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Two Month Workiversary!

I have a job and I do NOT want to die! A Christmas Miracle!

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Well! I hit my Two Month Workiversary last month and I still like all of my coworkers. This has never happened before and is a direct result of not having to be in an office with them listening to their mundane chatter about their kids or diets or commute or spouses. I literally know nothing about them. <3

A few years ago, I actually got laid off from a job, mostly because of my “personality” since my work was exemplary. They used the Last Hired, First Fired reason for letting me go when they were doing cutbacks, but they also said in my exit interview / firing session that I didn’t fit in with the team. And they were absolutely right, because I didn’t want to! I just wanted to do my work, wearing headphones, and leave. I do not like being bothered when I’m working and I do not need my co-workers to become my best friends.

Because I already have friends! I don’t want to go to office happy hour. I want to go to happy hour with my real friends. I don’t want to go to lunch with y’all. I want to go to lunch by myself so I can text my real friends or watch my Real Housewives.

Anyway, I just got management feedback at THIS job that I have a great personality, and that’s because I only have to give so little of it. From “bad team fit” to “great personality” when I’ve only gotten more difficult and curmudgeonly in the interim? Office Life ain’t for everybody okay?

Let me give you a rundown of what I consider a highly productive day at work from a couple of weeks ago.

730 Workout
850 Laundry into the wash, make smoothie
900 Work
1030 Team Meeting and (I wear bluetooth headphones and turn the camera off so I can walk around during meetings) load the dryer, make some breakfast
1100 Text Travis “Do you want fajitas for dinner.” He does.
1115 Shower
1200 1:1 with the boss and fold laundry
100 Go to the cafe, have a juice, read the news. Buy groceries on the way home.
230 Just working and eating. Golden Girls or music is probably on.
430 Text Travis “Text me on your way home, so I can time the fajitas.” He said okay.
445 Management meeting and chop vegetables, marinate chicken
500 Work on project until Travis texts.
545 “I’m omw!” Make dinner.

The average office worker spends 3 hours a day being productive during an 8 hour shift. Being at home, with no Office Distractions, enabled me to give my employer a solid 5 – 6 hours, not counting meetings! I didn’t have to do my hair, try to protect my hair while braving the elements, take a crowded subway, spend $20 on a salad from Sweetgreen, pretend to look busy while the boss was coming, make up reasons to take a coffee break, or pretend to be interested in Christine’s latest Rae Dunn haul from Home Goods. I also didn’t have to put off chores or start dinner after an 8 or 9 hour workday.

Given how much I enjoy my solitude and my home, I’m not quite sure how much I enjoy my job because I like the actual work (I do!) or because I never have to be around anybody. I just wanted to go on the record and remind the Office Purists that so many of us are a lot more productive and effective when we can work in our own space without spending energy to navigate interpersonal relationships with people we ultimately do not care about.

So, y’all wanna know what my job is?! Well I’m not gonna talk about it! I’ve always talked about work on here, because I mostly complain on here, and I hated my jobs so I wanted to complain about work on here. In the past two months I’ve only had about 15 minutes that bugged me, so I don’t really have anything to say about it. I work for a financial tech startup and I basically solve banking problems for small businesses. Do you need to be able to accept funds as an LLC under a different name? Is the SBA being funny with your money? Did someone lose a wire transfer from India? Do you need immediate funds to buy a piece of property? That’s what I do all day.

The good news is I think it’s fun, there’s such a wide variety of stuff that lands in my inbox every day, and I get to do it from the comfort of my couch. The bad news is I get paid peanuts and I went into mad credit card debt during the pandy. But I’m trying to hop my way into a fancy promotion in the new year because one of the higher ups told me on the low that they’re building a new role and I’m the only one they can see filling that position.

Put out the good vibes for me!

All this means, I am having one of the top three Christmases I can remember. Travis has COVID, so I’m stuck in the apartment trying not to get it and I can’t have people over, but it’s peaceful. My bills are paid. I do not dread (and actually forward to!) work. My bills are paid. Once again, my bills are paid. It’s so novel. I’ve been Employment Unstable for probably 4 of the past 6 years, off and on, and I have worried about being able to pay rent this time of year every year. Last year I had an Amazon wishlist because, in addition to being unemployed, we had an awful roommate living with us and, since I never get any Christmas presents, I wanted stuff to open.

