I was listening to Talk of the Nation on NPR this afternoon as I drove over to our storage unit to continue the sorting and packing of the remnants of our material life. As is sometimes the case, I was so engaged in the story that I had to sit in the car for an additional 10 minutes to catch the end. NPR calls those ‘Driveway Stories.’ Essentially the segment was about the improvements in the economy since the very low spot it was in last October. Last October was an especially low spot for me personally as instead of moving into a full-time position with benefits, I was laid off again and found out I had no unemployment benefits left! Naturally I’m aware, watching the numbers as I do, that as a nation, we are seeing some positives – stocks are going up, there is gradual growth in employment, and more consumer optimism and spending. But again, personally, we aren’t seeing it. We are barely subsisting, living in a state of constant anxiety and stressing over whether we can pay our bills. Hardly optimistic!
So I’m a little jaded when I hear that the recovery is getting stronger, that things are getting better. And I listened with a ‘yeah, nice for you – your high tech smart phone app start-up is working out but how does that help me?’ attitude and was ready to flip the radio off and get out of the car when the second half of the program began. The guest was Marilyn Geewax, business editor at NPR. She has recently completed a series titled Looking Up: Pockets of Economic Strength and in doing so had traveled around the country and talked to people; some of whom were doing better, and some of whom weren’t. She likened the pockets that were doing well to tent poles that were slowly raising the tent. Some of us are just still in the saggy parts of the tent.
Talk of the Nation allows people to call in and have their say on the show – and some people called in to say their business was looking up. They have more projects, they are hiring more staff. All good. Then a man called in from Arizona and said he was an out of work chef, his restaurant was closed, as were over 100 other restaurants in town. He had lost his house and was packing up to move to Seattle where his children live, and where there seem to be a wealth of job openings in the food service field. The interviewer asked, “What made you decide to pack it in?”
Marilyn Geewax said something that resonated – at some point you have to say that “OK, this just isn’t working anymore, I need to move to where the jobs are.” And maybe you have to change your field. Maybe you will never return to where you were in 2008. She pointed to her own recent industry, newspapers, and said “We’ve all had to move on.”
I might still send out job applications for the few openings in my field but realistically I know it’s time for me to move on. It’s probably past time. Yes, I see some of you nodding your head. I was ready to move on last summer but then I got another job – part-time and temporary and in the end a waste of time but who knew that then? I wish we’d thrown in our hand and headed out before two of my daughters moved to new schools but I got a dose of false hope. Should we have pulled up stakes in October? Maybe but I have my children to consider, and while I realize not everyone has the same parenting style, I know how much the good school experience and the semblance of normality and routine mean to them.
So now I’m ready, past ready, and I’m just waiting out these next three months, struggling to make it to that finish line. I’m using the time to prepare the kids for an enormous change, to deal with logistical issues (like how to sell the trailer we live in so that I can pay for shipping some of our goods and buy a car with which to drive across country), to attend to a few medical problems while the kids have coverage on Medi-Cal and to psych myself up for an entirely new life, one that I worry I might not be up to at my age. We are more hopeful, even excited, about the change, one that should improve our support network and allow us a way to provide for ourselves, but that excitement is tempered with the day to day demands of eking out a living.
My cat beds are selling, but I’d need to outsource the labor to a third world country in order to make a living that way! So I’m still applying for local jobs and I’m exploring new avenues to generate income from writing, hooking up with employers on the Internet such as Textbroker.com, but naturally these things take time. So if anyone is in need of a freelance writer, or proofreader or editor (or you know a friend or colleague who would benefit from these services) please do not hesitate to get in touch! Our email is Boxcarkids@gmail.com. I believe these next few months will be some of the most difficult in our journey (but then again I might be overly optimistic about just how much fun it will be to drive across country with four kids, two dogs and a cat this summer and we could use your help!