April 30, 2012

Proud To Be An American

Speaking out.

Some time ago I re-read The Jungle, which everyone remembers to be about the meat industry in the early 1900s but is really about the building of America. Sure, there was a lot about how meat was processed and packaged and sold to the mostly unsuspecting public, but there was a lot more about race, prejudice, corruption, and wealth and poverty. 

We have this image of America, of the brave outcasts who dreamed of a better life for everyone, who came to this unconquered (but not uninhabited) continent and set up a society in which every man, woman and child would have the ability to rise to wealth and comfort through hard work, and care for himself and his family without extreme hardship. 

The upcoming presidential election has brought up what it means to work hard, and what it means to be comfortable. Everyone who was in the race was wealthy from the very beginning, and those who claimed to have worked their way to the top did so because of family connections or by living off of stock gains while they got their footings. Regular Americans? If they have stock it's not enough to live off the gains while they set out to chase their dreams, and more families today need two incomes to provide for the children, especially as healthcare costs increase year to year. There's the mostly unspoken idea that if you're unable to rise up into the ranks of the 1% you're just not working hard enough (mostly unspoken because it's been said, despite it still being highly taboo to bring that up). Obviously if the existing 1% got there (and obviously they got there by working hard and being smart), anyone can get there, so the poor and the struggling middle class should just stop whining. 

But I work in a country where it's uncommon to be rewarded for your efforts, where those who make the most money within a company receive financial rewards that would make it appear they're benefitting the company when the reality is they're failing at their job, and where those on the bottom rung of the ladder work hard and long and with sometimes harsh demands because they're constantly under the threat of being fired and losing the things they're already only hanging onto by a thread. Employees have to prove themselves in order to get a modest (or deserved or well overdue) raise while CEOs and presidents pocket buckets of cash because it's expected, regardless of whether it's deserved. 

The higher ups are also hiding behind the recession (which is over, apparently?), telling the workers that we're all struggling right now and promising things will get better once the economy does, you just have to wait it out like everybody else. And if it's obvious the company is doing well, or at least the CEOs aren't struggling, then it's unpatriotic to complain about your wage or your working conditions. All you have to do is put in your time and things will work out just like it did for the wealthy- don't complain when you're living in the greatest country on Earth.

In The Jungle, families came here using the very last of their life savings, after selling the farm and every single one of their possessions, save for some clothes and the things they can carry, because of the stories of prosperity and opportunity that this great new country provides. They came here willing to work hard and failed because working hard wasn't nearly enough, and wasn't even the issue. They were dumb and were taken advantage of, and nothing's changed since then. We're still willing to work hard, to give it our all, to build up the company that hired us, but we also want a little acknowledgement so that we, too, can make a life. It doesn't seem too much to ask for, especially when that's what the country has promised us. I am proud to be an American, but not always for the right reasons.

April 19, 2012

Where I'll Be In A Year

Disappointed cat is disappointed LOLcats
When in doubt, post cats.

A year ago I took the job I'm currently in because I just could not stand working part time for barely above minimum wage and scraping money together for rent every month. Admittedly I told myself I'd take it despite it's major problems and just keep looking, and I've been very lax on that over the year. I certainly did not, however, think that I'd make it to my one year anniversary with the company. 

The good news is over the last few months the company has changed drastically and is heading in a very positive direction. The bad news is it's a struggle every day to communicate to the bosses how to run a successful company in the eyes of the public and the employees- dollar signs can get loud. Not to mention not all employees are treated the same and some are downright taken advantage of. That in itself makes me want to escape.

So, if I'm still here a year later, where will I be next April? There are still things I want to have accomplished by then which I thought I'd have started on by now... at least a class under my belt, if not an application in the works, have a savings, have a plan, and hopefully have a job I really, truly love. The last two weeks have been exhausting for no apparent reason... it's a battle to run even though my race is in two weeks (soooo disappointing... I wish I wasn't running), Sunday nights suck because it means a whole new week ahead of e doing the same thing over again, and honestly feeling like I can't do my job with the tools I have makes the week drag. 

I've been thinking a lot lately, mostly in response to my jealousy over my boyfriend's awesome job and schedule that lets him nap in the afternoons, that freelancing and working part time somewhere fun would keep me happy and financially stable. Thanks to 2010 I know I can live on very little income and now that I don't have a debt and am in a position to save a few months of living expenses in very little time that prospect isn't so scary. And that lifestyle would work very well if I went back to school next year. 