I don’t have a wishlist this year. No GoFundMe. I’m in debt up to my neck, but who isn’t really. So I want to remind everybody to go out (or online) in their local communities and see where you can help out. I don’t need bedroom slippers but I’m sure there’s a women’s shelter nearby that needs pads and tampons. I don’t need any baking supplies but there’s a foodbank that could use a donation. A lot of people (self included) are in a better place this holiday than they were last holiday, but those hardest hit by the pandemic economy have been forgotten in the midst of a Manchin vs Biden vs The People struggle for dominance.

I haven’t had a lot of downtime to write the past few weeks because there was a big project to get done before the holiday, but I should be able to putz around online more in the new year. I had some time today so I figured I’d drop a quick Life Update. Stay safe!

 

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Me

The Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and the space for doubt.

Watch Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama tease each other over their differing religious beliefs.

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I’ve been an atheist for well over half my life. I grew up very religious, immersed in a range of Christian teachings from my grandma’s Southern Black traditions to my mom & dad’s Seventh Day Adventist cult. One of my first “when I grow up”s was to become a preacher and I gave my first little sermonette at 7 or 8 in front of my parents’ congregation.

But I was too curious. I wanted to know why Buddhists went to Hell. The teaching that I grew up with said you had to be saved, you had to believe in Jesus, you had to know Him and accept Him into your heart to experience eternal salvation, and it made no concessions for other good people who didn’t know Him.  It didn’t make sense to me that someone in a Christian country could commit crimes for 70 years, repent on their deathbed, really mean it, and get into Heaven, but someone from a Buddhist country could live a blameless life and end up in Hell just because they weren’t born in a place where Jesus was forced upon them.

That was my first step toward atheism and the road was paved with many more cobblestones of doubt and illogical fallacies. At one point in my life, I was definitely the kind of atheist who looked down on religion of all stripes.  was enlightened because was smart enough to reject the nonsense. If you  believed in an invisible skyman who looks like Zeus or reincarnation or 72 virgin maidens in paradise, that meant you  were not smart enough to come to the same conclusions I did.

I grew out of that. I volunteered at a battered women’s shelter administered by a Catholic church for over a decade and one of the nuns became a good friend. I used to go to church once a month in Brooklyn when I lived downstairs from this little old lady who didn’t have anybody else to take her.  The respect I have today for religion on a personal level is in no way an endorsement of organized religion as a whole, which I think is one of the most destructive forces in modern civilization. But! Religion at its purest form, to me, gives people an answer for four questions: where did we come from? where do we go when we die? what can we attribute good things to? how can we explain or cope with suffering?

Various societies and cultures have built their own belief systems to handle those questions, but at the core is a shared humanity where people should treat others the way they would want to be treated. If I’m hungry, I want to be fed, so you should feed the poor. If I’m homeless, I want shelter, so you shouldn’t leave people on the street. Taking care of each other is the path to happiness, whether you believe in everlasting life, reincarnation, or simply a short experience on Earth where you are at peace because you lived a life where you helped ease suffering.

That’s what Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama understand. All righteous paths lead to happiness, no matter your definition of it.

“He doesn’t mind too much because there is reincarnation.”

That is so beautifully phrased. There was no derision or arrogance. Desmond Tutu didn’t say “because he thinks he’ll be reincarnated.” He said it as a definitive: There is reincarnation.

Here’s an excerpt from The Book of Joy that the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu wrote together where the Dalai Lama is speaking to Tutu about their religions and what will happen when they die.

“So perhaps, according to your religious tradition, we may meet in heaven in the presence of God. You as a good Christian practitioner, you go first. You may help me and bring us together. But from the Buddhist viewpoint, once in a life, you develop some sort of special close connection, then that sort of impact will carry life after life. That’s Buddhist viewpoint. So maybe even then. But now, I’m looking forward to another occasion to see you again—somewhere that only God knows.”

