A blanket of soft snow covered everything, stopping most people in their daily tracks. It was the first of December and a successful slow journey to the lower valley took place around noon to swap children with other family and friends. One went there and another came here. In both directions, abandoned cars piled alongside in ditches and run-offs. No one was hurt; mostly just bent metal and broken headlights.
I slipped around and through the potentially dangerous conditions. Fortunately, I had grown up in the snow and so driving in these conditions was not threatening other than the occasional inexperienced driver that slid by recklessly. I thought about the time of year and the economy. “No one is hiring this time of year.” I could still hear the lady’s voice speak candidly about the true nature of job prospects in the area. Her stare peered over thin black rims as she sat there.
It could be a long winter, I thought and realized that I needed to take a deep breath and get creative. I was doing everything I knew how to do. A profile was slowly taking shape online that I could direct potential employers to. I was downloading and learning some of the latest software applications that would help me sell my capacity to do good work. My resume was taking on various forms and I was targeting companies from all over the country blasting them with cover letters and word documents touting my excellent work experience. But so far nothing came but the silent blanket of snow and a calm grey cloak of winter cold.
My friend, a writer in the lower valley, is near completion of her book. She works from home mostly leaning on her background in journalism as a freelance writer to help from month to month. For me, this is a dangerous time. I could very easily slip into bohemia and embrace another stab at making it as a writer and finally finish one of those books started long ago. But there has never been support for this endeavor and no patience remains for this dream to have a chance. But how else should I spend my time when looking for proper employment seems futile and hopeless? Should I use my skills in graphic design to make a really cool sign for the onramps?
Where do I go from here?
I realize, as I make my way back up the road I was told not to take, traction is actually pretty good. The girls are giggling in the backseat and the icy waters of Puget Sound blend into the skyline. A black raven glides from somewhere out of the woods above the road and swoops down over the cliff edge to someplace else below where humans do not go. Another one pops up into view out over the water from somewhere below. It could be the same bird.
My speed is marginal and I am cautious. I know that I could easily be happy living someplace remote and focused on nothing but my writing and my health. It makes me think about what is considered responsible these days. It makes me think about true intent and where we must go in order to please. Who is the judge of such things? What should decisions be based on? How would my family survive it? Could I afford to support and maintain two ideals simultaneously? At what point am I able to embrace and celebrate who I am and the needs I have to be human? Should I not be celebrating my family instead? If only my family accepted the celebration.
As I continue north, the road becomes thicker and more treacherous, but I am careful. The car in my rearview has slowed considerably and shrinks into the landscape. Unemployment represents much more than a job and financial capacity of the monthly demands. The trial presents a crossroad, a time to choose and decide based on a set of circumstances that resemble some aspect of our value systems and a balance of our dreams as we look out onto the canvas of our life. There is the freedom that comes with it also. But what would it be?
I have been told many times that I am nothing and there is no hope for us because I am forty years of age and have nothing. Despite my feeling insulted by these drunken accusations, it is true that I have destroyed credit with ‘failed’ attempts at self-employment, and with it those closest to me have no faith left, no hope.
While I understand this and continue to yield to other perspectives than my own, I find myself safeguarding my esteem with various levels of rationale, clearly designed as measures of self-preservation. Thoughts go back and forth between heroic confidence and self-loathing. But then it is surmised that this is simply part of the trials of this life and it is my job to document them. With that, I am brought back to my core instincts as a human and what I need for myself – beyond anyone else – beyond perceptions of what employment is or isn’t and how wealth and poverty play into identity, and how classes are forged in this society. At times, the only things abundant are the reminders of the failings and those efforts, which paralyze hope like a pinched nerve.
Today, I am an artist. This is a safe place because it dwells across class lines and is not judged so much on factors of wealth. But this, too, is a dangerous place whereas the idea of it contradicts the opinion and beliefs of those closest to me. Though, I have to wonder, if so close, then how can life be so misunderstood?
It is a strange trick that plays out in many relationships all over the world. It is a dichotomy between people regardless of their race or social standing or gender or anything else. Values exist no matter what they are and so goes the search for the thread to identify appropriate action to move from unemployment and back into the midstream of life – or at least that which we perceive as being midstream and our interpretation of life.
Hanging with my friend reminds me that there are many streams. Tree branches become heavier and the road is slick with anxiety as people white knuckle their cars through the twisting curves of the road. I have been here before. I have always made it through just fine and hear my thoughts hang on tight to that internal voice as I make my way. It is a tricky thing to keep the balance for each passenger involved in the journey. But at some point, the passengers will take up their own path and I pray that they do so without compromising who they are and that they can celebrate themselves and those around them with love and compassion and without judgment.
I can see the final turn a little way beyond two cars that got parked in the ditch. I think about continuing on past and heading into town for a few things. But it occurs to me that the day is early and that perhaps I should save it for later. So I make the turn and head up the hill where I wrestle with time as the light wanes into another winter storm.