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Writing off the Weekend

I have ten minutes to write a little update.  I am between shifts, or jobs really.  Today I worked from 11:30-1:45, from 2:30 – 5:00, and now I will be working from 5:30-11:30.  So a 12 hour day!  Unfortunately as these are technically three separate jobs, I don’t get paid breaks or lunch break.  But that’s the fate of the underemployed.  Picking up odd jobs wherever you can, putting them first and foremost because if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.  Worse, if you don’t work, you don’t get offered more work.  So you work as much as you can, whenever you can get it.  And of course, when it rains it pours

I’m not complaining – not really anyway.  I’m extremely grateful to have work.  I’m deeply concerned about the state of the global economy and where we’re heading in general, and am happy to have anything right now.  These little jobs are representative of the age – with my experience and qualifications I should be earning a very solid salary with comfortable benefits and health coverage.  But I am not alone.  Plenty of people are as qualified as I am, or more so (much in many cases), and still can’t find stable work that offers any kind of security.

Struggling like this has been an interesting experience.  I am used to having disposable income, but it’s been a while since I’ve had any to spare.  Especially after going to those sheepdog trials!  Each one cost me around $100 with travel costs, a very luxurious expense these days.  I have been cutting corners everywhere; I haven’t been able to afford juice in months for example.  It really is a luxury item; water will do just fine in its place.  I haven’t bought any new clothes for months either.  I had been buying a few inexpensive items at the beginning of each sesaons, but I’ve discovered that these cheap clothes don’t last and are a waste of money.  The super discount t-shirts I bought in May didn’t last through August, so why bother? 

Not having new clothes wouldn’t have bothered me a few years ago, but now when I go out in public I’m starting to be quite aware – and a little ashamed – that my shoes have holes forming, and my clothes out of date and worn.  I know this will come to an end at some point – eventually I will graduate, and provided we don’t spiral into a depression, I should find full-time employment after that.  Probably not for another couple of years though.  And at my age it’s no longer quaint to look like a ‘starving student’ – it’s humbling.

But there’s good to be found in this.  Having to watch every penny, and having to struggle to earn each one as well, is making me really realize how much waste there is in the world, and how little we need to be happy, or at least content.  As long as I am warm and have a full stomach, and am able to feed my dogs, life is good.  I can sew to fix clothes, and I don’t go out enough socially to really need much in terms of evening wear. 

I’m also learning to be more aware of people’s situations who have to live like this over the longterm.  For example, I was recently involved in organizing an event promoting local food.  I argued vehemently to keep the price down, or even make the event free.  I have attended outstanding food related events that have been free – including a nice hot meal – in order to make it as accessible as possible.  Unfortunately the others involved felt that it was more important to have a fancy meal than to make the event accessible to people with limited income.  They must earn enough to not understand that spending $40 for a mid-day meal is unthinkable for some.  I couldn’t continue working on this event once I realized how exclusionary it had become.  In my opinion, eating good, healthy food should be our #1 priority, and spreading this awareness is paramount for all, not just the wealthy. 

Even though the budget is very tight, I still don’t compromise on food.  I won’t.  I can’t.  It really is not an option for me anymore.  I buy local, organic food first and foremost – for myself and my animals – and make ends meet with what’s left over.  Eating local, organic food I really think is one of the most important things I can do for myself, for my health and that of my animals, for my community, and for my planet.  When put that way, who needs new clothes?

Speaking of food, I get my first delivery of the winter CSA today – I can’t wait to see what’s waiting for me when I get home!  Well, that’s all for now.  I have to start work.

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