Ugh, I started a new toilet paper roll, and you know how sometimes the two plys don’t stay together right when you first try to get it started, and you end up with this wonky split-toilet-paper situation? I’ve got that.
Also, I’m getting evicted at the end of this month. I hate everything sometimes.
This too shall pass. But first it shall be a pain in your ass. On with the show.
Right, so one reason you might have found this post is that you followed the link from Kickstarter and wanted to know the details of how a polite, upstanding young fellow like myself came to be facing eviction in a few days. Thank you for your interest.
There are two parts to that conversation:
Part 1: Business
$2145 is currently outstanding to my landlord. Not real happy about that, but it’s the product of trying to keep plowing forward under conditions of uncertainty. I don’t know what else you do in life; everything’s insane.
$1440 would cover January and February rent, and bring me current. My landlord thinks this is a pipe dream, and it probably is. But I’d like to not move if possible, and stranger things have happened.
$3585, then, if in hand shortly, could possibly stabilize my housing situation.
One way to think about this is, $4,000 would be twenty bucks from 200 people. I know more than twice that many people on Facebook alone, and c’mon, is The Unionizer not sweet?
WE CAN DO THIS, INTERNET! THIS IS A THING WE CAN DO!
Part 2: The Whole Story: Things Fall Apart, and you keep plugging.
What follows is just one way of telling the story, and mine is not particularly more or less important than any of the millions of other stories about how people’s lives get into a mess. Especially in these hideously corrupt and unequal times.
Sharing our stories is an important way to understand that these things are happening to everyone, and we’re all in this together. I’ve taken solace and courage from reading other people’s stories, and I’ll share mine in the same spirit. We all help each other when we can, and look for ways to do more. Much better is on the horizon, and we can get there if we pull together. Courage and determination, friends.
This time two years ago, I was flying high. I had a small amount of premedical coursework left, with a solid performance under my belt so far. I had moved from a successful stint as an Emergency Department Scribe to a better paid engagement doing IT infrastructure consulting for a variety of health care associations through Fusion Productions, where I was also project managing the redesign of my second Alma Mater’s website. Having lived lean during my coursework and been stung by the high and unpredictable cost of keeping an old car on the road, I had some debt to pay down, and I was happy to be paying it steadily.
Trouble was on the horizon, though. At the end of 2013, my boss let me know there was no more work for me, though I could stay on with the company to work on their mobile offering on spec. It wasn’t personal; belts were tightening across the company as a general downturn in booked business and various other stresses transmitted through the economy caught up with us (diplomatic way of not using the word “clusterf**k”).
I appreciated having a boss who I had so much to learn from, who had confidence in me for serious responsibilities, and was willing to work with me being in classes. That’s something you want to take good care of. Still, I felt that if I was going to be working at my own risk either way, I would rather look for better alignment with my future goals somewhere else. Although it disappointed both of us, I elected to leave and look for work elsewhere.
As it turned out, I would spend months knocking on doors, making phone calls, and the usual job search grind fruitlessly. Week after week, I’d tell my girlfriend what scraps of hope had come to pass that day- a phone interview here, a glimmer of interest there. I gradually found that the trail for serious positions grows cold when they find out you’re trying to go to medical school. Workplaces want someone who’s all in, and even when you’re showing strong, you only have to get bumped down the list a few rungs to have your prospects dwindle to zero.
I entertained the thought of simply not telling prospective employers about my premed status, but that’s not something you want to have to discuss with them a few months into your job. There’s just no ethical way to put that anywhere but early in the conversation, unless you’re prepared to give it up. Which I’m not.
Once in awhile I’d get a lifeline from a caricature booking– they pay well and are great fun for everyone, but they’re nothing to rely on to pay your bills. And my credit cards marched steadily back toward maxed out.
Finally, in May, I got a call from someone who’d found my resume on a job board I had forgotten I’d even posted to. I went in for an interview. $9/hr Home Care Assistant work wasn’t about to resolve my crisis, but it did buy me some time and turned a large emergency into a smaller one. And it was health care related.
I find myself very sensitive to the uncharitable stories we hang on each other- I’m still learning to stop myself from doing it, too. Hearing people doubt my commitment to my professional track stung. It’s amazing how we universalize immediate situations, and turn them into our whole sense of who a person is, including ourselves.
Meanwhile, as a side note, I was considering starting a comic book company. I had an idea for “Global Revolution Comix-” a general sense of the types of stories I wanted to share, and that I wanted it to raise money for the real world efforts, etc… All the stuff you know about from the rest of the site. I still didn’t understand how much of a commitment it was going to turn into.
Our fantastic Postbac program coordinator, Juliet Sullivan, had warned me that the MCAT would change format after this year, so I’d better take it. I planned on a November test date, and started working a study plan while taking care of wonderful elderly people. I was grateful that the work afforded me some time to do that on the clock.
