This is something I try not to talk about too much, because really when I step back and look at my weird little life, I have very little to complain about. It’s a weight on my back tonight, though.
Things have been difficult. I’m working two jobs, and for several nights this week I’ve been coming home from my first job and working like crazy at my second job, before falling into bed for four or five hours of sleep.
Normally this wouldn’t be a problem… I’ve worked multiple jobs before. In this case, though, I have creative obligations, and honestly, I have a creative wish list… things that I want to do regardless of the level of obligation involved, and I’m working so much that I don’t have a lot of time to do those things.
With the weekend approaching, I had the opportunity to take tonight off and just do things I wanted to do… work on things, write, play video games, or just get drunk and watch Food Network. So I got home from work feeling pretty excited about it, and sat down and looked around myself.
I have a dozen unfinished drawings that have to be done by the end of the month. The house is an absolute disaster and needs to be cleaned up. The madness and clutter of my second job surrounds the coffee table, leaving the living room only somewhat navigable. I mean, I’ve only written here once since I finished the Salton Sea posts. And the Salton Sea essays themselves, although sound after a first revision, could’ve used more work… I feel shame about changes that I could’ve or should’ve made, but I had to do work that would pay some money. My financial situation is not such that I can afford to turn work away. I need new gloves. I have the perfect yarn to knit some from, and I could knock a pair out in about a week, but I don’t have the time. I have a list of victims/honorees for my letter writing project, but again, I don’t have the time to put into that right now.
People insist that if you have something that you love and work really hard at it, then success will come. Well, when you’re working two jobs just to barely stay in your shitty apartment, you don’t have time to work at anything that you love.
Which brings me to the point of this post; that art thrives in a state of sufficiency, stagnates in a state of excess, and withers in a state of poverty.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not doing too badly. I haven’t had to move into my car. I have heat and light and a bed. My apartment is shabby but spacious. I am not lacking for food, just the time to cook it. This is certainly not the poorest I’ve ever been. I remember before I was kicked out of my apartment in Seattle, I called my father and confessed that I hadn’t eaten in three days. He immediately wired me money. So this time, I’m doing okay, and I do feel a little self-conscious about how privileged of a place this post is coming from.
The point is that when you have to work so much just to get by, you don’t have the opportunity for thoughtful things, for creative things, to serve the god in your head. And that situation is dehumanizing. Because those things are the things that make us people, and not being able to do them turns us into machines.
And the fucked up thing is, there are so many people in this world and in this nation that have it so very much worse than I do.
Poverty is not just bad because people sometimes are homeless or sometimes go hungry. Those are bad things, absolutely. But when people are stripped of their essential humanity, they become desperate. They sometimes become a danger to themselves, and sometimes to others. They turn to substance abuse, anything, really, to inject some illusion of meaning into their lives.
Now, I’m not a socialist. I love capitalism. I love that my friends can start businesses and make money selling a product or service. I love that people can do things that they love, and do them well, and make a living from it. But there is no rational reason why a hardworking, capable young woman such as myself shouldn’t be able to support just herself when working full time. If I just had one full time job, I could make time for all of the other stuff. But I have to work so much because I’m a temp and thus poorly paid with no benefits. As it stands, my nine-to-five gig is going away at the end of the month regardless.
They say that the economy is recovering. As far as I can tell, and bear in mind that I’m an idiot, it only seems to be improving for the corporations who are taking advantage of a flooded labor market and stagnating wages, and the wealthy people who invest in those companies. For the rest of us, the ones driving the economy, things aren’t improving like they should be. And there will be consequences. When we can’t buy things, the economy will stall and slow.
And as people are forced into dehumanizing lives more and more, social dysfunction will increase.