I felt “appreciated” (Thursday, August 6th, 2020)

Yesterday I filed for unemployment insurance, which*[1]I did a grammar check here from The Grammar Bible by Michael Strumpf and Auriel Douglas –2004—“many budding grammarians express confusion over the usage of that and which. Strictly speaking, … Continue reading I should have done months ago. Why didn’t I?

Sometimes I just fail to do certain things

And so we stumble upon one of the more baffling aspects of my personality where I may avoid things I OUGHT to do—usually tasks—but for reasons often not even fully thought out, I simply don’t do. Take for example, getting a credit card. I STILL (at 34 and almost a half years old) have not done this despite the accumulation of credit being nothing but beneficial.

If we go back to my younger days, getting around to my driver’s license serves as another example. In this case the issue was not only that I failed the written test six times but that I didn’t feel terribly compelled to INVEST MY THOUGHTS in studying to increase the odds of my passing the test. In this situation part of the context includes my lack of self-confidence. Might that be in part thus connected to my reluctance to build my credit? What about filing for unemployment?

Regarding my resistance to build my credit and get a credit card, admittedly it intimidates me because I fear failing to pay a bill on time and thus would rather default on that extra safety than cultivate the good habit of just paying a damn bill on time! Unreasonable really. If I CAN do things in a timely manner (I write at least two hours every morning, seven days a week, virtually without fail, and for many years now!) why do I fear failing to pay bulls on time? Because sometimes I forget and don’t pay on the exact date. Rather, I often have the tendency to pay early or a little late. And what is going on HERE?

I have a couple theories and they may either supplement each other or perhaps one is the only likely explanation?

Confronting my financial demons

First: just speaking logically about my own psyche and its associations with money, it tends to generate more bad feelings than good. This suggests that perhaps I evade DEALING WITH, CONFRONTING my financial demons as to furthermore avoid the negative feelings. And why do those feelings exist? Where did they come from?

I did not grow up poor or anti-money. Actually, in contrast to many, I grew up with quite a privileged background, though by no means one that we could properly call “rich” or quite “upper-class.”

Financial acumen actually seems to run in my family (through EVERYONE but me. And what is wrong with that picture? For example, that I’m the only one out of 6 cousins to really put him or herself on stable financial ground and foundation certainly suggests there is something wrong with me that is exceptional in contrast to my cousins. The easy way out may be to blame mental illness. It really is no secret by now that I am often in a fight with basic self-esteem, depression and mad anxiety. The slightly more responsible explanation is that I’m a complex artist/intellectual in the wrong place at the wrong time. Had I lived in the 1960s’ maybe I’d have been wildly rich as I’d have been quite aligned with the counterculture. Looking back from a 2020 perspective, it seems to me as if in the 1960s, you happened to stand out, you really stood out and could make a living off of it, if only because, sadly actually, the competition, as a result of male and white privilege, along, I imagine, with certain other privileged socio-economic standings, was simply not as immense. Today, let’s face it, the benefit of the internet’s democratization of the global economy is that more people enter the competition, more people thus, we can say, get an opportunity or chance. On the other hand, how much harder is it to stand out in a bigger, vaster crowd? “Everyone and their mother” has a Youtube page it would seem—virtually—whereas in contrast back in the day only the privileged few had access to cameras.

The competition and popularity factors

From the writer’s perspective, everyone how has a writing platform, be it a Facebook status update and Tweet or a blog. It used to be, if you were published, your publication made you part of an elite group of THE PUBLISHED. Now virtually anyone can publish if only on one’s own, whether in print or on a blog. In my opinion, despite having not lived between the 1960s and now, and not having done real research, the appearance certainly suggests that today the competition is actually insanely more intense. I sometimes even wonder if more cut throat.

By more “cut-throat” what I mean is that I wonder how much BULLSHITTING people do to stand out in a crowd, gain more “POPULARITY” and thus closer access to the economic opportunities just waiting to spill over from one “CONNECTION” or another. I realize it sounds a little cynical but with 1) competition as stiff as it is now and 2) general knowledge that it’s often enough not WHAT YOU KNOW but WHO YOU KNOW – no offense to those who feel insulted as if I am implying they are consciously part of the anti-qualifications based economy—it is hard NOT to feel cynical.

