I'm looking back on my year, and I think my kid posted something great on Twitter that I'd like to share as my year end post. My year was kind of a bust. Nothing really exciting. In fact, aside from Guster Concerts and hanging out with family, and a couple lovely visits from a few wonderful people, I have been kind of in a state of the doldrums.
I could write a "hey look at all these awesome things!" post but ... meh?
Back to Jess who tweeted "I can't believe I got a new car, a new job, and a new house all this year and none of them were obtained by choice."
In April she was let go from her temporary/contract job, after being strung along for months that a full-time "real boy Pinnochio" job was coming down the pike. I think the lynchpin was when she pointed out that they'd be turning 26 and losing their health care coverage on our policy, and started asking for the verbal commitment to be honored... that the promised full time job be given. Instead of being offered a full time position, she got the old "We restructured the department and found we don't need a full time position for this, so we won't be keeping you. Thanks. Bye..."
This is the kind of thing businesses do anymore and it is sad. My own company is completely guilty of this and it is horrible. Bring in temporary employees, offer them zero benefits, cut them loose when their presence doesn't suit your needs any longer. Everyone is
So she had to find another job, and did. Another temporary contract job, but, this job loved her and hired her full time after a very short period. With insurance, and vacation hours, and everything an employee deserves.
Hell yeah, new job.
A while back, maybe 2016 I think, Jess moved an apartment with 3 of her high school friends. I referred to it as The Weenie Hut (thank you, Spongebob). The Weenies Four happily lived there, one flaked off and moved out to live with her new boyfriend (ditching her fiancé who also was a weenie in the Weenie Hut. Very much to everyone in the apartment's disappointment). The landlord then told them their apartment, which was a condo she rented to them, was going on the market, and she wanted them to move out so she could get it all set for sale. They had to be out by the end of May.
The dumped fiancé moved in with other friends, leaving Jess and Liz to fend for themselves. Housing prices everywhere are crazy. But if you are living anywhere in the Boston area, making something in the vicinity of $12 an hour, it's very hard for two people to find a place.
Add to the fact that Liz had a very big dog, they were super lucky to have the apartment they had in the first place. This wasn't going to be easy.
Lucky for her, and before they needed to be out, an opportunity came to light. Our good friends and former across the street neighbors were in Iceland so he could do a Fulbright year. They had a house sitter, but he decided to bail on the agreement. They contacted Jess and asked if she'd house sit and watch their crazy dog for the remainder of the time they'd be away. Jess said as long as Liz and her dog could come too, then she was willing. Agreement reached, they moved over to the Orange House to sit until the last week of July.
The search for something starting on August 1st was afoot. Not finding anything that would allow a dog, knowing they needed to be somewhere on July 22nd, Jess arranged to stay with friend Molly on the couch and Liz went to live with her mom. They'd keep looking, and technically be homeless. But hopefully not for long.
As fate would have it, weird things happen. Liz' dog had become sick, the diagnosis was stomach cancer, and the prognosis was grim. Liz didn't have the heart to put her down, this was her baby. Her big, giant baby. I loved that dog very much and it broke my heart to know Liz was facing having to make the decision to put her to sleep.
Liz was packing her car on the day they needed to move out of the house sitting gig, and her dog died. Just ... died. Right on the back steps. Jess got home to the house after work and found Liz' mom and sister, and the sister's husband, helping her deal with things there. The grief and the lifting up of a dog that weighed over 100 pounds.
Jess took the dog they were dog sitting for out for a walk and called me on the phone. She was a little freaked out. "Mom..." the tone of voice was a bit scared and shaky, as the conversation started.
She realized immediately that this opened up a ton of opportunities for them. After a little more searching, an apartment was found right in the same neighborhood as friend Molly and Liz' mom. A little above their price range, but the place is big and beautiful, with off-street, safe parking for both of their cars. They moved in the first week of September and only had to spend August in the Homeless Phase. Homeless but safe, with a place to be, and not living on the street.
Hell yeah, new apartment.
For transportation once she moved out, she mostly relied on Liz or the other roommate who had moved off to live with her boyfriend. While she was working in Boston, she would take the train to work, Liz would drop her off and pick her up or she'd walk the 2 or so miles to and from the train. After she lost the job in Boston and went to the place that hired her temporarily with no guaranteed future, Liz would still drive her to and from work. It was very close to home, and with Liz' schedule, it worked out perfectly.
