As a thought experiment, think about where you’d go if you had a bunch of money, no real commitments anywhere – no people, family, kids or pets – and no specific timeline to do anything. Where would you go?
Where would you even start the planning? What would you consider as important? I’m sure most people start immediately with “WHAT WOULD I DO FOR WORK??” because we’ve intentionally imposed this bullshit mandatory work thing on ourselves in order to create more wealth for those above us. Our ENTIRE social structure is built so the people at the very top are able to legally take every cent from those below them. It’s not hyperbole – you can work for decades, slowly building up ‘wealth’ in your home, only to have the bank repossess it because you missed some paperwork deadline, or an interest payment years ago (there is no end to the ways you can lose everything you’ve built up over your life…).
You have no job security, anywhere, ever, because we’ve protected the class of people who pay the rest of us, from any responsibility to maintain your wellbeing, or that of the greater economy through widespread job and income stability. Nothing you ever do will guarantee that your boss won’t fire your entire department tomorrow. Just see what’s happening at twitter, lol, but not really. All those people Musk fired made six figures and lived in an extremely expensive area of the country. They’ll probably be alright, as that kind of income enables the kind of mobility my initial question posed…but the richest motherfucker in the world took over a company and fired half the employees in a matter of weeks.
You, your job, and your lifestyle could be gone in an instant, is what I’m saying. Most people really don’t think about it, because it doesn’t happen to most people all at once when everyone else might find themselves in the same position and angry about it. But it is the underlying threat of current, modern American existence:
YOU MUST WORK TO LIVE, AND YOUR JOB IS NOT GUARANTEED, SO DON’T STEP OUT OF LINE, PEASANT. You don’t want to end up living in a van, down by the river do you? DO YOUU? We talk about American ideals and all that shit and still just ignore the fact that nobody, of any age, race or origin, has any guarantee of basic existence in our modern world.
We’re not free to just go anywhere, and so my initial question is almost impossible for most people to even think about without running into some false walls they’ve erected. It’s like people who seem to think the lines painted on the road are actual walls, and refuse to cross them to go around a parked truck or move through traffic. All of this shit is a fabrication, something most of you have agreed to go along with, without even knowing it. You just have to let go of that selfish little shithead inside, bitch-bragging about how hard you’ve worked to get where you are and what you have, etc., in order to allow a change…
We’ve proven, as a society, that we’re willing to ignore the needs of our neighbors if there’s any chance that helping them could take away from what you’ve got – another willing fabrication of bullshit by the masses, burned into our psyche by those people at the top. At the end of 2022, we see corporations making record PROFITS and yet we turn around and tell people who are homeless it’s their fault they can’t afford a place to fucking live. We tell ourselves there’s no money to be found to fix the glaring social issues of our day while every extra penny that might exist in your pocket is sucked out by the rich people who are telling you there’s no extra money, except maybe to fix the street where they own a half dozen rental houses. (In Portland, nearby improvements to the street have been referenced by some landlords as another reason they’re raising rent by 20% year-to-year).
When I moved here in 2015, they’d just opened a new light rail line, and there was still blowback about the cost – but the area near stops for the line have since seen rent increases that defy reason, and you’ll often see it as an ‘amenity’ in rental listings. Meanwhile, those developers and property owners continue to fight any increases to the public transit budgets, or any efforts to increase spending on homeless shelter, transition housing, or even basic social services in those areas, lest they draw an unwelcome element – homeless people. It is absurd, but this two-faced bullshit is standard operating procedure in every town and city across this country. There is, quite literally, nowhere that doesn’t have to struggle against property owners and moneyed interests, and the people who’ve been pushed to the edge of society despite their best efforts to play this game. Someone that has paid $12k a year to rent an apartment for 5 years – literally giving a property owner $60,000 over the course of 5 years – has no equity, no protection, and is often treated with scorn by landlords because they’re in the way of getting new renters in, which they can charge more for.
I saw this system before I entered it, when I was a teenager, because I was already outside of it. I cannot, to this very day, pretend I don’t see the world this way, and it has only gotten worse the last few years as an intentionally ignorant population continues to say “FUCK YOU, EVERYONE ELSE” whenever the issues come up for votes. Even (and especially) in areas where progressive politics should have moved beyond the petty infighting that prevents actual…progress…the opposite is the case. Most people with progressive politics are somewhat successful in this current atmosphere, and they’re afraid to lose their shit, just as much as the angry dude in the lifted Dodge with MAGA stickers still plastered all over the bumper. The difference is that the dude in the truck has had his fears sharpened into focus by media and news developed specifially for that purpose. Those fuckers are angry and ready to fight.
