So I’m still waiting to hear about that job, and I really hope that I get it. In the meantime, I’ve been imagining working life. It’s interesting to note the things that I’ve been thinking about… they haven’t been champagne wishes and caviar dreams.
I’ve been thinking mostly about food… about meat and spices and vinegars and fresh fruits and vegetables. The things that I can’t really afford right now. I’ve been thinking about cooking things that aren’t in essence a sort of leguminous gruel. I’ve been thinking about the healthy snacks that I used to enjoy, like pepper slices and plums, and edamame and walnuts and string cheese. I’ve been thinking about pastured eggs and good quality dairy and tomatillo salsa. I’ve been thinking about what it would feel like to go grocery shopping without having to worry too much about what I bought, and whether I had enough protein in my cart to last me to my next paycheck. I think about a pack of chicken thighs or a pound of kielbasa not being a “treat,” but being the normal sort of thing that I buy. I’ve been thinking about good white lard and breakfast sausage and pork braised for tacos.
I’ve been thinking about getting the cats back on their usual food, which I haven’t been able to afford since the main ingredient is ground turkey. Yes, I know that’s ridiculous. I would be feeding them kibble if Loki didn’t have diabetes.
I’ve been thinking about new clothes… not fancy clothes, but slacks to wear to the office that don’t have the hems fallen out, and blouses that aren’t two sizes too big. I’ve been thinking about the big packs of white cotton socks so that I can throw away all my socks that have holes worn in the heels. Even thinking about wearing new socks makes me happy. I’ve been thinking about buying cotton panties in the plastic packages at the grocery store. I’ve been thinking about owning more than two bras, and maybe getting a new set of sheets and some new towels. I think about being able to get my comforter dry cleaned.
I think about buying new hair clips. I think about getting a haircut. I think about being able to repay the friends that have helped me out, and being able to take myself to a meal out. I think about being able to restart my Netflix account or being able to buy myself a bottle of wine or a six pack of beer. I think about buying one of those packs of cheapo scented tea lights from Fred Meyer, or the fact that if I want a soda, I can buy myself a soda. I think about being able to do ALL of my laundry every week, without having to prioritize my laundry based on the number of quarters I have to put in the machine. I think about turning the heat up above fifty even if it’s only once in a while. I think about being able to go out with my friends without having to beg off, because when I get a job I would be able to afford to go out with them.
I was talking to my younger brother about all of this, and I said something that startled me after I had tapped it into the phone.
“I can be a normal person again.”
And I want to make clear at this point that I’m not even really poor. I have a place to live, a warm bed to sleep in, a video game console and a cell phone and a television and my laptop. I have food which, while boring and a lot of work, is of good quality and is nutritious. I still have my car, which is paid off and runs well despite the gas tank being pretty much always empty. Normal in this sense is really only relative; most people in the world don’t live in the luxury that I do. But to be able to do the things that I used to do, and to be able to take part in the things that my friends do, conjures such a feeling of relief in me that it frightens me. Because if I don’t get the job, which I am often convinced that I won’t, I have to relinquish all of that. After being unemployed or underemployed for three years, I do sometimes feel like my head is slipping under the water, and I anticipate that if I lose out on this job I will feel that feeling again, intensely. I will have to go on being cold and apologetic, embarrassed about the quality of my clothes, and the state of repair that they are in. I will be lonely, telling people that I can’t make it to parties or gatherings or meals out or even coffee dates. And despite the fact that I am really rather lucky to be as well off as I am, that feeling is hopeless and overwhelming.
And if that’s how I feel, how do people who are actually poor feel?