Today, autumn aggressively cut in front of a too-long summer here in Portland, whipping leaves and medium-heavy showers around the dangerously cracked and uneven parking lot of our apartment complex.
I opened to windows to air out one of those unidentifiable smells. The ones that are neither disgusting nor pleasant, but are stagnant and bothersome and just not good. I lit candles to help, on my tiny Portuguese folkwitch altar, dedicated to an old Luistanian brand of spirituality that I may be the only practitioner of these days.
I need to be awake in six hours for my third interview since graduating with my master’s degree in August. I’ve sent out approximately 120 applications in that time, and despite my experience and my relevant degree, instead of being called in to work as an Adult Basic Education Instructor (my current dream), I am trying desperately just to get any job at this point.
Generational poverty. I’ve overused the phrase recently. Since coming to the u.s. three to four generations ago, my immediate Euro-Portuguese family has had at least one member experience chronic homelessness and deep poverty in each of those said generations. I have been homeless twice as an adult and, I’m told, for a few years as an infant as well.
Generational poverty. It has no real impact for me in just the speaking of the words anymore. Its effects are the real problem. While I’m not ashamed to desperately apply and work for the same kind of minimum (or less) wage jobs my family has always worked, I had hoped for something more.
Still, despite my chronic pain and Psychogenic Movement Disorder, I apply for hard-labor jobs that will further grind down the discs in my low back and trigger my dystonia. I do this not because I’m a “good” disabled person, but because I have to.
Millennials, my generation, has to.
Millennials. Another word I have overused until its sound and shape have become disconnected from its meaning for me. I feel it’s effects every time I submit another resume and sign-up for another job-posting site and follow-up with another email to a place I applied and network with another acquaintance who might have a lead on a job for me. I feel it in the way that my education, despite its significance to me as the only college graduate in my family, becomes valueless among oceans of others who have the exact same achievements.
In the dark, with my candles burning down, my army surplus store boots I wore the last time I was homeless still on from slopping through the mud to the laundry room earlier, I wonder if tomorrow will further blanch meaning from the words in my vocabulary. I wonder at what point I’m meant to give in to the pointlessness.
At what point should I give up having the right experience on my resume to be competitive for that Ph.D. program in Amherst, Massachusetts that I want to apply for in a few years? At what point should I give up on my dreams of changing educational policy in this country at the state and federal levels?
At what point do I give up on being able to conduct full-scale mixed methods research on homeless first-generation students and their relationship to higher education? Or on investigating our dismal track record with funding education from the national budget? Or on putting together huge presentations on the future of higher ed itself and the role of social media and inter-generational learning and collaboration in that future?
At what point do I take off my boots and sleep tonight?
Generational poverty. Poverty. You can’t spell it without Poetry.
A Poem On Poverty:
I blow out the candles, leaving birthday cake smell, so I make a wish that this day births abundance — I am hungry. From poverty, not from starving and not for cake. I am hungry for money — greedy and grubby and grabbing at paychecks and penny-pinching paltry sums and pretty much still empty. Generational lacking. Lacking inherited. Inheriting old change jars and bus tickets and poor-person savvy and work-aholism and alcoholism and addictions too numerous and at times too disheartening to name. It’s pretty much not pretty. Not a romantic struggle from petty deprivation into heady sums of money and philanthropy. I’m still the charity-case in this narrative. Still hungry.
There’s some thunder coming for us now. It’s so loud I can hear it rumbling the pavement like the warnings before a stampede. Something is rushing towards us. The storm might crack the parking lot open or throw a tree in my path and I might not make it to the bus on time tomorrow and then won’t make it to the interview and then won’t get the job.
But most likely I’ll make it just fine. And I’ll smile and charm through my sleep-deprived thoughts and later, coming back, anxiously worry over how much I probably blew it and my PMD ticks will start acting up and people will stare and I will have forgotten my meds at home and my old phone with the shoddy battery won’t have lasted long enough for me to be able to listen to music and tune it all out until it all becomes meaningless. Disconnected from words.
From overused, pointless, meaningless, redundant words.