While working on my novel this morning, I began drawing from my experiences as a french horn player in the school band. I chose to play french horn because the school provided it. My mom was never going to buy me a musical instrument, we were too poor. This is usually my train of thought: I didn’t get this or that, be it the attention I needed, the lessons I needed, I didn’t get to pick what I actually wanted to play because we were poor, blah, blah. Then I realized- my school had a band, and an orchestra! I got to play (albeit badly) in them. I was there, I did it. My grandfather did not even get to go to high school because his family was so poor, it was the great depression. Many schools today don’t have music programs because they can’t afford them. I am lucky!

It paradigm has shifted… I’m almost dizzy. I really need to stop taking my experiences for granted. I have blessings.


Into the World of a Living Wage


Yesterday was my final day of work at my minimum wage job. Monday I start working some place new. I switched jobs because the pay; even with all of the fabulous vacation time and insurance and 401K, $8.25 simply isn’t enough to allow me any living beyond my basic necessities. I stayed for four months, hoping for a raise or promotion. Most of the people there do not speak fluent English, or have even a high school education. The only language that I can say I speak is English. I have some education beyond high school, and even some work experience that, in my eyes, would make me a good prospect for a leadership position. I gave my best effort, and was told often that I was very smart, and I felt incredibly valued there. My coworkers loved me, I have made many good memories working with them, and even though we could not always communicate verbally, we came to know each other.

The only person who made me feel vaguely unwelcome was my supervisor. Besides myself, he was the only other white person in the department. I think that the company keeps the assembly department staffed with people who don’t speak English, and/or who aren’t educated, with purpose; this means they have an excuse to keep paying them a dismal wage. The more apparent my capability became, the more uncomfortable he seemed to be with me, and I really feel that although he paid me many compliments and was very kind when I left my notice, he was relieved in some sense.

This would only be the third time in my life (and out of probably 20 or so jobs) that I have left a notice. Usually I am terrible with goodbyes. A recent boss baited me with raises and promotions, and said everything he could think of to make me feel guilty, until I agreed to stay on. Said job, and many others, I have disappeared from, leaving tearfully, in some kind of conflict. Handling the social awkwardness of quitting is a new skill in my tool kit. I can say that making the effort to properly disembark has paid off.

It took four months for the employment agency to get back to me with something worthwhile. I applied there before I began working this most recent job. They only had second of third shift positions available for me, and I am done working nights. So I agreed to sign on at the company where my boyfriend works. Whenever they need people (which is often), he mentions something to me, but I never went for it, because what person over the age of sixteen wants to make minimum wage? I’ll tell you who, a desperate person- when it was harder than I anticipated to find something reasonable, I said okay to $8.25, eight hour days with no overtime (aside from the occasional Saturday), air conditioning, a chair to sit down in, paid vacation, and health insurance. Honestly, I thought it was a pretty good deal considering the easiness of the work.

I received a call from the employment agency a couple of days ago. I didn’t anticipate anything worthwhile, but I thought that I would at least see what they had. It turned out to be $12.00/ hour, and first shift. I had to agree to come in on Monday (three working days away), or they would give the job away to someone else.

After I took a drug test and went over the specifics with the manager at the employment agency, I was on my way to tell my current boss that I would not be there on Monday. I had intense butterflies in my stomach; I had no idea how he would react.

He was understanding, and said that I did a good job and that they would miss me. But it really didn’t appear to bother him at all… like I said I think he prefers to keep the department homogeneously immigrant.

My other coworkers were surprisingly emotional. Tears welled up in their eyes, and mine in turn, as I explained to them the best that I could that I would no longer be working with them. I had no idea they are as fond of me as I am of them. They asked, “more money?” and I nodded in response. They are happy for me, and proud of me. They told me that I am so smart, a very good worker, and that I am sure to succeed in my new endeavor. The more matronly ladies made sure to tell me how sweet I am, that I am very cute and have beautiful eyes, and that they love me. I made a giant batch of cupcakes for my last day, and they fed me lunch when I realized that I hadn’t made myself one because I spent all night and morning baking and frosting.

I have never had such a send off. I have learned the value of taking time to say good bye. And I will miss those people. They were so kind and welcoming to me, and so proud and grateful to be here in America.



Life on Mend, Choosing a Reality

Fountain_Daley_PlazaI’ve felt another writer’s block start to creep up on me over the past week. Life has been going pretty well: my novel grows in spurts, when I can find the time and energy to get up in the small hours of the a.m. to add to it. I am a morning creative, and since my day job starts at seven, I have to get out of bed extremely early to catch that good energy. Blessings in the form of new ideas for big stories have graced me with their inspiring favor. But, I’ve also been feeling fear along with the inspiration.

The library has been good for me. We have a nice one in the suburb where I reside. It’s not massive and beautiful like the Chicago library, but also it doesn’t need security guards nor does it smell like piss. I’ve found books there to help me with the more technical aspects of the art. This is quelling the apprehension a bit, but I am still finding it difficult to polish off my characters and scenes. In me is a terrible habit of writing all of my stories in the past tense, and the different perspectives are challenging concepts for me.

Besides the stress I am creating for myself with this wild dream of being a writer, life is pretty grand. My only other issue is that I don’t have the kind of funds to keep up the kind of hobbies I would like to, but that’s a pretty common complaint among the underclass, to be sure. Sometimes the issue is not so much the money, but that I don’t want to experience the activity alone. I’ve lived plenty of life alone… I want someone to share my observations with. You would think that since I have a boyfriend, this might not be such an out of reach idea. Sadly, he doesn’t like to do some of the things I do, especially any activities that are outside of the house. He’s great to live with, and I can get him to go out to eat, or maybe see a movie, but unless it’s something well within the confines of his interests, he’s content to stay sitting at his computer. I could throw a fit and guilt him into say, attending a jazz festival, but why would I torture him like that?

No, it is not fair for me to rely on him for all of my socialization. What I need are some friends. Unfortunately, I have alienated my more healthy friends and consciously distanced myself from the less healthy ones. I don’t know if the idea of making new friends is more or less scary than the idea of writing novels.

Beyond all of this, I am trying to find happiness is the life that I have lived, and in the quiet predictability of the life I have in front of me. I didn’t know that I was evading reality all of those years, and I am still learning, or maybe deciding, what reality is.