When the winds of fortune change, it doesn’t mean disaster for everyone. In the past couple of years, I’ve had the strange, unreal experience of moving up the ladder in socioeconomic status without moving in any real sense. I still have my low-pay, dead-end job. These days, just having a job, any job, is a boost. I thank the Good Lord every day for my continued employment, because I know it could end tomorrow. Despite modest raises, when real inflation is factored in (see shadowstats), I make less than I did ten years ago. Nonetheless, in comparison to a large portion of the population, I’m doing quite well. A strange place to be, indeed.
You see, until the economic downturn, I felt that I was far behind my peers in economic achievement. A lot of people my age have acquired assets such as a home, investments, and a retirement plan. I, on the other hand, have lived in rented abodes, driven old cars, and eaten a lot of spaghetti. Investments? I think I’ve heard of those. I got by, but it wasn’t fancy. It was hard. There was an enormous amount of pressure to have a lot more than I ever did, and I felt it keenly. As I stated in the intro to this blog, I expected to be doing better by now. I am certainly doing better than I was when my children were small. I never dreamed that raising three children in poverty would become a distinct advantage. I am better prepared to weather the depression to come because I have already dealt with some of the challenges. I know how to cope with economic adversity. I’ve had plenty of practice.
2008, The Crash, Part I: There is something to be said for having nothing to lose. Gas prices really bit into the grocery budget, but otherwise, it didn’t seem to make a lot of difference. Businesses closed, and a lot of people lost their jobs and the fat paychecks that went with them. Their investments and homes lost value overnight. Assumptions about the future evaporated in the blink of an eye. We’ll leave behind the fact that much of the wealth enjoyed was in fact, illusory. That’s a blog for another day. But these things happened to other people. My situation stayed the same.
Regarding status: I’m a security guard. It’s a really low status job. I like my job. I’m not looking for sympathy. Where else can you get paid to do (practically) nothing all day? I’ve had other, higher-status jobs. The pay was about the same, but I had to work a lot harder to get to the same nowhere. (I seemed to always find the jobs where hard work was rewarded with a heavier workload, not raises and promotions.) Here is something you probably don’t know about security work: Most people wash out within six months. They can’t handle the boredom, restrictions, or requirements. It’s an easy job to get, but not easy to keep. When economic collapse (The Crash, Part II) really sets in, security will be a good place to be. People are going to want to protect what they have. If your job is precarious, you may want to consider putting in an application at a local security firm. They may not hire you now, but when stuff hits the fan, there could be a lot of work.
Back to status: Any job, even a “lesser” job, bestows status these days. Having been a welfare mom in the nineties, I am acutely aware of the collective change in attitudes about status.
So here I am, caught in this weird twist in reality. The winds of fortune have moved the definition of success a little closer to me. I’m not doing anything differently, but my relative socioeconomic status has been raised. I’m dismayed by the change in so many people’s fortunes. I feel no triumph at their loss. While it is decidedly odd to change status while remaining in the same place, I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit to liking my rise in stature just a little bit.