Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Thursday, September 18, 2003


listening to: 'Hands' by Jewel
feeling: Worried

Okay, yeah, I know--it's bedtime. But right before I was ready to power down for the night, Jewel's 'Hands' came on. I think I needed it. Because I am worried about how things will go with even less money. I know it's gauche to talk about finances...but, hey, this is my journal, and well, sometimes you have to vent...I finally, after six years in a supposedly professional-grade position where I was a department manager and solo librarian, had reached a point where my yearly wages came to (and I'm looking at my unemployment notice) $23,678.12. I know that's not poverty...it's not destitute (or shouldn't be), and a lot of people get paid less. But in a town where library jobs are very hard to get (due to the proximity of the school) but where an academic librarian starts out at $36-$38,000 and a public librarian gets a minimum of $30-32,000 right out of school--if they land that elusive job, well, it's been difficult, especially for someone on their own. And that's an improvement--it started at around $17K a year but I was able to get two market raises over time. But this past year I was told I was in line for the system and the metro area. I don't know what figures they're using, but I've never seen anything short of a tech position or part-time label making in this area that paid the same. Granted, that was at 35 hours per week, because we could never get the position upgraded to the full 40 hours. And now it's been cut back to 20. So if I seem a little disconcerted, well, that's why. I'm sure there are some out there who say, 'well, it's your fault for taking such a low-paying job; you denigrate the entire field by accepting that'. Considering it was more than I'd ever made and I've received a wealth of experience in that position, I think it was right to accept. And anyone who says otherwise probably hasn't been pushing poverty in awhile. And yes, I could go away to some other locale where it might be easier to find a job, but the fact of the matter is that I have friends and family here whom I love deeply, who provide a wonderful support system, and who, in turn, I want to be here for. I'd be impoverished in other ways if I left.

So you can see why it's good the song came on. I know that things will get better, and that I've survived worse. I survived my father. I survived my ex. I survived years of living in rat-infested apartments, going to school, and making about $5,000 a year. I'm sure this will be good in the long run, and that I will, eventually, find a job that really utilises my full talents and pays a living wage. But there are times, like now, when I'm afraid. Worried that I'm 36 years old and I've only managed to put away $1600 into retirement. Worried that I have no savings and that I won't be able to pay for basics like food, lodging, or electricity. Worried that for all I feel I've accomplished, in some ways I'm a failure. And don't think I'm just utterly ungrateful for the good aspects of my current job. But I've spent years never really 'making it', so it's a sore point. Granted, I also realise that part of it is that I didn't have the faith in myself to fight for any better, and now I do feel like I'm in a position to not just take what's handed to me but create my own way through life.

And...I had at least gotten past the food-or-medicine days, and there are things I can cut back rather than go back to that. And I feel better in general. I'm not suicidal when someone calls me about a bill that's past due. Last year I was. I don't feel angry every time I see a mural that costs more than I make a year or someone driving a car that is worth three of me. (And no, it's not like I want one...it's just, for awhile, I felt so undervalued in general that people who I'm sure had worked hard for their nice things infuriated me with their seemingly unconscious ostentation). And when (and I do mean when, not if) I do get a decent-paying job, I'll start socking as much as I can into retirement. I may not ever make up for not getting more in early, but at least I hopefully won't be destitute, since I really don't believe Social Security will still be around for those of us who follow the baby boomers. And I'll get a little car that will hopefully get good gas mileage and not crunch like an aluminum can. And maybe, just maybe, I'll get a little house where I can raise a garden. And I won't complain about paying taxes for schools I have no children to use, or services like a bus system, even if I'm no longer on it, because I think we should support public services. And maybe I'll even be able to give more to charities instead of being a charity case myself. And I hope that if I am ever in an administrative position, I'll do everything I can to make sure my employees' wages fit their jobs, the market value, and the employees' qualifications, no matter who I have to badger--even if it means taking a pay cut myself, eliminating an empty position, or redistributing the budget. I won't swear to it, because I recognise that maybe I'm idealistic and naive, but I think it should be a priority, because as a manager you're investing in people and it's cheaper in the long run to retain happy employees, right?

So, now, I've vented. It's definitely time for bed.

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