We'll see what the next year brings...

April 15, 2012

All Politicians Are Crazy

Duh. I know.

Disclaimer: Although I'm not a registered voter in any party, I took a political beliefs test in high school and I was just barely to the left. The issues here, among many, many others, make me cringe at Republicans.

This November will be the third presidential election I've voted in and here we are, mid April, and I'm already fed up with the whole thing. We've got changing rules left and right, backstabbing and more name calling than I heard in middle school. And these are the leaders of the greatest country on Earth. 

I know there's a system, that whichever party isn't in office blames the party that is in office for any little thing that goes even slightly wrong, but if things end up going great they poo-poo the accomplishments or try to take the credit, and as soon as that party gets in office the cycle starts all over again. It's sickening. I know I've said this before, but I'm starting to think there's more than a system and that this whole two party deal we have is an illusion, and that the over-the-top uber-conservative politicians chomping at the bit this time around are simply helping the incumbent Democrat keep his office. There's just no way these people really believe in the things they're preaching, and if they really do and would really try to accomplish all the so-called promises they're giving middle America? I'm fucking leaving. (Now that I think about it, those people would just say good riddance to a woman like me.)

There's been a lot of petty arguments going on this time around, which I didn't notice so much in the last two elections (although, to be fair, the last election was so focused on the circus that was Sarah Palin, who was running for president in 2012 while running for vice president in 2008, that it was hard to pay attention to too much else). Recently President Obama accepted a donation from comedian Bill Maher and some women said he should not accept it because of Maher's stand-up routine on women, which apparently is less than flattering or respectful. Funny thing about that, however, is that it was Republican women who said the president shouldn't accept the donation, not Democratic women. Oh really, a Republican is saying a Democrat should have standards regarding who donates to his race? Shocking. This is especially notable because it came right after Rush Limbaugh got on his radio show and openly called a woman a slut, whore, prostitute and several other things for wanting to take birth control. I don't think any Republicans are not accepting his donations...

That whole situation was so juvenile and ridiculous that I think it perfectly sums up this election, and American politics in general. Republicans are doing whatever the fuck they want but as soon as a Democrat does something even remotely similar they're all up in arms about it, thinking the rest of us won't notice they just did that exact same thing (although usually in a worse fashion: I'll take a comedian's relatively harmless stand-up routine that picks on female stereotypes over an influential talk show host actually calling a woman a slut any day). I've seen some of Bill Maher, although apparently not the anti-women schtick he supposedly has, and thought he was funny. I've seen male comedians live and watched male comedians on TV who make fun of women and it never bothered me. Then again, I've seen female comedians pick on men, but no one seemed to care about that... I assume the conservative women who had the issue with Bill Maher's comic comments don't actually have an issue with him, they just saw an easy target and made a big fucking deal out of it. They probably don't really  think that a stand-up comedian who goes on about some woman driver who cut him off actually hates women who drive; they're probably somewhat rational people who understand comedy and the difference between a stand-up routine that picks on certain stereotypes and someone who actually hates specific groups, like what one can believe from Limbaugh's comments about women who take birth control.

Or maybe not. Maybe there are a lot of outspoken people who do not have any fun in life, who do not like comedy, who do not have sex even with their opposite-sex spouses, who take everything very seriously and who can't relax. And the rest of us have to sit through another 6 months of this political bullshit, even though we all know it's highly likely Obama's getting another 4 years (yep, I said it). Might as well grab the popcorn and try not to get an ulcer as I watch the Republicans shoot me down just because I wasn't born with a penis.

April 14, 2012

Deconstructing Family

Last night I went to see Deconstruction of a Drag Queen, a play put on by Circle Circle dot dot, a San Diego theatre company owned by my boyfriend's friends. It was an incredibly moving piece that detailed the life of a popular San Diego drag queen, Grace Towers, and her struggling to come to terms with who she was as well as getting her family to accept her lifestyle. Although most people do not have to go through what Grace did, it still resonates because most people have at one point or another disappointed their parents.

