My first job at 14 years old was working at a family-owned franchise root beer and burger stand. Stewart’s Root Beer was iconic at the Jersey shore. It was a 50’s style drive-in.
When you started at Stewart’s, you were stationed at the fryers. It was the lowest job on the totem pole. You had to endure the hot (un-airconditioned) kitchen for long shifts in front of the fryers. I remember my face, hair, and white uniform and apron was filled with grease when I left for home after those long shifts. Disgusting.
But that part-time job, even at minimum wage ($2/hr), paid for a full year’s tuition at the local Catholic High School. I saved all summer, and was able to pay for my tuition and a 10-speed bike.
Of course, in those days social mobility existed, and kids like me knew Stewart’s wasn’t a career. It was an entrée into the workforce. Almost all the kids I knew took part-time jobs. Many of them worked on the Seaside boardwalk.
Now, in my golden years, I make no excuse for taking full advantage of my in-home robot services (Siri, Alexa) to turn on my lights, play my podcasts, tell me the news, and create my grocery list.
Acknowledging that technology and globalization are the fundamental drivers for income inequality, I do find myself wondering (worrying about) what will happen to those at the bottom of the income scale who have no social mobility options.
Man, did I have a bad year in 2019. I remember having to “call a friend,” when she posted on one of her social media accounts that anyone could reach out to her if they were having suicidal thoughts. That was me. I was literally suicidal in 2019. It was bad, really bad.
I lost everything that year. I lost professional relationships. I lost friends. I lost all my income. I lost my apartment. In some ways, I even lost my kids. I had to put all my worldly belongings into storage, pack up the cat, some clothes and drive to (fucking) South Dakota and stay in my sister’s attic. What a shit show. I hit a cruel rock bottom without any of the upside of the raucous good time that normally accompanies an addiction. My life was effectively over.
It got a little better over the summer of 2019 as I started to relax and enjoy the beauty of the high plains. But, by the fall, I realized I had to take care of my financial affairs and head back to Florida. A series of extremely unfortunate events occurred when I did, and thus, 2020 began almost as badly as 2019 had… and then… the PANDEMIC.
So. As I rolled into 2021, drained of my savings, my IRA, all my worldly assets, even without a car, I had to rebuild. Alone.
But I did rebuild. As I’ve done time and time again in my life. This time, I had the luxury, the privilege, of not having to support anyone but myself (and my trusty comfort cat).
I invested in my mental, spiritual, and physical well-being. I took the opportunity to finally explore the dark depths of my life experience and begin the healing process than I had suppressed for all my adult life. Two words: complex trauma.
I started an intense, regular regime of therapy. I made a commitment to lose the weight I’d gained over the pandemic (done) and continue on my path, and I opened my heart and soul to the Universe.
I recently described myself as “Christian+.” I was raised a Christian, yet I find there is something magnificent going on out there that cannot be explained by any religious dogma. It has links to science and it is beyond human comprehension. I fall in with Albert Einstein here with this thinking:
“One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike. We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us. It is entirely possible that behind the perception of our senses, worlds are hidden of which we are unaware.”
I started writing. Really writing. Writing stories from my life. Writing features in magazines. I began taking photos and now consider myself an amateur photographer. I started a film production company that is meeting with some success. I became engaged in civic responsibility and am serving on a few boards where I’m making a contribution. I consciously made the decision to Marie Kondo my social network. If a person I’m connected to is not sparking joy in some way in my life, I quietly disconnect. I aligned my priorities around “what matters.”
Unless the health market spurs a breakthrough in affordable, adult longevity, I realize I only have a couple more decades on the planet. My goal is to live out the rest of my days enjoying my best life.
Today– heading into the fall of 2021, I’m centered, strong, grounded, and connected. I’m traveling to the beat of a different drummer that maybe only I can hear. And I’m okay with that.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou
It was probably 2014, around this time (May 28), when Maya Angelou passed that everyone was talking about the famous poet. I had just begun working on my startup dedicated to violence against women after my long career in technology. At that time, my oldest daughter was working with me. I asked her, “Who is Maya Angelou?”
She was shocked and somewhat appalled that I could ask such an ignorant literary question.
She told me she was one of the most famous contemporary poets and civil rights activists of our time. I shrugged, and went on with what I was doing.
It took me a few years to finally dig into Angelou’s brilliance. When I found the poem, Still I Rise, I recognized myself in it. It reminded me of what one of my male tech partners once said about me that I didn’t understand, so I had to look it up. He told me he admired how I would, “Rise like a Phoenix, over and over again.”
Such a universal truth for women emboldened with the will to survive, to overcome.
And therein lies some of the mystery as to why I’m uninformed as to the great feminist writers. I spent a lifetime competing in a man’s world, surrounded by men, reading men’s words predominantly. I did not have the luxury to invest in learning about the oppression and discrimination that dogged me throughout my professional career.