Look at the space and the respect and the room for doubt. So much religious conflict would be solved if either side left room for doubt. If you leave space that you could be wrong, then you’ve left open the opportunity that someone else could be right. The worst part of religion is the urge to force everyone else to agree with you and it overshadows what should be the driving force: love, respect, and shared humanity.

I am very much an atheist. That is not likely to change any moreso than the Dalai Lama would become a Christian. But my goal as an atheist is to be the best person that I can be, to treat others the way I would like to be treated, and to respect people where they are without forcing my beliefs upon them. And there is room for doubt! I feel certain, but I do not know what happens when we die any more than a Christian knows or a Muslim knows. We all feel to varying levels of conviction, which we express as degrees of faith and certainty. What I do know is, in that space for doubt, whatever happens on the other side, I’m doing my best on this side, and it will be enough.

 

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Me

I had a band director like Adele’s English teacher.

Thank a teacher today!

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How can you not love Adele?

I was talking to one of my Musical Soulmates over the weekend, because when something new comes out that we both do/should/would like, we discuss it a little. I felt like Adele was likely not on his radar because she’s not really on mine, but 30 pulled me in, so I wanted to spread the good word. I am very close to becoming an Adele Fan after this album, but I’ve always liked her public persona.

Adele’s concert special just dropped and I would like to ask y’all again: How can you not love Adele? She seems to be such a genuine, decent, lovely person, and it is a known fact that people who loved their middle school English teachers are better than the rest of us. Watch this clip where she talks about a teacher she only had for a year but who impacted the rest of her life.

That teacher who excited you or makes you feel special does stay with you forever. If my middle school band director hadn’t let me “noodle in the stands” I wouldn’t be living in New York City right now.

Noodling is when you’re playing around on your instrument while you’re not supposed to be, and doing that at a football game in the stands when the band isn’t playing is a big no-no. I had been messing around on the piano at home before a football game and I was plinking out “Push It” by Salt N Pepa. I thought it would sound good at a football game, so I transposed it for saxophone (my instrument) and I decided I was going to teach it to my homegirl Britney at the game. Mr. Hooper, our band director, caught us and told us to stop noodling in the stands, and I asked him if I could teach her a song. He made us put our scarves in the bell to mute ourselves and I taught her “Push It.” Once she had it, I figured out the harmony to it, and Mr. Hopper let us play it like twice.

That was the first time I ever “arranged” something, but it gave me the confidence to play by ear. That confidence came in handy when our football team went to state, because there was a big mellophone solo in our second song during the halftime show, but the mellophone player got in trouble or something (I don’t remember what happened) and she couldn’t go with us. Mr. Hopper knew I knew everybody’s part, because everybody’s part was more interesting than alto sax, and he told me to play Christy’s solo for him in his office the week before the big game. He gave me some pointers, and the solo was mine. Walking from my spot on in the back of the formation to take my solo position on the 50 yard line at the state championship was probably the highlight of my life up through 8th grade.

Later that year I went to All-State Band and I thought one of the songs we played would sound good at a football game. I remembered what I could, made my own staff paper, and wrote it out for each instrument. When I asked Mr. Hopper if we could play it, he said yes, and even though I had the baritone transposition completely wrong, he asked me to stay after school. He told me I had a real talent for music. I was 12 or 13 at the time, so there were musicians who were objectively better at their instrument, because I had only been playing sax for a couple of years, but he told me he was impressed with my ears.

I never wanted to be a professional sax player, but I loved music. Mr. Hopper told me I had good ears, and I kept arranging music. I arranged marching band and acapella music all through college. I was able to start making a few extra coins and that supplemented my income when I moved to NYC and couldn’t find a job that would pay my rent. I don’t really do it much anymore, but Mr. Hopper was the first person to tell me I was really good at something, and you never really forget it.

So shoutout to the teachers out there. Somebody remembers what you told them, and it still makes them smile decades later.

 

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On Television

Maid is the best show on Netflix.

There’s no more realistic portrayal of single motherhood in poverty than this series.

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I do a lot of stream-of-conscious thoughts about things I’ve seen and I call them Hot Takes. These are Hot Takes, but a little more in-depth than usual, with some personal reflections at the bottom.