The play starred a boy named Michael (or Mike) who grew up in a religious, conservative household with a mother who wanted her only son to be a successful doctor or lawyer or something respectable with a giant income. Unfortunately, ever since Mike was a little kid he was attracted to his older sister's dresses, her make up box, organizing musical skits for town performances with his friends, and dancing, none of which his mother approved of. She called him every horrible name in the book and forced him to ignore who he was for who she wanted him to be. It wasn't until he started at UCSD under a pre-med program (arguably one of the hardest in the country) that he discovered a little bit of freedom, thanks to his new friends. The rest of the play was about him embracing being gay, discovering a passion for drag, and ultimately losing his family because they could not accept his choices. And that last part is what resonates so clearly.

It was easy to feel the audience experience shock, anger, empathy and joy for the characters on stage, especially knowing that the play is based on a real person and her real experiences. More than I expected I found myself getting emotional... although I never had to work to get anyone to accept my lifestyle and was never called those names or anything even remotely similar, I too had to deal with disappointment and feeling not good enough. On stage, Mike makes a phone call to his mother telling her he's switching his major and asks that she still love him; she hangs up on him. Their last conversation ends with his mother telling him he's no longer part of the family because of his choices. It was powerful watching a person, even an actor, go through that. There was a time I was not allowed in a parent's house and have felt like I lost both parents... one of whom has gone out of his way to make me feel unloved, unwanted and unimportant. For what?

Last weekend at Easter I spent a good amount of time in my hometown with my family, and although I do miss them and do wish I could see them more often, I feel like the burden is always on me to make the effort when no one else will, and my feeling that I don't belong in that town is reinforced with every return. Watching this play after spending a lot (= less than 3 days) of time up there reminded me of how different I am, but it also made me realize how perceptions change with time, and how truths get twisted... these are things I can't talk about with the people I should be talking about them with because doing so could severely damage relationships that are often already hanging by a thread. I made the decision that it's not worth bringing up, which means I have to live knowing people believe things that just aren't true about me, and that hurts.

Fortunately, the inspiration for Deconstruction of a Drag Queen, Grace Towers, found her niche and seems happy and well accepted among her surrogate family. We all need a surrogate family sometimes... we can't choose who we're related to and that can make it near impossible to get along with our family members. Hopefully people can keep in mind that it always hurts to feel like you've disappointed a parent just for being who you are, no matter how old you get.

April 9, 2012

Letting Go of Tradition

An example of a tradition that's gone through a lot of change...

Easily one of the biggest hardships I felt in the aftermath of my parent's divorce was the loss of tradition. They tried to keep it the same, but because we now had two houses to go to for every holiday and birthday the traditions got split up between parents: one did brunch while the other took care of dinner, we still got stockings at Christmas and baskets at Easter and one parent did a birthday dinner while the other maybe did a party the weekend before. It worked for a while, but when we got older and lives got more complicated the traditions started dropping. It was hard on me and I felt like I was the only one who cared. Truth be told I shouldn't have cared because I was too old for most of that anyway, but so much had changed during the previous years that I just wanted the traditions to feel normal.

But I'm getting better in my old age. And honestly I don't know what to attribute that to... am I really maturing? Do I just not care anymore? Has there been so much change that I've given up? A combination? Maybe. But I think it has a lot more to do with my relationships with my family members than anything. For a while I was working a tourist job and it was easy enough to stay in San Diego and work, allowing my coworkers to spend time with their families and earning some extra money I was desperate for... and I did feel a little like it might just be easier on everyone if I just didn't go for the holidays, which were always stressful enough on their own, and I couldn't seem to keep my mouth shut around certain people or situations. Now that everyone's a little bit older and has gone through their own personal ordeals they're letting me be myself as much as I'm letting them do the same and we're all getting through the holidays a bit easier. And at least we still have the same food traditions: Easter just wouldn't be the same without the lamb cake or buttercreams, just like we can't have Christmas without fudge and start every holiday with "holiday food" (most people call it eggs benedict). 

I have, however, noticed that it's been a lot easier for me the last year or so because I really like who my sister is dating and my other sister and mom haven't had anyone serious enough to make a big deal of. And since Thanksgiving I've had someone I'm excited to bring home, someone they seem to actually love, someone that makes me visibly happy. And I don't really know why but it makes me more excited for holidays because I'm bringing someone who's so accepted by my family. It's exciting in a way I haven't felt towards the holidays in over a decade. It's always wonderful to spend time with them, but knowing that they not only accept but like and welcome someone who's so important to me makes me the happiest of campers around the holidays. 

Now, if only I could get the cat to get along with the dogs...