. Tired of trying to play catch up while still maintaining my sanity. I refuse to believe that I’m broken.
My boot straps are though.
I’m done measuring my life against others. My life is my own. I’m done listening to other people tell me I’m not where I want to be because I lack discipline or faith. I will continue to keep my nose to the grind, but I’ve got to make sure I pick it up sometimes. If my new position is where I’m supposed to be, some things will have to change. I am at a crossroad where it’s either the road I’m on, or I have to forge the path I need. It may all seem like nonsense. I know I’m not the only one though. I know I’m not the only one who wakes up, dreading the day. Fearful I won’t make it through the week, despite working so hard. I know I’m not the only one who has had the joy ripped from their bones due to this cruel world. I know it’s monotonous, I know how it feels to believe no one sees you. But I see you, I know you’re doing your best, so am I. Just a little longer, and you might find that acceptance, if not from someone else, you’ll find yourself to be enough. Please don’t stop. Your dream is so important that the world can’t do without it.
I may not know what my dream is anymore, but I know I have to have one to survive. Won’t you join me in figuring out what it is?