1. C’mon Emmys! Everybody is doing their good good acting here. I used to sweep hair in my mama’s salon and I used to do electrical work on my daddy’s remodeling jobs, so I know the pressure of doing your best work with a parent around. So, props to Margaret Qualley for hanging in there with her mom, because Andie McDowell ain’t no slouch.

2. Lo-key was waiting on Anika Noni Rose to break into song, at least a lullaby or something.

3. You can call it prostitution or whatever you want, but you not finna put me in a house with this man and expect me to keep my draws on.

4. The shame of being poor is so complicated and layered. You know you need help. Your friend in a position to help you knows you need help. You also know that your friend knows. And yet, you pretend you do not need help! Your friend pretends that you do not need help, because they are ashamed that you need help and they want to avoid making you feel more ashamed about needing help.

It’s all an extension of this value we put on people based on how much money they make. Rich people are rich because they are good people and are being rewarded for being hard-working, good people. Poor people are poor because of some moral failure. Part of the reason the fight for higher minimum wages is so tough is this moral hierarchy of salaries. The person who bags groceries deserves to make enough money to live, but giving them a higher salary puts them closer to your salary, and you feel like you’re a better person than they are because you made choices (or had choices) that kept you from being in a position to bag groceries. You want to be able to look down on people who you feel made bad choices or don’t work hard enough.

So, it’s hard to ask for help. You don’t want your friend to look down on you like a person who made bad choices or doesn’t want to work hard enough. You pretend everything is fine so you can look like a good person.

5. The fact that Alex also has to parent her mother is a great addition. I think a lot of conversations about single mothers stop there, at providing for their child. A lot of people in poverty are there because of the lack of choices they had growing up, which is a reflection of the environment created by their parents. Young adults are sometimes caring for their parents too.

6. Also, I’ve been working out in my head how to word this and it’s always clunky, but here goes: I like that this story is about a white woman. One of the reasons why conversations about social safety nets and universal healthcare and access to housing only go so far is racism. There are too many White Americans who will cut off their nose to spite their face — they don’t want Black people to get “free stuff” so nobody ends up getting aid. The picture of the Welfare Mother as painted by (Mostly Conservative) White America is a Black woman in an inner city with multiple children by multiple men locked up by the state. It’s not an intelligent white girl running from a bad situation cleaning toilets to get by. I think Maid is an important piece of art about poverty because everyone can watch it devoid of race. Conservatives can “see themselves” and Liberals can see poverty divorced from having a conversation about what part race plays in the choices we have.

7. It’s a near-perfect limited series for me. I haven’t read any of Stephanie Land’s essays (the story is based on her), but now I’m going to. I can’t say anymore here without spoiling it, but it touched me very deeply and it’s taken me about a week to process it. I’m about to add some more personal observations, but there will be spoilers, so you can stop here if you haven’t watched it.

Score: 9.5/10

 

Spoilers ahead!

I watched this last week, but it’s taken me a long time to be able to process how it made me feel. Y’all, I was sobbing multiple times throughout the course of that series, because it was so accurate. I’ve been homeless and I’ve made bad decisions because of mental health struggles and I’ve worked in a domestic violence shelter just like that, and I was transported. The stories are told so well.

I’ve used pennies to pay for something off the dollar menu. I have budgeted every cent I had for the entire month to make sure I had enough money to ride the subway to work…but only to work. There was a bad patch years ago where I had been unexpectedly fired from a job and had trouble finding a new one. When I finally got an offer, I didn’t have any money for transportation to and from work until my first paycheck, so I walked home every day. Three hours, regardless of the weather. I had to walk home, because I had budgeted everything I had until my first paycheck. I’ve negotiated labor with a landlord. I had been living in an illegal basement apartment where the owner got caught and I had to leave with no money for First, Last, and Security. This old gay man on the UWS let me live there for reduced rent in exchange for errands, cooking, and cleaning.