Meanwhile the progressive left cowers behind some weird idea that violence isn’t an inherent part of the human condition, and condemns people like myself who know better. Those angry MAGA types aren’t bothered by lofty ideals of a utopic society, they’re primed and ready to say anything they can think of to get under your skin because that’s what they’ve been shown, taught. I’m not under any illusions that getting in a fight with these people will change their beliefs, but I’ll be the first in line to Hell for fighting any dickhead that thinks they’re going to stand in my presence and spout vile shit. Don’t tell me to just walk away. It’s not in my programming. Don’t lecture me on what it means, either, I’m way past that shit and most people haven’t even been invited to that conversation. I doubt I’ll ever find myself able to walk away when someone calls me a fucking faggot, and I’ve grappled with this part of my personality since I was a kid, and there has not been a change, not ever. No amount of therapy or drugs has changed that part of me that will stand and fight instead of turn and ‘run’.
This same system that talks about working hard to get ahead will punish you for standing up for what you believe in. It’s such obvious bullshit but still we collectively endorse it. Just try to talk about forming a union of any kind with your co-workers, and you’ll find out real fast how pathetically afraid people are of losing their shitty job. In this system, plenty of people have found ways to manipulate it and make everyone else miserable, doing the work of our wealthy overlords. I have lost several jobs after responding to verbal abuse and the douchebags who started it weren’t fired. “Zero tolerance” doesn’t mean shit when you have spineless management and no responsibility to actually treat employees fairly. I guarantee that anyone reading this that isn’t self-employed has signed some bullshit policy manifesto that absolutely signs away their rights, period, in the eyes of their employer, but labor laws don’t apply to any of the things they can get away with. There is no mechanism for me to call up and say “The other person who also engaged in a violent fight after using homophobic slurs has retained his employment, despite my termination using a zero tolerance policy”.
Nobody is responsible for any decision a company makes unless it is grossly negligent (and even then it’s not really), and yet we all live by this system and pretend it’s okay. Instead of sitting down to have hard conversations about how the people in their organization are doing, it’s just easier to find new peasants to do the actual work that makes this country operate. Fuck you and every sacrifice you made, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Wait, we’ll hold it for you. Walk faster.
The last 7 years or so have made all of this so much worse. Even as I claw my way through the gutter, and sometimes dare to peek up over the curb, I’m left with the impression that trying to play along is fucking pointless. The other people here in the gutter tried, too. Even that dude on the corner screaming at the sky was a part of it. That’s probably why he’s screaming at the sky – every day he watched the people around him take this shit for granted, and no matter how much he wants to be anywhere else, he cannot rectify the dissonance of this fucked up system. These folks maybe don’t even understand what’s driving it, but I do. Most people can’t peek under the hood and recognize the things that drive them but this my everyday existence. Intense scrutiny of my inner thought process because I doubt every single choice I make, so that when it all goes wrong I can go back and point at it.
I sit at the coffee shop window watching. The oblivious. The space cadets. The blissfully ignorant and unaware. I read them like books as they pass. I’m sure most of my assumptions are fairly accurate, though I’ll never know. Most of them are fairly innocent, inasmuch as you can’t hold people accountable for shit they refuse to think about. I try to imagine what their life is like. I can’t. I wish I could understand how they do it without going crazy, but that leads back to the knowledge that most of these people aren’t exactly as smart this author, however you’d make that measurement.
Yeah, I’m broken, and it’s partly because I can think about these things and those things and that other shit too and I do all of that before I even open my eyes in the morning. It is debilitating, causing me to just sit in my truck trying to untangle all this shit long enough to just apply to some shitty job without having a panic attack. And that’s after I’ve spent an hour trying to decide where to go to take a shit. When I talk about the system above, and how it’s just utterly broken, is like base code in mind when I try to figure out where the fuck I want to go next in my life. I cannot turn it off. Icannot unsee these things, I cannot pretend they don’t press on my decision making process at all times.
I could go anywhere but I’ll have to suck ass and find a job. I’m more than capable, absurdly knowledgeable, and a fast learner, but I’ve learned that these traits mean jack shit when it comes to getting paid better.Once upon a time, I believed that somewhere I could find a place where my observant nature, honest inclinations and loyalty would be rewarded. Someone else like me is out there, a happy business owner, looking for these qualities, I said to myself for years. But not any more.
A hummingbird hovers outside the window, looking at me, pondering my existence. Nobody else sees it. I am not surprised.
It’s torture. People commit suicide and everyone around them wonders for a second, and then goes right back to living the life that their departed friend couldn’t live with. It’s very much the same way we deal with gun violence – it’s just something nobody wants to deal with. Too much work, too dirty, tooo haaaaard. To many difficult conversations to have, too many hard truths we’d have to admit as a society. Again, most of you (no offense, reader…) can’t even participate in the conversation because you simply don’t have the capacity to consider the whole picture…yet we drag our feet on actual progress because everyone insist they be a part of the conversation (even and especially the self-proclaimed ignorant) and have some input on the eventual solution.
