Today I had the phone interview with the manager at the company that has (once again) been toying with me. I think it went well, except he asked me some very specific questions about Microsoft Excel that I was unable to answer. I was able to answer his questions about conditional formatting, but not the questions about pivot tables. I hope that was acceptable. The pay for this job starts at $14 an hour and it requires 5 years of publishing experience. Jobs of this caliber typically pay $25 to $30 an hour…if not more. When I was hired for my last job, my recruiter told me “I realize that this pay rate is abnormally low, but they know that people will work for it, so they’re not going to budge.” I imagine that this other company holds a similar stance.
The job actually sounds somewhat exciting. They have made a few changes since I last worked there, and there have been some innovations that I would genuinely love to be a part of. I became very nervous when I realized that they want the new hire to begin this Tuesday. That made it much more tangible, more real. My bills are so steep that a $14 an hour job is not enough to save me. My basic bills will not be covered –even if I were to move without accruing any moving expenses, even if I gave up my car. I’m in far too deep.
I had a flexible spending account for medical costs at my last job. I am still eligible for reimbursement. It’s difficult, however to spend money in order to be reimbursed when I don’t have the money to spend in the first place. I sent in my receipts last week, and was expecting a $95 check. I received a $20 check. That $95 would have gotten me out of the red. Weeks ago, I deposited money in my bank account to prevent an overdraft, but I was a few hours too late, apparently. That set off a chain of events and I have been charged $140 in fees just in the past two weeks. That’s more than I made last month. I have not yet deposited the $20, but my current bank balance is -$88. I have fourteen cents in savings. Now I have to call customer service and ask what happened to my extra $75. I have a feeling that they want extra documentation. I wish I didn’t care. I wish that $75 weren’t so damn important. I wish this all didn’t seem so life-or-death, but it does. It fucking does.
Every few hours it seeps in and I become hyperaware of my situation. I’m always aware of it, but most of the time it does not seem real. I have always been able to detach myself from reality to the point where I feel like I’m watching a movie where I am the star. It isn’t really happening. I don’t like it, but I’m powerless as I watch the world interact with me, attack me, reach out to me. And it won’t matter because in my head it isn’t real. I’ll meander around online, looking up resources about panhandling and sleeping on the streets. I remain detached, not even processing it or thinking it through while I do such things. The most mundane activities are always a trigger. I emptied my dishwasher this morning, and as I handled each dish I pictured myself wrapping the clean plates in newsprint to pack away. But after I pack them, where will I put these things? I can’t pay for a storage unit. Although my plates are inexpensive, I don’t want to get rid of them because how will I replace them? I will need plates, just like I will need a bed and somewhere to sit. If I do end up on the streets, I know (hope) it will be only temporary. I can’t get myself to part with things I know I can’t replace. Things I know I need.
My father is a doctor and my mother was a nurse. My father grew up in an impoverished country. I won’t say which one, but it is one of the poorest nations in the world, and my father has known more poverty than anyone who is reading this now. I can come onto this blog and whine all I want about not paying my rent or my car payment, or having to sell my things, or having to go to a soup kitchen, but that’s not real poverty. That’s not what my father’s family went through. He and I do not get along and have not spoken in seven years.
I hate him. I’ve hated him almost as long as I can remember. Sometimes I feel guilty for hating him because I know he has had it rough and perhaps he cannot help the things he does. His upbringing warped him.
He was terribly abusive to both me and my mother. Especially my mother. I don’t want to blame him. He’s hurting. He’s awkward. He doesn’t know how to communicate or express himself. He doesn’t know how to talk and he doesn’t know how to listen. And I don’t think he cares.
I will always remember every hurtful thing he said and every hurtful thing he did. I wrote recently about horrible things said to me in job interviews, and part of me wonders if I somehow project a persona that people want to yell at, belittle, or humiliate. I am more accustomed to cruelty than I am kindness. A friend said to me once “It seems like a lot of people say really awful things to you.” It’s true.
My father always thought I was disgusting and stupid. When I was 13, he physically cornered me and wouldn’t let me walk away as he yelled in my face for nearly 30 minutes telling me over and over that I must be mentally retarded because it was impossible for a normal person to be as stupid as I am. That incident happened in 1992, but it might as well have happened last week. When I was 15, my father yelled at me in front of an entire class because he saw me eat frozen yogurt. He said I was “like a farm animal, always eating.” I couldn’t eat in front of him because he would bring me to tears –even in restaurants. Months after the classroom incident, I ran away from home (however briefly) after he chased me around and whipped at my legs with a belt. Out of all of that I was the one who got sent to a psychiatrist. He told me to change my last name, so that no one would associate him with the retarded girl. He regularly made fun of my face and my voice. He told me that I should never speak again because every word I said made me look more and more stupid. To this day I hate eating in front of people, and I am on a constant quest to prove my intelligence while avoiding conflict. I have a high IQ and a master’s degree, but I would really like a PhD. I don’t have a very good reason for wanting a PhD; I just feel that people would be less likely to treat me like I’m stupid if I have one.
My older brother is a far scarier, more abusive version of our father. The difference is that he didn’t have an upbringing that warped him, at least not any more than I did. There is no excuse for his behavior, and I haven’t spoken to him in nearly five years. If I were to list the litany of crazy, mean-spirited things he has done to me, most people would probably think I was making it up. After all, who is really that cruel, especially to a sibling? Well, my brother is. Two friends of my mother’s observed his behavior towards me and they were absolutely confounded. I suppose one day I will get revenge by writing about his misdeeds in a tell-all book, but until then I’ll just be vague.
But I don’t want revenge. I just don’t want them to win. This, to me, is the worst thing about being poor –the shame of failure. I grew up being treated like a failure, and here I am failing at life. I worked through college and graduate school, put all of my focus on my career in an effort to prove that I could take care of myself and succeed on my own. But I haven’t. They’ve already won, but I’d rather live on the streets than let them find out.
I hope I don’t hate myself for writing this.