Dear Stupid Universe,
This letter has been a long time coming. I’m not sure why I didn’t write it before, since you have been kind of an asshole for a while now and have had it coming for ages. Eons, really. Apparently there are people who seem to be a lot more impressed with you than I am but some of those people are Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and the ‘Cash Me Outside, How ‘Bou Dah’ girl so that isn’t much of an argument in your favor.
See, I’m not one of those people. I’m not lucky enough to have been born into wealth or crafty enough to have grabbed control of an entire country or even brassy enough to go on Dr Phil, run my foul teenage mouth and somehow turn it into a brand. I get it. You’re an asshole. You like assholes. I try my best not to be an asshole and I’m not exactly sure why because it doesn’t seem to pay off at all. What I am is a person who has worked her whole life just to try to keep her head above water and year after year it gets less and less doable. This year might finally be the year it isn’t doable at all.
Have I made some mistakes? Sure. Who hasn’t? But nothing that warrants the metric tons of crap that keep piling up in front of me every time I try to take a step forward. Mind you, this is not whining. I do not feel singled out or persecuted in any way. (OK sometimes I do. Lots of times I do, but that is not what this letter is about.) I can name friend after stressed out friend who faces the exact same thing day in and day out over and over and over. Decent people, hard working people who slip further and further behind no matter what they do. This is a commentary on the utter pointlessness of middle class Americans trying to make anything better because from where I sit, it never gets better. In fact, it usually gets worse.
Years ago I lost a job when my company went under and I had incurred so much debt that I eventually decided to go bankrupt. I’m still not sure if I should have done it but I was young and I was certain I would never let myself get into that situation again. After all that debt was the folly of youth, of trying to stay cute and fashionable on a decidedly unfashionable budget. I wouldn’t spend so foolishly again. I became a religious saver, almost obsessive about it. I clipped coupons and cut corners and learned to live within my means.
Fast forward some years and I’ve worked my way out of debt, gotten married, acquired some children and a house. A house that has been nothing but an absolute money pit. A house I hate. Then I did the unthinkable. I started taking on debt to address the many hidden issues this house had. We did very little cosmetic work, almost everything was something major that had to get repaired so the house would remain livable and being that this house is 114 years old, every issue led to two more and they just seemed to multiply exponentially.
At the same time my husband got into a protracted custody battle with his ex, the details of which I won’t go into but suffice it to say, it wasn’t cheap. Our savings dwindled and our salaries stagnated even as life got more expensive. Cue the housing crash. Suddenly the house with a million issues that had seemed like such a good deal was upside down in its mortgage and we couldn’t borrow money against the now non-existent equity to make repairs. Repairs still had to get made so we put it, reluctantly, on credit. I took a loan from my 401k. I was leery of taking on debt but I was married now and a homeowner and had what I thought was a secure, stable job.”I just have to make it five years and I can have it all paid off,” I consoled myself. And I was diligent about it too. I made more than the minimum payments and felt triumphant every time I skirted interest, every time I saw my debt balance go down and our savings go up.
Two years into my five year pay off plan my job was unexpectedly outsourced to India. I tell ya, it’s such a ridiculously stereotypical scenario it doesn’t even sound real to me and I lived it, am still living it. This is every B grade TV movie ever made except in the TV version the protagonist learns some profound life lesson that makes it all worthwhile and no one in the audience ever wonders how the bills keep getting paid. Oh and a really cool thing that happens when you lose your job and have an unpaid 401k loan is that it goes into default if you don’t have the money to pay it (and if I had the money I wouldn’t have needed to borrow it; see where we’re going with this?) and on top of the loan you pay gads of interest and penalties because the government views it as an early distribution. Fun fact: I now owe a bunch of back taxes too. That’s much better than giving you the option of paying it off over time, dontcha think? In thirty years of working I had never taken a loan against my 401k, I couldn’t skate by with one for five measly years? Fuck you, Universe. Fuck fuck fuck fuck you.
The next couple of years were a black comedy of unemployment, benefits that somehow got screwed up and left me without any income for two months, a couple of spiritually degrading temp jobs (that I was grateful to have) and eventual full time employment making slightly less than I had been making before only now I had a mountain of debt. Our house gets older and worse but magically more expensive. My stepdaughter is in college. We’ve barely even saved anything for our son. We’re financially screwed and I am now in the process of being sued by creditors despite the fact that I bought credit insurance from the credit card company itself which they claimed did not cover my particular circumstance for reasons they can shove right up their greedy, amoral poop chutes. But hey, you know all this. You were there.
You’ll excuse me Universe, if I don’t appreciate your particular brand of humor when I see a constant parade of shady politicians and conscience free bankers, corporate thieves and flim flam men reaping endless rewards for their perfidy while honest people get fleeced by a system set up to take the most from those with the least. You’ll understand why I won’t accept your Facebook friend request because I’m too busy getting knocked down again and again and again to have time to click. That’s a lie. I wouldn’t accept it anyway. Not everyone can be friends and you really haven’t been mine so with all due respect, I would kindly ask you to go have fun at someone else’s expense for a while. I hear Trump has plenty of time to golf and Lloyd Blankfein has plenty of cash lying around. Go play with them. I need a break.