My life now consists of the following, with slight variations:
Look for work
Fill out paperwork for various government assistance programs
Figure out what we can sell next to raise a little money
Figure out how to stretch every dollar we spend
Basic household stuff like cleaning, organization, and taking care of our dogs and cats
Desperately try to not sink into a state of utter despair or otherwise lose all hope.
That last part was made a little easier this week by Dr. Elizabeth Warren, and God Bless her for it.
Most people literally have no idea what this is like. Some people actually think "well, you are unemployed - you have lots of free time now." To those people, I say "go to hell." Just two days ago, I spent my afternoon trying to get a copy of my birth certificate. An entire afternoon spent trying to get a single piece of paper. And no, I am not running for President. You see, now that my unemployment has run out, I can qualify for Mass Health, because I have virtually no other source of income now. But that comes at a cost itself.
Despite the fact that I have all sorts of forms of identification, they want proof I was born here, probably because some angry Republicans representing Massachusetts' more angry conservative suburbs really hate illegal immigrants. So the process of applying for Mass Health is a convoluted one with a 15 page form, with much of the first page just explaining all of the documentation you need to apply. One of those things is a birth certificate. That single piece of paperwork has proved to be a bit elusive. I looked all around the house, and could not find the copy I thought I had. And since I was born in another state a thousand miles away, I had to figure out how on earth I was going to get this form when the backward-ass state I was born in does not have an easy way to do it if you are not physically in it. Eventually I found a third-party company that could get it for me, but naturally since they are for-profit I had to pay a little more than I would have liked - about $60, in fact. Sixty dollars will buy a lot of food if you know how to stretch it, and I would much rather have spent that money on food. But there just wasn't any other way for me to do this in a timely enough manner. You see, I have to try to get this done in such a way that I don't have to cough up another $650 COBRA check come October 1st. Again, that is money better spent somewhere else. So spending $60 in the hopes of saving $650 a month is a bit of an investment, if you want to look at it that way. But that was an entire afternoon dedicated to completing one requirement of a 15 page application.
On another front, I found out I did not get a job I had applied for, despite going back for a third round of interviews that literally took all day. As much as I can tell, the problem was one of uncertainty. You see, I am constantly being bombarded with advice (much of it contradictory) about how to look for work, how to write my resume, how to write cover letters, how to approach prospective employers, how to network with people, how to spend my "considerable free time". This most recent disappointment seems to be linked to questions about what I did in my twenties. I am 41 years old. My resume can only be so large and still give any amount of detail. My education, certifications, and summary of basic skills and knowledge takes up an entire page, and a summary of what I have done in the last 12 years or so takes up another. So I managed to put all that on one page of paper by using the front and back. But that wasn't good enough. They wanted it to be longer. In my twenties, I did things like work construction, stock groceries, and clerk in a video store. I had been told by one expert to leave all that off because it wasn't relative to my IT career. "Just say 'non-relevant experience available on request' or something like that", the expert career adviser said. So I did. A few weeks ago at the National Urban League Career Fair another career adviser told me to make some other minor changes to my resume, which I promptly did. And those changes were PRECISELY what this last potential employer complained about.
Anyway, like I said, this is my life now. So you can see how I might get a little frustrated. I hope it is a bit more understandable why, although I know people think they are being helpful, they really need to just shut the hell up about whatever career or resume advice they want to give me and instead talk about something else. I don't care what. Talk about the Red Sox, or wine, or fishing, or video games, or zombie apocalypses, anything but the same old shit about how I should follow YOUR advice instead of anyone else's advice. I am damn sick of it. I have just accepted the fact that I am not going to make everyone happy, and so there is no point in wasting more effort in changing my resume with whatever stupid trend is making its way through the world of career counselors.
What does Dr. Warren have to do with any of this? This week, she helped keep me sane, literally more than almost anyone else I know, because she proved to me that finally someone who is running for office seems to get it: people are suffering, the unemployed need help, and these worn-out bullshit economic explanations that are grounded more in shitty Ayn Rand novels than in reality are not helping any of us that need help the most.
I have not had a chance to meet her in person - yet. But I saw a video clip yesterday of how, in simple and direct language, she took apart some of the worst of the Republican economic myths. It was just wonderful. In just a few minutes of YouTube video that some thoughtful person put up for the rest of us to see, she lays out some of her ideas about why the rich should do their part for society. If you haven't watched it, you should. Here's the link:
After watching it, I immediately contrasted that with my own personal Scott Brown experience. When Scott Brown voted against extending unemployment benefits a while back, I went to his office to see him. I wore my last pair of jungle boots I was ever issued and one of my old Airborne t-shirts in the hopes that maybe he would be more likely to listen if he knew I was a vet. It took me forever to get in to his office (the security experience I had is almost worth a whole post to itself), and then once I finally got there I didn't get to see him. I guess that shouldn't surprise me. The person I did get to talk to was a smarmy 20 something kid in a suit who looked fresh out of the College Republicans. I was already thinking to myself "this is going nowhere" even before I sat down with him. I started explaining my situation and this guy managed to furrow his brow in concern even as his eyes glazed over. I talked about how I was struggling, and how I needed this unemployment to live on while I looked for work, and how there were a lot of people like me out there. That didn't seem to get much of a response, so I started talking about how angry it makes me when people who have no idea what it is like to struggle brush off my concerns. The kid actually started to look pretty uncomfortable the more wound up I got. I wasn't screaming or swearing or anything, but I was passionate and it was obvious I was upset. He acted like he could hardly wait for me to get out of the office. He offered a few lame ideas in that typical Republican way ("Have you tried going to a church? There are lots of charities out there.") and otherwise sort of sat there uncomfortably in this awkward silence, waiting for me to end the conversation and leave. At one point I actually wondered if this kid was going to call security - he acted like he was that afraid of me. He wanted me to leave so badly that finally I did, with a much, much lower opinion of my new Senator than I did going in. Thanks for nothing. Glad to know your staff cares so much.
So yes, I am much encouraged by Dr. Warren and the things she is saying. And although it may not seem like much coming from one anonymous Massachusetts voter, I thank her for listening to me, because in some ways she really has, even though she has never even met me. That's more than I can say for Senator Brown.