I have to admit, I don't want to write this post. But one of my oldest friends suggested that maybe writing about my recent experiences because they might provide a unique perspective. Think of this as a tale of change, which happens regardless of our desires.
Right now, my personal and financial situation is precarious. I've been "underemployed" (to use the term) for the past few months, meaning that I have not been able to keep up on rent. I have also been taking care of my mother, who has had health issues....and two weeks ago, she fell. Twice.
Infection in her foot. Luckily, she avoided amputation. Now, she's in a rehab center building the strength back in her legs.
But when you're trying to find and keep work, stay current on expenses (and burning through your small retirement fun), and dealing with family health issues (I'm her only child)...things happen, and now, I'm risking losing my apartment (lease ends at the end of the month).
Now, I have options, and I've been exercising them - reaching out to churches and social service agencies for help, asking for job referrals, applying for part time jobs, and even building a crowdfunding page which has seen some returns.
All in all, it's not enough....and facing a financial crisis is scary. Yes, I made some critical mistakes, but I've been working hard to not get to this point.
And I'm not alone - many people are in similar straits....or worse. They're the one-paycheck away from homelessness, and often, many social service programs designed to help are being gutted and/or underfunded.
Last year, Neil Gabler (best known for replacing Gene Siskel on Sneak Previews as well as his biography of Walt Disney) wrote a piece for The Atlantic called The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans, focusing on his own financial issues as a general commentary on social affairs. Of course, there were the usual responses, usually consisting around the themes "Neil Gabler doesn't speak for the middle class" and "Neil Gabler brought this on himself."
Both of which entirely miss the point - Gabler may not quite be "middle class", but he makes some great points about income inequality and sudden economic change. When sharing with friends on Facebook, many of them cited privately how they're "close to the edge" themselves....and many of them are in slightly higher tax brackets then I am. I'm relatively fortunate in that I am flexible and can live cheaply. (I'm also fortunate in that I can also work remote, which helps broaden my opportunities).
There's also a form of privilege which allows people to criticize, saying things like "There are people working three jobs - why don't you?" (More than happy to if I get hired, and I'm happy to be hired). "Why not get an apartment and live with your mother?" (Again, open to that...but need finances). In short, it's the repetition of the message that I'm doing something wrong....and that's the most difficult thing to handle.
(And for another perspective, let me link to Kiva Bey's Shut Up and Take My Money).
So, what does this mean going forward? For this blog, at least, I'm going to shift my focus....I'll still write about nonprofits in Chicago and technology, but I think there's also room for embracing change on a personal level. So there will be more "personal" stories at my end, because my story is becoming more like other stories...and I have no problem sharing my perspective if that means others can be heard. (And yes, I want to bring other stories in as well). I will even provide a first-hand account of navigating social services in Chicago, because this might be helpful for those seeking some relief as well.
I'm also putting out a call for anyone who has read this blog in the past, and who has been featured, to consider helping connect me with paid work. You can easily check out my LinkedIn profile and my professional services page, and reach out via my contact form. I'm more than happy to share my skills. My goal isn't to gain handouts, but to begin rebuilding my life in a simpler, less cluttered way.
Finally, if you're religious and/or spiritual, you're more than welcome to pray and/or offer positive thoughts. Those are always welcome.
Right now, change is unwelcome. I have some plans and some irons in the fire, but I also need to be thinking long-term. If the tone of this blog changes, please understand...it's because someone needs to write about what's happening. At a time when our political leaders are disconnected from the experiences of people struggling, it's important that somebody say something.
And you're more than welcome to share your comments below or via our Facebook page.
Thanks for reading.