Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Self Respect or, Don't Look Down Your Nose At Me!

I've been turning shirt collars.
Remember that chore?
Boring, tijus, time consuming but rather necessary if I want to continue to look respectable and hire able.

I've had this post rattling round my pea-brain for more than a month, but was unsure how to broach the subject without sounding bitter or resentful. Well, fyi, I'm neither. From my present vantage point it feels as though I'm coming to a place of occasional contentment and even (shock horror!) enjoyment, sometimes. I thought I'd never get here even intermittently so please keep that in mind if you read further.

Last week when I went to collect the 'dole' money a woman crystallised for me an attitude I have been receiving from many people, a combination of disgust, superiority, disdain and at times downright rudeness. I'd noticed it before but either I was more vulnerable than usual or she was just ruder.

So I would like to ask you what your opinion and attitude is to people who are without official employment and dependant on the pretty lousy State hand-out to keep a roof over their head and a semblance of normality to their life? Do you think the likes of me is too lazy to get off their bums and work? Are we unemployable as well as social pariahs? Are we suddenly classed as losers, boozers and tossers without a shred of proof? Does anyone think I was actually aiming for this as a career prospect back when I graduated from College and then got married convinced that I could make a difference to the world and have a great, useful, inspiring life as well as being them best mother and wife the nations had ever seen?

How many of your dreams have crashed and burned, either through your own or others fault...inadvertent probably? How many times have you narrowly escaped being on the skids through pure luck, and how many times has a stroke of good fortune happened to you through pure fluke?

What if you had not received the good fortune? What if you made life-changing decisions which inadvertently put you on the path to financial and emotional bankruptcy? What if you stand and consider people like me, and those worse off, as 'there but for the grace of God go I'? Or do you look at us and think we must have severely displeased God to end up in this situation because those whom He loves He blesses?

Have you considered the effort it takes to look respectable when your charity shop clothes are fast wearing out and you can no longer even afford charity shop prices? Have you considered how many people go to interviews hungry because they needed their money for the bus fare or petrol to get there? Yes I have a laptop and am keeping up phone and Internet charges, how else do I hope to get a job or be contacted? Yes I am also overweight, the cheapest food is better than none and it is also the least nutritious or healthy, you think I like eating rubbish?

At present I am working five different 'jobs' hoping for references, barter, the lead to employment, money making opportunities.. I call them  jobs for my own self respect, one gives me vegetables which keeps food on the table part of the week, another gives me occasional hand-outs when she can afford it and bits of fabric!! All are necessary to my self-esteem.

But as I said at the beginning, there are days that I really enjoy, and I didn't expect that from this precarious existence. I look at 'the haves' with their shopping bags and good clothes and cars and feel a twinge of jealousy, sure, but I know for certain that my higgledy piggeldy lifestyle has more potential, if less remuneration. I also look at the apparent 'haves' and wonder how much fear or loss their outward appearance is hiding. Certainly I'd like to be certain of keeping the roof over my head and being able to feed my girls when they visit without having to go begging from my parents for money, and sure I'd like to know for certain that it will not always be this hand to mouth financial scramble. But I will not put myself back into a position of being bullied or abused in any way shape or form in order to achieve those things.

So for now, yes I am one of the ones looked down upon, a drain on the State, waster and loser and whatever other judgements they care to throw at me, but they judge and find guilty without trial.

In the words of Mr. Magorian:
'We must face tomorrow, whatever it may hold, with
and bravery.'
And boy! every single day takes a truckload of each of those qualities to be got through head up and with a smile on my face.

So yes, I am unemployed; no, this was not a conscious life choice; yes, I would like paid employment; no, I refuse to see myself as down-trodden, desperate sometimes, but not at my wits end; yes, I am going somewhere even though unsure quite where!!

Statistics are real people and on the days I'm struggling to not give up on me, your attitude will make a difference.


Janice / Dancing with Sunflowers said...

Do you mean the woman whose job it was to pay you the money reacted in that way? An employee with this role should behave more appropriately.

It sounds to me like you're doing all the right things - keeping your options open, doing voluntary work for experience or for small goods.

For me, what's important is not how much someone earns, but things like aspiration and being there for others.

I really hope that soon you'll find what you want to do and that it will fall into place for you. Until that time, as long as you know you're doing what you can to move towards that day, then no-one else's opinion matters.

Thinking of you. x

Amanda said...

DH and I thank our lucky stars on a regular basis that we had paid employment for most of our working lives, and were careful enough to have a comfortable retirement. But we've never taken it for granted. And I have nothing but sympathy for those who have not been so lucky. I wonder how difficult it must be to maintain some self respect when life is so hard and shows no signs of getting any better. You sound as if you're in a reasonably good place just now, fingers crossed you can keep it up as well as keeping body and soul together.


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