In the city on Wednesday I caught up with Cheeseboy around lunchtime for a coffee. It was a bright, blue, brilliant day, and as we walked towards the chose cafe he asked, as is normal, how I was progressing in my various ventures. By and large the answer was negative, as was my situation in general. “You’ve got to get a job,” he exclaimed, “you’ve just got to get a job.”
I was tempted to thank him for this piece of sage advice, to respond with something along the lines of “thanks, I might try that,” but instead walked on silently. He’s right, I do need a job, very badly, but I don’t need to be told that.
People often say things like that to me. I’m not offended by it, though there is a sense of familiar exasperation. People mean well, and often times these things come out because they can’t think of anything else to say. I’m aware my circumstances and predicament often makes it awkward and embarrassing for others. Even at the best of times I will often feel the odd man out, the elephant in the room.
All the same it’s not hard to feel patronised sometimes. Not so much from the likes of Cheeseboy, who I’m close to, and who loves me like a brother, but others, the people you catch up with 5 minutes very so often who and have an opinion on your situation they want to share.
This is hard on me because I always have been, and remain, a proud man. There’s no getting away from the fact that I’m now a supplicant. I’m constantly searching for a job, any job, just to get by. I’m always trying to find ways to make money, or save it. Unlike most I don’t have a job to go to, or money in my pocket, and very rarely do I get to experience the simple pleasures those things can facilitate. Too often I’m reliant on others. Essentially, I now live my life on my knees – but it’s not something I want reminding of.
Yesterday I had another friend suggest I could perhaps become an Uber driver. It’s something I’d looked into previously. As an option it was better than nothing, but best as a supplementary income. Regardless it is not something I can do because my car is uninsured. End of story.
My friend responded in shock, mate, you’ve got to get your car insured. He’s right, I do, but the reason I haven’t is because I can’t.
My car insurance is a handy metaphor for my situation. When it fell due about a year ago I knew I couldn’t renew it. As it lapsed I was certain that within a couple of weeks I would be in an accident just to rub it in. I was always the sort of person right on top of such things. Not renewing my car insurance was not a choice I made, but simply the exercise of reality. I couldn’t pay what I didn’t have, and that’s true for so much.
One of the hardest things I find in my situation is that there’s no-one who understands what it’s like if they haven’t been through it themselves.
You try to look to the future, but you’re always dragged into the immediate. You wonder how you’ll get to work tomorrow because your car’s running on empty. You need to get some petrol, no two ways. You can spare $20 perhaps, but that means you can’t buy groceries. You haven’t had lunch this week, or last week or indeed any day over the last 3 months.
The gas bill is due and the electricity overdue. Your phone has only just been re-connected after paying the arrears. There’s hardly any food in the pantry, but even so the priority is food for Rigby first. Whatever’s left over is yours.
Your mind does it’s sums trying to make things add up, but no matter how many times you try you’re always short. Something will have to be sacrificed, and even then it’s a scramble.
You go to bed, you wake up, you get by, and when you’ve got a moment you try to find a way out of this miserable existence. It takes immense focus just to get by, but it takes its toll.
How I wish I could find someone to explain this too and know they would understand without comment. I’m not searching for pity – I’m striving to make things work out. I don’t like talking about these things, but as much as anything I miss having someone who has an understanding of how bloody tough this is. In the absence of that the isolation – emotional and psychological, as well as social – deepens; and the gap between me and society widens.
I know I should pay my car insurance. I actually got a quote a month ago. I have to pay the gas and electricity bills too though, both overdue. My car payment is late by 3 weeks, and if I don’t pay my phone bill in a week it will be cut-off again. My internet is due tomorrow, and the rent – to which I’ve got nothing set aside – is due in 10 days. And I almost forgot – my car rego is due next week.
You tell me. I can’t pay all. What do I pay? What’s my priorities? How do I manage it? What excuses can I come up with? How do I secure an extension? Where do I find extra dollars? Which phone calls do I take, and which do I ignore?
There’s a lot of things I should do, but only a short list of things I can do. My life is balancing priorities, and unfortunately the immediate and most pressing priority is always that of survival.
I live this 24/7. I don’t get a break from it. I’m thankful for the support and encouragement, and I’m always open to new ideas. Just know I’ve considered most things, and tried many of them. Every day I’m out there trying something. And if there’s something I haven’t done that perhaps I could have it’s probably because I can’t.