I just quickly read the Unemployed article over on Gawker, and it got me thinking. Also, PSA: I'll be up front... there's no real conclusion to this.
I also just got back from a (very good) meeting at a local hotel that I'm working on re-branding. The local hotel, actually. For those who don't know — probably everyone — I'm a freelance Art Director, Designer, and Marketer. I'm also a student, in the final legs of trying to finish up my MFA Graphic Design thesis. I am a busy bitch, and even though sometimes times are tough because I don't have time to sleep, mostly I live an awesome life.
I get paid between $100/hour to work in my pajamas, and yeah, I am incredibly thankful. To luck, to God, to the giant spaghetti monster. I know it could turn around any day. Which is, in a nutshell, why that unemployment article made my blood run cold.
What's the difference between success and failure? It's not as simple as being "better," though that certainly helps. It's a mixed bag of interpersonal connections, timing, and tenacity. It's education, plus natural skill, with a dash of bravado. It is believing the next job is around the corner so you're not paralyzed by fear. It is nothing that sets you apart from anyone else, not really. It's certainly not, and never is, about what's fair and deserved.
I've terrified The Monarch more than once by taking big chances — quitting my "normal" job, spending outrageous sums on work equipment I only occasionally use, going to grad school and taking out monster loans to do so. I don't think he's entirely aware I've also terrified myself. I don't dwell on it, as a rule, but the fear is there... deep in my gut (it expands and contracts like a heartbeat every time I get mail from Nelnet). I'm relatively young, ambitious, and so far... successful. But I know I could just as easily by the Art Director in the Gawker article, despairing an inability to be hired as a minimum wage worker.
I know what being poor is. Really, I do. Not "broke," either — I know there's a difference — poor. When you think you'll never not be poor. I remember my parents had everything — barely, I was just a bay — then they had nothing. Well, not quite nothing, there were food stamps. But close.
After years of toiling desperately and not being able to afford housing and having to move into progressively shitty situations, they got lucky. They got lucky and were able to rejoin the middle class. That lasted a couple years, and then everything went under again. I remember my brother calling me and saying, with gallows humor, "It's just like camping, but in the house," because they had no heat, or light, or water, or food not in a can.
I got away because I went to college, but neither of my siblings did. One of them didn't finish high school. They're okay now, but that's luck too.
So I guess, what I'm talking about, is an understanding that the floor could give way any time. And I don't know how people live without this understanding, that they're so fucking fortunate to be where they are. It's not about working hard, though I do work hard. It's just what it is. Some of us make it, but only until we don't.