Of course you noticed when the economy fell apart some years ago, while you listlessly clung to your solid if salary-frozen position, stupidly half-hoping to be let go. The signs were in the panicked faces of smart lecturer friends, caught jobless in career changes, graduate programs, bad break-ups and moves. A few years earlier, they’d have been professors, but too late for that supposed glory, they’d gradually grow unable to meet you for cheap Monday beers. Younger friends who lacked a job history were volunteering more, or spending four hours a day picking up shifts folding shirts to appear occupied, employable.
Of course you, non-profiteer, were well aware of all this, having long ago ceased attending the elaborate dinners out with friends of friends who were making good money. Too busy, too tired, but really you ought to have up and said it: too poor to keep up. None of you mentioned drifting apart, whether from politesse or politics, none can say.
Meanwhile, there was your family, forever on the cusp of a big Lotto win: a constant of hope and expedient dollars, otherwise to be spent on happy hour margaritas.
"Nothing yet, but if I play every week, something has to happen.” If you publicly derided their belief in deus ex machina economics, you secretly rooted for their scratched second chance. At least someone in this family will make good.
But they lived in another state, far away. Now you live in that state, where job postings for internships and calls for recent graduates see your hopes at income parity slipping into three days a week of mediocrity, hired for your unique expertise at a rate that barely meets rent.
And yet: there is a roof, the happy hour beer, a bus pass bought with the first paycheck. A few days of work a week, but it makes a world of difference. Underpaid, but of use. It could be worse. You wonder if you shouldn’t have gone back to school, taken on debt like a badge, learned to love Excel to do something you hate. You want to unlearn pride, to figure out how the plan of going forward is going backward.
You don’t want to tempt the fates in which you disbelieve by saying all of this so publicly, but you really don’t want to pick up dog shit, either.