Even when I listen to a news segment on NPR why did those things which NPR covers get the coverage whereas other also newsworthy items get overlooked. On this subject I AM experienced, having both worked in the college newspaper room through all ends of the operations and having worked with and spoken with numerous news reporters and editors over the years (my experience here was probably at its most informative during my runs for political office when one could see the news playing favorites quite blatantly).

the power of the radicals and the moderates

There are a few angles here too. First we have basic principles of newsworthiness. Second we have editor and journalist bias. (No matter how much we strive to evade bias we are all human and thus inevitably to some degree, indeed, biased, myself certainly included.) Sometimes bias can work in more subtle and manipulative ways than meets the eye, as well. Take for example, the journalist having a lead to follow but the editor assigning the journalist with a different lead. And then there’s the politics…and even the politics among those who share more or less the same over-all political views. The FOX and MSNBC divide is well known enough but what about how the liberal media, for a time, did its best, it seemed to me, to tout former VP Joe Biden and take down Senator Bernie Sanders? Or how about how little a platform one of the most radical liberals, Andrew Yang, was granted? And…it’s just so blatant! So one, in competition, often has to have the power of basic popularity on one’s side, and usually with the weapons of excessive non-confrontation. (Trump’s success, and Bernie’s spurts of success also, both suggest much of the culture may be catching on to that, though with the rise of Biden there is perhaps the fear that while many of us know Biden is full of shit we’ll take his less belligerent nonsense over Trump’s grabs for autocracy—which is quite fair enough!)

On the other hand, one could choose, like Senator Bernie Sanders, Andrew Yang, or if you can recall him, Congressman Ron Paul, to radical, from one side of the spectrum or the other. Radicals do not fair as well it seems, overall, but the fit the radical niche. When one neither placates to the demand for a radical perspective or an overly non-confrontational “moderatism” it gets even harder to walk one’s way into the limelight of power and money.

optics 😛

And there’s the more day to day politics of social interaction. Perhaps you have yourself observed? Try to kiss the ass of the person in charge. Be the one to come to work early, stay late. Some of this is helpful and constructive and a sign of genuine passion. Other times, as I have seen, it’s blatant manipulation and bullshit—the need simply to “look good” to keep not just your boss, but your boss’s boss or bosses HAPPY! I have seen this both in retail operations and academia. It’s that word of mouth, social interaction, “networking” style of self marketing. It is, if not politics, business. And we might agree on certain contexts where it has its place but let us not pretend the utter economic or financial anxiety one feels as one wonders about the mystique of one’s boss as we try to make it all look good and rosy. To quote Bob Dylan from “Visions of Johanna”:

“The peddler now speaks to the countess who's pretending to care for him
Sayin', "Name me someone that's not a parasite and I'll go out and say a prayer for him"
But like Louise always says
‘Ya can't look at much, can ya man?’
As she, herself, prepares for him”

It goes to even a broader and more human experience of needing to know just how open to be and when as serves our purposes.

I play the devil’s advocate but not for religious purposes

For this, among other reasons, I often will purposefully contradict, disagree with, play the devil’s advocate with people; I mean as to work towards the end of alleviating the odds that they may view me as a sycophant, obsequiously fawning over the chance to be part of so and so’s entourage or posse. Yes, I say let someone know as soon as possible you can be both adversarial AND constructive towards your view of their best interest and a collective best interest by of course not being the dogmatically contrarian.

There have been occasions where I failed utterly at this, mind you. Especially when it came to applying for graduate school. I think my attitude may have been different if I applied when I was younger, but at 33, as I applied for these schools, while not making so much money, feeling somewhat desperate, my statement of purpose and overall vision for my future as a writer was stifled. I simply could not think with as much honesty and integrity as I’d have liked, the consequence being, not so much a boot-licking as a failure to be assertive of my own views. All I could hear in my anxious thoughts was that I was not concrete enough or that my understanding of what such and such really meant was so off as to render me totally unfit.

Finally filing for unemployment

But back to the more concrete aspects of my current financial life. Yes, I filed for unemployment and should have done it some time ago. When Covid struck New Jersey and social distancing took effect I lost two of my three jobs. The circumstances of the job losses were strange though. For example, in the case of one job I was told, if there were students in need of assistance, I could get paid to help the student. If there were no students, I might not. My hours with this organization already reduced significantly, I might actually, I believed, make more money elsewhere in a setting where I could get paid for certain by the hour as opposed to by mere chance. Here I ended up laid off anyway. The other place of employment suffered from students essentially ending up, as so many of us were, out of whack, struggling with anxiety and new cabin fever, that came with the social distancing, thus, there just wasn’t the demand for what I could offer. The semester that went “virtual” also felt like a semester in limbo as colleges and universities offered students “pass/fail” options so that, god forbid Covid affected this or that person especially bad, they could protect their GPAs. I think it was the right thing to do. But this meant a feeling, at times, for many, that the quality of one’s work mattered less than just doing something. Again, rendering demand for my academic assistance of less necessity.