But as the year wore on, the math wasn’t looking right. Debt collectors were calling, food stamps were the only reason there was food in my fridge, and my paycheck was always gone the minute it hit my account- already spoken for. For months, my only financial choices have been about which crises to avert, and which to endure. Add in the various ways poverty drives your costs up and exposes you to financial penalties, and you know the sinkhole. Too many of us are in that sinkhole. It’s by design, and it’s wrong.
I realized that I had to focus on changing my situation, or I wouldn’t be in fighting trim for my November MCAT date; I’d be homeless and facing bankruptcy. So around August or so, I stopped working MCAT problems, which was tragic and tore my heart out, because I’m a pervert and I love that stuff. And I started focusing more on Global Revolution Comix.
Unionizer co-creator Anthony Roman was calling me regularly, and I was enjoying our talks. A Kickstarter launch felt just around the corner- it has since the beginning of August. But what’s happened is, the work has gotten stronger and more diverse. People have added their voices and come to this jam in ways that can’t be planned. Over the course of this year, being out of work has given me time to get to know our community and to hear feedback on my own creative work that’s transformative, and that simply isn’t happening in the live-fire environments most of us work in.
This is the type of project that has to be allowed to breathe; you have to give it space to let it tell you what it’s going to be, or it’s going to feel forced. Landlords are less understanding of that, of course.
Which brings us to today. I’m very happy to be sharing what we have to share with you, and very happy to be working with such terrific people.
But, despite the Chinese saying that “A man without a smile must not open a shop,” I wouldn’t be telling this story honestly if I didn’t tell you what I’m not happy about.
I’m not happy that we are all operating in an economy so unstable that ruptures like the one I’m dealing with are routine, yet we’re the ones who pay the penalty for not giving our landlords, cell phone companies, etc… the predictability that the workplace isn’t giving us. I’m not happy that I work a job that, although I love the work more than I could have known, does not pay me enough to keep the car on the road that I need to drive to my assignments. I’m not happy that there are buildings full of people who get their own bills paid by doing nothing but calling people who owe a computerized system money, or that often, it’s not even a person, but a computer that makes that call.
I am also not happy that when I asked my property manager what amount of money, should I find a way to raise it, would cause the eviction conversation to go away (I’d looked over our accounts and just wanted to confirm or adjust my understanding), the answer was essentially “none; we just want you out.” And she explained to me that this would make it difficult for me to get housing anywhere in Rochester, as if I wasn’t aware of that. I’m afraid I got a little unpleasant with her at that point. I’m not sure it’s even legal to evict someone actually paying, and with capacity to pay.
On the other hand, there was that time my shower drain wasn’t working, and they had maintenance come and fix it promptly, and they’re nice enough folks, even if they are rentiers in an over-rentiered economy.
I am trying very hard to remain gracious toward everyone. We all have our reasons for acting as we do in the world. And the maddening thing about situations like this one is that they’re never anyone’s direct fault- they’re the fault of people behaving according to a failed system that they don’t see as failed. Often this behavior can be a few degrees removed from your own situation and still impact it. I find it increasingly difficult to extend the benefit of the doubt to people who don’t believe there’s a need for fundamental change toward greater priority placed on community and mutual support.
Can we just step back a little and look at this? The past 30 years have seen a massive rewriting of the rules, in a thicket of ways large and small, to favor returns to capital. One of the many results of this is that finance has roughly doubled as a percentage of GDP. That means huge amounts of people put on office clothes, go to offices, and one way or another, try to use money to chase down more money, rather than directly doing something helpful for others.
Given the exponential nature of interest on debt and rates of return on capital, this has enormous ripple effects through our economy. Most obviously, any poor sucker trying to make a living by doing actual work has a high probability of ending up with a D up their A, to put it bluntly. The stories we tell ourselves about why people are in the life situations they are tend to ignore this reality, and take on a toxic, bullying, dishonest nature. It’s quite corrosive to the whole party, and it’s no coincidence that some of our best years as a nation followed a massive definancialization.
Thankfully, I don’t think I’m explaining anything unfamiliar. Just restating it through my own story. We’ll keep hearing variations of this through each others’ stories until we manage to change it. And the ways of changing it are many & increasingly well understood. We can base our lives on better things than returns to capital and an imitative, inauthentic rentier economy. We are just getting warmed up, and we have every reason to feel bold and imaginative about the future.
So if you’re able to support our project with a few bucks, it’s hugely appreciated. And if it can form the basis of me keeping my apartment, that’d be fabulous. I love this apartment. That’s a great reason to donate to our Kickstarter, but an even better reason is because you want to read our stories. We’ve got great stories to tell.
By Grapthar’s Hammer, never give up. Never surrender.