textualdeviance: (Button Monkey)
[personal profile] textualdeviance
So, since I haven't updated about this since my last bellyaching ...

I first sent mail to my teammate, confirming that it wasn't just me--there's really next to no work for us. In the middle of that, I also discovered something else that's a roadblock for the team, with larger-scale potential repercussions. So, I broke down and wrote a long mail to my boss about it all late last week.

Things post-mail are still settling out, so I don't really know what's next. But it does seem like our workload is slowing down to a trickle--and a trickle of stuff I really don't want to do. I already suggested that if this really is just a one-person job, then I'm happy to train my teammate on the stuff she doesn't know, and let her have it. Having my position go away due to budget reasons would be the best course of action, I think. It'd mean I wouldn't lose brownie points with my agency for quitting/breaking contract (and thus can get another one later if I want) but it'd also get me out of this mind-numbingly boring and degrading position I'm in now.

There is still a dilemma, though, and I've come to realize that it's why, despite the adoption process going well, despite the upcoming London trip, despite the great weather and everything else, I'm actually kind of miserable right now.

I've been getting more-or-less regular contracts with basically the same team for the last five years. Got the first gig four months after I graduated. I have worked nowhere else since graduation, and every other job I've applied for with other teams hasn't come to anything. I've had a couple of interviews, but that's it. This is the ONLY team that seems to want to hire me for anything, and they refuse to let me do anything other than mindless button-monkey work, no matter how valuable I've tried to make myself.

What the hell am I doing wrong? And how do I fix it? I already knew going into this that my field was tight, and getting any content-oriented job outside of marketing was going to be a challenge, but I didn't expect to be this hamstrung. Every day I go in to work and wonder why I spent two years getting a journalism degree if this is all I'm ever going to be able to do with it.

Worse, it's making me wonder if I'm ever going to have a career that pays me well enough to support myself on my own if I needed to. I hate hate hate feeling this dependent on M and his job. I need to know that if he ever lost his job or we split up or something else horrible happened that I could survive on my own. At this point, I'm not sure I could. Because my contracts rarely fill out a full year, I make maybe $30k/year, tops. Nice gravy for us (we budget only on his pay, so everything I make goes to things like paying off bills, travel, the adoption, etc.) but most definitely not enough to live on if I had to do it alone. Cost of living here is way too expensive for that. Also, the fact that it's contract work, and not permanent, means even that could go away at any second (and the dire necessity of health insurance along with it.) (And that's not even counting the mental health hit of doing this kind of boring, demeaning shit anyway.)

With a little training and some hardcore job-shopping, I could probably switch over to technical writing, which would at least be a back-up plan if this went away, but a) that's still contract work around here and b) it would also bore the hell out of me. It's a stopgap, not a long-term solution.

I've done enough shit work for the sake of survival in the past. I could, and would, do it again, especially if I also had a child to support (which is the other thing making me panic WRT this.) But I don't want to be trapped in that just-getting-by hamster wheel. I don't want to be doing the same sort of subsistence work that I did in my 20s. I have two fucking degrees, FFS. Why do I not have a better career? I realize I should be grateful to get any work at all, and that's part of why I've been so reluctant to get out of this awful one. My working-class ethic tells me that any job is a good job in a bad economy, and asks me who the fuck do I think I am, wanting something that gives me actual respect for my brain? But it's more complicated than just wanting to be paid/respected for what I'm actually worth. I'm no longer 20. I can't expect that things will get better for me "someday." I need to look at where I'm going to be by retirement, and a shitty contract job isn't going to keep me alive then. I don't just want something more respectable, reliable and well-paying. I need it.

The worst part is that when I start feeling trapped like this--like I couldn't make it on my own--I start resenting M. It's not his fault that I can't get a decent job, and I know he's perfectly happy to support me, but the fact that he, with not a day of college, can make four times what I can still pisses me off. Not knocking his paychecks--they support me right now, too--just that they're his paychecks, and if I want to keep getting the benefits they give us, I have to stay with him, even if he turned into a complete ass overnight. OK, so that's unlikely to happen, of course, and I don't want to leave. I just want to know that I could if I needed to. Right now? Not possible. I simply couldn't get the money and health insurance I'd need to survive on my own. That's terrifying.

I am forever telling people that they can't rely on their partners to support them and their kids. I'm always telling them that the stupidest thing they can do is take 5+ years off to raise babies, and not maintain current job skills of their own. I personally wasn't able to work in the early 2000s when I was so sick, but as soon as I started getting better is when I got my ass back to school so I could avoid that potential fate of being divorced and destitute.

And yet even with how hard I've tried to make sure I'm never going to be another statistic like that, I'm apparently screwed. How did this happen? And what can I do about it? And--the biggest question--how can I justify becoming a parent if I'm not sure I could support my kid on my own if I had to? Obviously, there are some circumstances in which I'd still get help if M went away--alimony/child support, life insurance, SSI survivor benefits, etc.--but those things don't cover all, and they also don't provide the health insurance I desperately need.

It's weird to look around and see how much I have and yet still feel so desperate. I'm sure people look at my life and think I have it all, and wonder why I worry so much. But that's just the thing--I don't have it all. M does. This stuff isn't mine. It's his. And if we split up, it'd all go away. I'd keep some of the material goods, and we'd split whatever pittance we could get from selling the house, but that wouldn't last. He'd be perfectly fine--financially, at least--if we split. I'd be fucked. This is not how my life was supposed to go. I did well in school. I went to college. I worked like a dog as soon as I could, stopped only when my stupid body told me I had to, and started again as soon as I was able. This shouldn't be happening to me.

I suppose this is probably why I have so much sympathy for other people who are on various forms of public support. I know very well that but for the grace of my husband's paychecks, I'd be one of them. Not through any fault or laziness of my own, but just because this is how things are sometimes. Where you get in life is only about half what you put into it. The other half is where you start and fate. People who are fucked on that other half shouldn't be assumed to have fucked off on the effort part. Unless you're lucky enough to have 30 years of living expenses set away somewhere, anyone can come to ruin at any moment--even M could, if he lost his job. Sure, we could've lived closer to the edge all this time and saved more rainy-day money, but it wouldn't be enough to make that big of a difference, long-term (and the mental health benefits of travel, the safe, comfortable house, etc., go a long way to making the rest of it possible anyway. I don't regret what we've spent so far--it's been its own investment.)

So, no. It's not weird that I'm so worried about my future survival when my ability to support myself is so fragile.

At the moment, all my hope lies in one thing: being able to sell at least one of my novels, and write/sell more while I'm home with the little one. That doesn't pay a lot, either, but it's at least possibly steady work if I'm able to sell enough of one to get contracts for more. It's also something I could do while doing paycheck-earning work of other kinds until I got better established as a writer. Best of all, it would be something I could take pride in, rather than something that made me feel like a particularly technical worker bee.

But that's hardly a guarantee. And with the current gig having hit the iceberg, just waiting around for that lifeboat to maybe show up so I don't go down with this slowly sinking ship is agonizing.

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