My own family is a perfect example; I’ve lived with depression since the beginning and whenever I go under in the deep end they all stand there like it’s the first time ever. The same stupid questions and ridiculous suggestions follow, but only long after any real help would’ve made much of a difference.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to see a path forward. Up and out. I need air. I opened myself up and forgot that other people still have no concept of what I’m struggling with just to get up in the morning. Just to drag my cold ass out from under the pile of blankets I fight with all night and do anything. I have no center, no foundation, no clear direction, nothing. I am free, in the worst way. Any suggestion of an idea leads to an unfolding lattice of infinite possibilities and effort required to achieve even the first basic step towards any goal. I am homeless, but I have my truck. I have no job here and no commitments. I could get a job anywhere, start over anywhere. But I don’t really want to do any of it. The overwhelming nature of EVERYTHING just kills my forward momentum.
I don’t want to go anywhere, I just want to crawl under my blankets and sleep until my head stops swimming and my stomach has a bottom to it again and I can think about what I want to do with myself without feeling like I’m about lose my fucking mind. I thought I might make a big move and get near my family but then I remembered how I feel when I’m around my brother and family (see above where they don’t understand my depression). On paper he’s probably smarter than I am – he certainly has been more successful by any measurement. Nice house, kids, all the trappings of hard work actually paying off – except he never had anger issues like I did. His anxiety didn’t manifest as debilitating inertia. His success is just another reminder of what I could’ve had in my life if I wasn’t…me.
It’s probably better that I don’t get too close to them, though. The feeling that nobody wants me around because of my endless string of failures is real. It didn’t take much effort to dissuade me from making a move to be near them, just a little pebble thrown in my general direction to knock me off my temporary path. Every fear and anxiety issue I could imagine, spoken out loud long after I’d accepted it as something I could probably overcome, erased all my confidence in moments.
Two weeks sitting in my truck and at coffee shops and breweries, digesting and percolating, dealing with a tide of anxiety and self hatred and trying to bounce ideas off three people, total…wasted time. Wasted energy. I didn’t eat for 3 days while I thought about what it would mean to leave Portland. All that work to get myself straight for a massive change washed away like sand on the beach. The most galling thing was a suggestion that I ‘visit first’ and make some sort of 5-month plan before I move.
I AM HOMELESS NOW. RIGHT NOW. Yes, lets spend money so I can come ‘visit’ someplace I’ve already been. Let me establish myself with a new job and a new place to live so I can then move in 5 months..? 5 months ago, I was moving into Portland and my life has literally disintegrated since then. Where the fuck am I going to be in another 5 months? Why wouldn’t I take my time and money and just get set up where I want to be instead of doing it over and over again?
The whole conversation just reminded me that I was reaching for something that didn’t exist, some form of support that I will not get, some stability that is transitory at best. I would pour myself into their lives and fuck it all up, no doubt. Constantly losing work and being homeless, it’s not like that will change, no matter where I go. Without having any positive input in these discussions, I am left to make assumptions based on my past experiences and conversations, and I’ve been left hanging more than once when I turned to my family for support. I’m not trying to blame anyone, they’ve all got their own shit to deal with. Their own people. Nobody has time for my shit. When I’m not depressed, I am apparently intolerable.
If I had really wanted friends I would have made different choices. If I really needed help I would have gotten it. It always comes back to me and who I am. Embracing my failings has been a constant of my life. Always forced to acknowledge my own complicity in the choices I have made, there is no room for anything else but my agency in all of it. The only person in my life who takes on any of the responsibility of other people is my dad, and he doesn’t deserve it.
The rest of the world stands back and watches, eager to laugh and point and enjoy the show but happy to stand back far enough to not get shit on their shoes. I got back on fakebook and the usual ‘like but no actual contact’ game restarted instantly. The fact that I know how many people followed the link and actually read the post doesn’t occur to them, I guess. Not that I’m keeping track anymore, not really. A dozen people might read this post. I could put every password to every account I have in this and know it’ss probably safe.
The answer I keep coming to is that I just need to stop even caring. I’m most hurt by the indifference of other people, I suppose. Tracking back to the root of the issue I find it begins and ends with ‘other people’. I know my own mind, inasmuch as I can go for a single minute without doubting everything in my world. Someone once asked me what the common denominator was, and I always blamed myself, but there is another variable, and it’s other people. There is no sting of rejection if there is no rejection. If I stop hoping that I’ll find solace in the company of other people, I won’t be disappointed when I spend the entire night at the bar, surrounded by people that will remain complete strangers no matter what I do.
If I could just cut that shit out of my head, and really not care anymore. If I could just shut the window, close the counter, and keep everyone else on the other side of the glass. If I could just watch, and not want to be a part of the scene instead.