We have an existential problem in this country (and perhaps around the world). We are told, particularly here, that, at a very young age (18), we are responsible to choose a career that we will be ecstatic with for the remainder of our working life.
We are also told that at the end of that working life, that we will be able to have accrued enough savings to live comfortably and hopefully pass some financial abundance onto our children and family.
When we are 18, leaving high school, we are told that we must pick a career, train for said career, and “do the American Dream” thing. I know a lot of my millennial cohort will agree that the “Dream” is a hell of a lot of smoke up our ass.
There are no options. There is no “pursuing what sets your soul on fire” because you have to have a “real” career or you won’t be able to afford to exist. Sure, there are plenty of ways around it, if you are blessed with artistic talents you might be able to become famous, or at least subsistent (or better) locally. You might live near somewhere that employs something that interests you and happen to score an awesome job.
You might be able to bounce from decent paying job to decent paying job, or you happen to have connections and can get into a good union at a young age and are blessed with a stable career whether you love it or not. You might fall into a position, promote through the ranks and find yourself selling toilet paper for a fantastic income, but not feel fulfilled.
At the very base: you know that pursuing what fills your soul could cost you your health, home, everything – there is no universal healthcare, so goodness forbid you’ve got a medical condition that requires monitoring; you’re stuck!
But what if you’re like me. The only thing that I could ever firmly say that I was “great” at was retail, and let’s be honest: customer service is not my jam, mostly because I’m always one sentence away from telling Karen where to shove it. It is one job, that before kids, I could find pretty much anywhere with relative ease. Now, not so much. I’m overqualified, underqualified, been out of work too long, been in management too long, asking too much for pay, can’t hack the wild schedule and stability is too much to ask… The list goes on and on. Not to mention, after childcare expenses, I wouldn’t bring anything home.
The reality of the minimum wage debate is that it’s not just some dipshit 16-year-old who, in too many people’s estimation “doesn’t deserve” a “living wage” (aka the ability to save so they can do things like pay for school, find somewhere to live, have a vehicle etc???? Isn’t this the start of the college inflation debate too?? Isn’t this what the Boomers are always harping on “back in my day I paid for college working part time, bought my first house at 22 with pocket change and paid it off by the time I was 40??), it’s the person who has no “overwhelming discernible talent” that is a value in the “real” business world (the “stable income, health insurance, can afford food, can enjoy entertainment, able to buy a house” world).
It’s the person who still needs to have somewhere to live, probably currently lives where they cannot walk everywhere so they need a vehicle and our public transportation is woefully underdeveloped, the person who earns just enough that they don’t qualify for any kind of aid or health insurance, but also can barely or not-at-all afford it on their own.
Why does this person not deserve to be able to live? Why does this person deserve to be forced to pour their heart and soul into two, plus, jobs? Let’s face it; even the shittiest job DEMANDS that. You are required to live and breathe your job. Never having an ounce of free time, and when they do, it’s probably to sleep because they can’t afford entertainment? Do you realize the heavy toll of emotional acting that goes into those “shitty” jobs, draining every ounce of life out of you, when you have to smile at Karen, who is telling you how stupid you are because something is out of stock?
Maybe your argument is “it will make things cost more for the rest of us!!” Yeah, you know what, that really would suck! But you know what else? The same people who control the price of things are the same people who control how little people make. Did you stop for 2 seconds to realize that if Joe CEO paid his employees more, that this year, instead of earning $10 million, he might only earned $5 million, but his employees were happy, healthy, had more balance in their lives, that work quality would improve, morale in general would improve, and Joe CEO would just not be able to buy his extra yacht that year?
Why are WE responsible for absorbing this cost? When does the person responsible for abominable conditions absorb this cost? Why do our gas prices have to go up because the person being harassed behind the counter at the gas station would like to sleep with the heat on this month? Why are corporations not being held responsible?
If there was universal health care paid for via our taxes and fairly taxing corporations who have been allowed to skip out for years (fyi do NOT fight me on this, when about 80% of your annual taxes go to CORPORATE SUBSIDIES), imagine the relief that would bring to everyone. When Susan doesn’t have to forgo a potentially life-saving test or procedure because after paying for her insurance, she cannot afford to use it? I digress; this is an important part of making our country stable and fair for all, but not the immediate topic.
As a 20-year-old who was floundering in college, doing “the right thing,” taking all the “right” paths, and yet I did not graduate with a degree. I couldn’t move out on my own. When I couldn’t pay rent my mother demanded, I was kicked out with 2 weeks notice. I left school drowning in debt, and no closer to a degree than I was when I started. I worked full-time retail. It took me 3 years to double my income from $7.25 an hour to $13 an hour, but it required me working full time 3rd shift. I crumbled emotionally and mentally, and aside from the fact that I was wading in a ridiculous amount of debt, I couldn’t drag myself through school any longer. I lost $2 an hour to move on to a new position. When I worked at Wawa, I only earned $9 an hour until I got “promoted” and worked 3rd shift (again). I’m here to inform you, I was not just some bum working at a gas station. Stockperson, deli expert, Subway sandwich maker on steroids, cashier, organizational expert, janitor; I had never busted my ass like I did when I worked at Wawa, and you will *never* guess how I was treated… Like some stupid ass kid who can’t do better for themselves. It’s wild how these people are “essential” till you can start shitting on them again.
There is no part of my personal journey where I did not deserve to earn enough to survive, while I was able and willing to work 40 hours a week (although I was often cut off at 36 so they didn’t have to pay for me to have health insurance, yay ‘Murica). Point blank. If you can say to my face, and by proxy my child’s face, that we do not deserve to survive comfortably, I beg you to do so, so I can remove you from my life immediately.
Perhaps having a face and a human being that you know to go with a story will help you learn empathy. Not a single one of these people is asking to be able to buy their own yacht, working 40 hours a week at Burger King. They are asking to be able to afford spaghetti and the electric bill in the same month. They are asking to not die of eminently treatable conditions because their employer keeps them at 36 hours a week and doesn’t have to offer them company health insurance. They are asking for the ability to survive because the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation. The next time you want to trash someone who puts in their hours but is stuck earning minimum wage, I want you to remember me. It’s clear to me that “putting yourself in their shoes” is not enough to convince you that people who work just as long and hard as you, have less free time than you, and cannot afford a fraction of the things you do, deserve to have basic necessities. So just remember me, working nearly 40 hours a week, on third shift, earning $13 an hour before taxes, going to school full time, and realizing that no matter what I did, I was on a treadmill to no where. I couldn’t save. I wasn’t going to have a useable degree, if and when I ever graduated. At $13 an hour, I had no chance of living on my own. And this was all before I got married and had a child. It was not enough to survive on, a decade ago.
If you are so angry that people are getting breadcrumbs, I implore you to redirect that shit to the people who control the breadcrumbs. They are the ones who deserve your ire.
– Hoping this finds you warm, well, & safe. Much Love & Light ~ Jess