March, thus far, has been full of surprises. Not good ones, really. My fella (I’m calling him this because I’ve decided it sounds better than referring to a 44 year old man as a ‘boyfriend’) unexpectedly lost his job at the beginning of the month. That has been painful and stressful for me, as I don’t yet know what it will mean for our relationship. It has been painful and stressful for him for these and a slew of other reasons. Then last week I went through an expected round of lay-offs at my job.
“What?” [You say.] “Again? Didn’t you just do this? Why? How stressful! And the two of you are such lovely people… It’s completely unfair!”
Thank you. For saying that. I agree of course, but it is so nice to hear. You are correct. Devil, thy name is Corporate America. I usually just say “Comcast” but now I’m expanding it to be more encompassing.
My department was pulled into a room and we were told that our group was being eliminated and we would each find out later in the day, in one on one meetings with HR, if we had been selected for relocation or severance. Late in the afternoon I discovered actually I was the one exception. Which is crazy. Completely crazy. I could write pages explaining why this decision makes no sense, but you can just take my word for it: it makes no sense.
Still, good news. One of us has a job. And for the moment we are together. I will hate the day that I go to work and all of my co-workers who I love and respect are gone and it is just me by my lonesome. (I guess I could make some friends in the Quality Department. But I’d rather not. They seem judgey. Is it judgey to say that they seem judgey?)
Last night, the fella and I went out to a bar and I started to tell him a somewhat personal story when he got tapped on the shoulder by the guy sitting on the other side of him at the bar. The fella is Southern and I’m usually impressed with how well he navigates his way through the social and etiquette situations that I find so awkward and defeating. Last night, however, when I expected him to answer the man’s question and return to our conversation, he didn’t.
Which is fine. For the last three weeks, he has spent every day in his apartment sending out his resume and emailing contacts and looking for consulting jobs that could fill in some gaps while he waits for the next job to come along. And then in the evenings he talks to me and we talk about these things and then I fill him in on the drama of the pre and post-layoff conversations I’m having at my office. An opportunity to talk to someone else about work – his own work – presented itself and he needed that. I totally get and support that.
But I was telling him something personal. And I got my feelings hurt when I lost my audience, and then my thread, and finally my desire to finish the story.
At some point, the stranger from the bar leaned over (I was on my phone looking at Facebook by then) and said, “Sorry, are we boring you?”
I wanted to say, “Technically you would have to include me to bore me…” but I didn’t.
Still, it ended up leading to the first “argument” the fella and I have had. I say “argument” because it wasn’t much of one. I got his attention back and he apologized and asked me to continue. But I couldn’t. The moment had passed. He thought I was punishing him and I told him I wasn’t going to persist in telling a story I didn’t feel like telling to prove I wasn’t angry. And that was basically it. We left the bar and went to bed.
Lesson learned: don’t tell a personal story while sitting “at” the bar. Get a booth. Also don’t tell a personal story while pre-menstrual. Maybe just don’t leave the house while pre-menstrual. That’s a good rule.
Anyway… all of this is to explain while I am sitting here, writing this, with a medium sized fist of stress and aggravation in my gut. I’m sad and tired and I feel like my whole body is wrapped around this hard pit of uncertainty that is filling my core.
But the phrase that is coming to mind is “First World Problems.” Which I usually think of as the stupid little shit that gets us down here in the U.S. and other industrial / tech laden countries. In the last 24 hours, for instance, I had a number of classing First World Problems that captured more of my attention than they deserved.
I had to get a replacement for a lost driver’s license yesterday, which meant leaving work early to get to the DMV. After running to my house first because I forgot to bring my passport and then taking a poorly chosen route to the other side of town to the government office, no asked me for a single piece of identification whatsoever. (Last time, when my license expired, I was made to produce my passport, my birth certificate and two pieces of mail). Apparently anyone could have walked in and asked for it.
Then the woman told me to sit in the chair for the photo and she started counting to three while I was still standing in front of her. If I were smart – or at least, not so programed to respect authority… ANY authority – I would have stayed put and let her take a photo of the empty chair while I collected myself. There wasn’t a single person in line behind me, for God’s sake. I should have taken a whole 25 seconds and put some lipstick on. But no, I dove into the chair. In the photo my hair looks like it is still in motion. And I look drunk. Which feels like punishment, because I lost the license at a bar on St. Patrick’s Day. And now I’m stuck being Drunky Face McBlurryhair until my license expires again in four years. Or until next St. Patrick’s Day… there is always that.
Then, on the way home, I decided to stop at the wine store to pick up a few magnums for an art show I’m having this weekend. But as soon as I got back on the freeway, there was a sudden pile-up and I had to slam on my brakes. I put the bottles on the floor of my passenger side so they wouldn’t fall off the seat, but the force of the car coming to a sudden stop made the bottles hit the dash and one of the magnums broke into about thirty pieces. Luckily, it was the white and not the red. Luckily, it was still in the paper sack so cleaning up the broken glass was a small chore. But still. An entire magnum (two regular wine bottles worth) of cheap white wine, soaked into the floor of my passenger side. So now my car is going to smell like the dumpster behind the Twilight Lounge. For the rest of time.
These are First World Problems.
But the thing that we don’t say about First World Problems is that sometimes they completely suck and hurt like hell. Like when you buy a house because it is the best financial decision, according to your research and analysis, and from then on you live in fear that you are going to lose your house, because ‘what if you lose your job?, and can’t find another one, or have to take one that doesn’t cover the payments, or whatever else?’
Or when you take a chance on a relationship, but then he loses his job. And you’ve only been dating for a year, so what do you do? Is it completely crazy to consider moving? It kinda seems crazy. But things have been going so well, and you were even leaning in and getting vulnerable and telling personal stories under ill-advised circumstances. What was the point of all of that?
And what if you don’t lose your job, but you are inexplicably the one who keeps her job. And you don’t love that job, but for a while you experienced a really good working environment with a group of completely rad people who taught you a lot about collaboration and comradre in addition to all the useless things that you have learned from them about making pharmaceuticals. And you should be relieved but instead you feel guilty and sad. And more than just a little bit of severance envy.
Not that I am saying that I would rather live in the third world where every day I might face starvation, violence, disease and human trafficking, to name just a few possibilities. Though now I get to feel guilty as if I said that, because I have, of my own free will, wandered into this dangerous comparison. And being a proper progressive First Worlder requires me to feel guilty most of the time, anyway.
All I am trying to say is that sometimes I have real First World Problems. And sometimes they get me down. And I deal with it by eating food that is bad for me.
Maybe that is what this was all about? I got sad and went to Crown Burger. And I ate a cheese burger and about six yams worth of sweet potato fries. And now in the after-shame I’m writing down all of the things that have me low. To punish myself? Now THAT is a classic First World Problem material.
New lesson learned. Maybe don’t write anything down while pre-menstrual? Or for the next five to seven days, either? Probably a good idea.