I felt weird, or maybe even unethical, about taking money from the tax payer when things seemed so up in the air for me job-wise. But things remained up in the air for weeks and then months and you get to hearing things like how people CHOOSE NOT to return to work because unemployment pays them more, and you get to feeling like, hey, I’m working and earning drastically less as a result of less work while this other person can go ahead and evade returning to the available job, and that just didn’t seem fair. Still,  I resisted.

My reluctance to apply for social-welfare provisions goes back to when I was as young as 21 and was nearly homeless living in a hostel without the money to afford staying there. I looked for some work (not with enough effort, I admit) and when I struggled, I was told I ought to apply for unemployment, but I refused out of pride. I did not want to be “one of those people.” (I was a snob towards my own kind in those days).

I was nonetheless at the aforementioned time, still a liberal. But by the time I’d become a libertarian, around 2011, when I could have used social welfare to get out of a minimum wage jam, there was no way in hell I’d do it. It was “immoral” in my view to get a penny from the government and tax payers as that would be enabling theft. For awhile, I might have even sacrificed my own life on that principle as my conviction felt that deep.

My views did evolve and in good time because eventually, for just basic medical needs, we didn’t have the money and had to apply for Medicaid and then eventually, as we earned a tad more, go through the ACA health insurance exchange which were subsidized.

Swallowing pride and appreciating

But yesterday was an interesting day as I did more than merely “swallow my pride.’ It was a day when I started looking at my financial situation “straight in the eye.” Sometimes I have failed to do this simply because I overdid my school work (I would put all of life on hold to do the best school work I could as I felt it was all in life I had going for me anyway.) Other times I put my writing before a closer look at my finances just in terms of TIME EXPENDITURE. If only I could just finish that one grand piece of writing and if only I could get it published and if only it could be at the right place at the right time so it could sell, then I would FINALLY FEEL RELAXED enough to sit back and restfully look at my finances in greater depth.

Aligning my newfound devotion to self-improvement with this diary I feel less sense of separation between my artistic life and my basic life-navigation life. My quest for higher finance is now embedded in my art.

The result has thus far been favorable because I did more than just apply for unemployment yesterday. I also went through my budget and looked for what I could do to spend less. Looking at how much my YouTube TV account was charging—up from $40 when we started with them to $65 (completely defeating the purpose of having switched to YouTube TV in the first place!) I refused to allow them to suck more money out of my wife and I for more channels that we absolutely did not want. I went for Sling instead… $30 a month plus $10 for the sports channels as to keep the Olympics Channel and what do you know, just like that I managed to save nearly $25 a month or about $300 a year!

And how wonderful I managed to feel for once about myself and my ability to interact with my finances in a somewhat competent way. It was the best I’d felt about my financial life since I got my job with William Paterson University (which alas, I have since lost. Perhaps I will get lucky and they will want me back again or perhaps some other opportunity will mystically come my way that I never imagined possible!) back in January. Before that it had been the best I felt since last September when I got my job at Raritan Valley Community College. In other words, it was a damn monumental day, financially. It made me feel of value, of increased value… “appreciated” (in that fiduciary sense of the term).

And considering how depressed and useless I have come to feel with social distancing complicating the economy and job market it was a most needed feeling of just that sort of unique pleasure. And then I got another $68 refunded from goalsontrack.com. In theory their product, which enables one to track one’s goals with a lot of neat mechanisms, like creating one’s own online vision board, writing out all these nuanced details of one’s goals, et cetera, I thought I could benefit more from the extra $68. So… I felt as though I’d appreciated even more so!

References

References
1 I did a grammar check here from The Grammar Bible by Michael Strumpf and Auriel Douglas –2004—“many budding grammarians express confusion over the usage of that and which. Strictly speaking, they are interchangeable except that which should never refer to people. However, many usage manuals recommend a convention for the use of these pronouns to help readers distinguish between restrictiveand nonrestrictive information in sentences. The relative pronoun that should be used in restrictive subordinate clauses… the relative pronoun which should be used in nonrestrictive subordinate clauses. –page 180– (((so yes, a touch out of date perhaps but it is the book I currently have

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