She didn't need a license. Or a car. For the most part.
We always wanted her to get a license, and right before Doug and I moved to Maryland, that she did. A little while later, she got her first car. A little Subaru Wagon, which the Dog (the one who died in July) could get in and out of easily, without throwing someone's back out.
The car developed some issues. Our wonderful mechanic told her she needed a new catalytic converter and a new timing belt. The timing belt was under warrantee, so Subaru took care of that, but the burning oil, the catalytic converter, and other issues that were developing would mean that her freshly purchased in late 2017 car would have to be replaced. It was not going to pass inspection December 31, 2018.
So she needed a new car. She had very little savings, could probably get 800 bucks on a trade in for the Subi, but not much more than that. After much discussion, she realized she'd probably have to finance a car. Not having a ton of money, she was tremendously worried about getting financing. She got a credit card, made small purchases and paid them right off, in order to establish some credit by the end of this year.
Doug went up to Boston right before Christmas to help her out. They'd shopped online and found a used Subaru Impreza, about 10 years old, for about $6000, which she wanted to finance. Her payments would be under 200 a month if they'd give her a decent trade.
The salesman said no bank would finance the car with this age and amount of miles, and suggested a lease. She doesn't drive a lot. 10,000 miles per year for 3 years is pretty fair, and the payment with her trade in and downpayment would be $200 a month.
So she is now the proud leaser of a 2019 Subaru Impreza, with all the bells and whistles, and bluetooth and backup camera and fancy things. "This car is too good for me," she says. No honey, your frugal parents raised you frugally. And if something nice is within your means, it's okay to have something nice.
Hell yeah, new car.
So that is how all of these things happened for Jess this year. Not by choice but by circumstance.
And here we are at the end of 2018, looking back on what was a garbage year for so many humans, filled with garbage humans making things even more garbagey for the masses.
Jess could be homeless, carless, jobless. She could be all of those things or just one of those things.
When the kids were little, we used to play a game with them when they were upset about something or when circumstances were such that we should be worried or panicked. "It could be worse," I'd start.
About 15 or so years ago, we were hiking and when we got back to our car, Doug unlocked the hatchback of the Saturn Wagon and the key broke off in the lock when he lifted the hatch open. Three dogs, two kids, no key. He had literally just enough juice in his flip phone to call an emergency locksmith, give him our location, and then the phone died.
We were not sure we were going to be rescued. It was up in the air at that moment. All seemed lost. And the kids, well they seemed to grow concerned.
"It could be worse," I said. "It could be raining."
We would add in things that could make it worse. Invariably, we got to the point where we'd be attacked by bees, or by bears, or by bears and bees. There would be laughter.
And in the case of the broken key in the hatch, the locksmith found us deep in the woods in Andover, got our broken key bit out of the lock, made a new key, and we got to leave.
Right before it started raining.
It could be worse.
Now, before it sounds like I am all about everything is perfect and sunny, and things are great, let me assure you that if you've read this blog since its inception you know things have not always been perfect, sunny, and great. Bad things that are bad have happened, even when we were keeping our chins up and a stiff upper lip.
We got fucked. We lost. We struggled. We have had some major league absolute bullshit happen, even when things were our choice and we thought we were making the right choices. Times when saying "It could be worse" simply would have gotten a "Well do tell, how the fuck can they be worse?!"
And I always joke about the Springsteen line "Someday we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny," even when I'm in the middle of things that are patently not funny. But sometimes it's the only thing you can do when things are ... not funny. And just plain awful.
I know some reading this will say that they're in the worst spot they have ever been in their lives and I do not doubt it. I think of Guster's lines from "Come Downstairs and Say Hello"
"I'm telling the truth, I've said it before, tomorrow I start in a new direction."
"By this time next year, I won't be here."
By chance, choice, opportunity, no choice, no chance, looking at your year past where do you want to be this time next year.
What will the year have in store for you, you can't predict or plan for sometimes. You just do it. You go through the year. You face situations and you take on challenges. Or you tread water. Or you drown.
Where will we all be this time next year? Hopefully there won't be bears. Or bees. Or bears with bees in their mouths.
Happy new year if you've read this drivel this far. I hope if 2018 was yet another bigger dumpster fire for you, that 2019 at least is downgraded to a small trash can, an office sized trash can, with little damage left behind.