When I saw Alex’s pocket of cash slowly depleting with each essential purchase, y’all. Y’all! I was sobbing. I check my bank accounts and credit card balances multiple times a day, every single day, to make sure I still have money. Before I buy anything at the grocery store or put my card down to pay a bill in a restaurant or make a purchase online, I check the account to make sure there’s money in it. Logically, I’ll know that I have more than enough money to last me for a few months, but I have to check, to make sure the money is there. Every single time! I mean, I don’t have any money now because my savings dried up during the pandemic, but even when I’m comfortable, I still feel very uncomfortable.

Not having enough money to live is embarrassing and soul crushing and you don’t want to talk about it, because you’re ashamed that you failed. But you need to talk about it, because you still have to live, and you need help. The way Maid captured that tightrope act is masterful storytelling.

Paula, Alex’s mother, adds an entirely new level that we don’t often see. I’ve never had to care for anyone other than myself, but in caring for myself I saw a lot of Paula. I’ve made a lot of bad decisions because my brain was too foggy to make the right ones. I once lost a job because I couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks. I knew I had to work and I knew what would happen if I didn’t go to work, but I couldn’t actually make myself get up and leave my room. I’ve put myself in so many abusive situations for some sense of stability. Sometimes I could see that where I was or what I was doing was unhealthy or dangerous, but I put it aside, because you gotta eat. That’s about as much detail as I’m ready to put online, but I’ve told myself “I’m fine!” a lot, when I was absolutely not fine.

And the shelter…

I’m still in a bad place because one of my girls from the shelter overdosed a few months ago. I can’t shake it and I want to find another way to help that’s further up the chain of command. When you work in a DV shelter (and I volunteered in one for a decade), you do see the same faces come back and forth. And then one day you don’t see them again and you wonder, “are they back in a bad situation or did they finally shake it?” But you can’t wonder too long, because there’s a new face. There’s always a new face.

When Alex is back with her ex and down an emotional void toward the end of the series, I had to take a break. I think I cried for like ten minutes. There are so many women I never saw again at some point, and I know that’s where they are — in a void, just going through the motions, trying to survive. They’re stuck there because we don’t have enough systems in place to pull them out. We have court systems that won’t help you leave an abusive situation until you have a black eye or a broken bone. No rewards for being smart enough and brave enough to see the physical abuse coming just beyond the horizon — you have to stay until you get hit, and then maybe there’ll be assistance for you.

It takes a special kind of person to do that work for decades, and it’s not me. I can’t go back to a DV shelter. I don’t have the inner strength necessary to do it and I don’t know how I feel about that. I’ve told myself that it’s okay to admit you’re not strong enough to help the way you want to help, but I grew up with guilt as part of my upbringing. I feel like I’m failing myself.

But it also makes me more determined to find a way to help further up the chain. The more steps removed you are from the day she leaves a bad situation, the more women you are dealing with who are absolutely ready to leave for good.

I want to be the person who can offer a job. Her boss wasn’t the best boss, but Alex was able to make money because there was someone there offering (very basic, mildly exploitative) employment for someone with no skills.

I want to be the person who can offer housing. When my mom married my dad, she didn’t sell her house, because she was proud of it. She was a single Black woman in the South who bought her own house, and when she moved in with my dad, she rented her house out to other single Black women who would’ve had trouble finding housing elsewhere. She accepted low income housing credits and she adjusted the rent based on what the woman could pay.

I want to be the person who can offer free legal services. If Alex had had a lawyer the first time she went to court, she wouldn’t have lost her daughter for a week. If she hadn’t had a lawyer the second time around, she wouldn’t have been able to take her daughter to college with her so she could make a new life for herself.

What I really want to do is go to med school to be an OBGYN so I can give my time to free clinics in underserved communities of color. There are no unwanted children in Maid, but in reality, that’s the number one predictor of poverty for women. Unwanted children keep women shackled to bad situations and oftentimes it’s the result of no access to reproductive services. Birth control, from preventative to reactive, needs to be free and available.

There are so many reasons Maid is a good show, but the realism is intense. There’s no part of it that I didn’t recognize in some way, either personally or through the stories of women I’d met in the DV shelter. Everyone who has ever been poor can relate. Every woman who has ever been in an abusive situation can relate. And everyone who has experienced neither should watch it for a glimpse into what those lives are like.

 

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