In my first Sociology class in college, we learned about ‘Socioeconomic status’ (SES for short). By textbook definition, SES is “a social standing or class of an individual or group, often measured as a combination of education, income and occupation.”
As my instructor described in layman’s terms, SES is basically the economic situation you were born into. In her lecture on the topic, she explained that the majority of people will remain within the socioeconomic status of their birth.
I remember raising my hand and asking, “What about the people who work to rise above the circumstances they were born into?”
She smiled at me – naïve, 20-year-old me – and said, “That happens very rarely, unfortunately. It’s not impossible, and there are exceptions; but it’s not easy to accomplish without the privilege of a higher SES.”
I remember thinking, quite indignantly, “that’s just ridiculous! I am TOTALLY going to prove her wrong, and anyone else who believes that. I’m just going to work hard, stay focused, and eventually I’m going to rise above and be successful.”
Oh… If only it were so simple.
I did work very hard in college. I got A’s in the classes I enjoyed, and gave extra effort to get B’s in the classes I hated. I did this while working, living on my own, and also while family tragedies continued to plague my personal life. Through it all, I was focused, and I had faith that my dedication would pay off.
While I’m proud of my bachelor’s degree, I graduated into the worst job market in decades with a massive amount of student loan debt. Thanks to the shortage of jobs in a struggling economy, salaries were also at a record low. This has slowly improved over the past few years, but not nearly enough to make a difference on a micro level. I currently have no job, no savings, and no hope of a brighter tomorrow.
For the record, I don’t live an extravagant life. I’ve lived in small, modest apartments throughout my adulthood; and currently, my studio in Portland is furnished with my bed, a dresser, two small nightstands, and a TV stand that also serves as a bookcase. That’s it. No table, no chairs, no sofa. Also, no microwave or DVD player. I despise shopping, so it’s only something I do out of utter necessity. And yet, somehow, my credit card is officially maxed (at an insanely high amount), due to all of those big expenses that my salary has never allowed me to prepare for. Emergency dental work. Tires and car maintenance. Buying groceries during periods of transition. Relocating from state-to-state in search of employment opportunities, and an area that resonates with who I am. Seems that even when I was technically homeless, I was living above my means.
At the present moment, I’ve reached my limit with life stress. I’m tapped out, depleted, deflated, whatever-you-want-to-call-it, DONE. I give the f**k UP. I’m waving the white flag. I know that life isn’t fair, and that none of us are guaranteed success. It would be awesome though – truly spectacular – if we could at least be met with rewards equivalent to the efforts we’ve exhibited.
I’m tired of being told to remain positive. I read an article recently that perfectly articulated the outright dangers of overly positive thinking, especially in today’s society. In summary, NO amount of positive thinking is going to magically make our lives easier. If manifesting what we wanted were as simple as that, we’d all be living worry free. If all it takes is working hard, staying focused, and remaining optimistic – which I’ve done for YEARS – there would be a lot less people on unemployment and food stamps. (Yours truly silently raises hand). Just sayin’. Learning how to fly is pretty darn challenging when you have lead wings.
I’m tired of having vivid dreams about my checking account, where my sleeping brain is calculating the bills I need to pay, while I watch my bank balance diminish – like an hourglass with sand. I wake up several times in the night, feeling panicked, with my heart ready to punch its way out of my chest. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was able to sleep without medication, let alone through the night with no interruptions.
Seriously though, it’s not just me. There are thousands of us – maybe tens of thousands – fighting the same battle. We weren’t born into a high(er) socioeconomic status, so if we wanted to go to college, we had to take out loans to cover every cent. Upon graduation, and even with landing a decent job, we started our next life chapter with a mountain of debt. If our salary increases over time, guess what? The amount of our monthly student loan payments also increases, with no regard for our other expenses. Rent, car, insurance, food… You know, the luxuries in life.
And as a side note, I’ll tell you right now – even if you’re earning $40-$50K annually, you’re going to be flat broke if you’re paying off $40K or higher in loans. I’m not even going to touch on the interest rates actually increasing your balance, even with making regular minimum payments. It’s just too damn depressing.
So here I am, two weeks after my 33rd birthday, and feeling lower than I have in years. I’m exhausted. I’m desperate. I’m considering extreme measures for earning money. I’m tired of fighting. I’m out of resources, and I no longer have the ability to fight this battle alone. I’m sinking, and I need help. For a person as independent and stubbornly self-sufficient as I am, admitting this is painful and humiliating. I have not earned these struggles – I’ve worked like hell to prevent them. Yet… here they are.
I want to acknowledge that I know there are always – ALWAYS – reasons to be grateful. Each night, when I close my eyes and attempt to bluntly force my mind into a state of relaxation, I visualize everything I have to be thankful for. I am blessed with health, safety, choice, freedom, and an uncommonly high number of people who love me. I am BLESSED. I know this. I know there are people dying of starvation, disease, poverty, war, and other unimaginable horrors. My awareness of the true atrocities in the world only contributes to my constant feelings of guilt and shame.
Still. I’m tired of life being so f**king hard all the time. I really don’t crave much, nor do I need much. I’d like to own a little house by the water somewhere. I’d like to be able to work from home, writing impossible love stories in my pajamas, only venturing out into the ‘real world’ if I’m mentally prepared to deal with humanity. I’d like to be debt free. I’d like to be comfortable enough to take care of the people I love, and ensure that they all have what they need. I’d like to contribute to world humanitarian efforts, and spend time abroad doing relief work. I’d like to adopt a child. I’d like to rescue more dogs.
In short, I’d like my life to be mine – no strings attached, no punishments for daring to want an education that I couldn’t afford. I’d like to have the energy to be positive, and the ability to make a difference, however minor.
So, I’m appealing to God, the Universe, Jesus, Santa Claus and Hare Krishna (yes, I just quoted True Blood), for guidance. I’m listening, and believe me – I am open to suggestions.