I need to make more money.

The thought woke me out of a deep sleep and refused to let go of my brain for the rest of the night. I lay on the bed staring at the ceiling. In recent weeks I’d had a number of opportunities to discuss job satisfaction and pay with family and friends and one theme recurred, painfully, every time: everybody was making better money than me. Significantly better. Five digits better.

I can’t think about that now. I told myself at the time. I need to finish my novel. The drive to complete my draft was all-encompassing, and I turned to it regularly as an excuse to avoid anything that I didn’t want to think about: rejection, exclusion, depression, insecurity… Everything was pushed aside by the mighty prow of the good ship AmWriting.

But now the draft was finished and I wasn’t allowed to touch it for three months. And now I was lying awake at four in the morning on the day of my thirty seventh birthday, winding myself into coils over the fact of my evident underpayment.

I felt a sudden sense of panic: I couldn’t live like this anymore. I liked my boss, and I didn’t hate my work, but I doubted I’d be able to get a three dollar raise just by asking for it. And I didn’t want to have to ask for it: I was one of two check cutters in the office and my co-worker, while having the advantage of seniority, regularly rolled in the door two hours late, and once fell asleep art his desk with such impressive force that his snores could be heard four offices away. I’m eighty percent certain he’s trying to get himself fired. I’m one hundred percent certain he gets paid more than me.

I was reliable but I was new. I’d temped for nine months before getting hired on while two other check cutters were hired and subsequently fired. I was uncomplaining about my work and about my pay and it was presumed that this meant I was happy, but mostly it meant I was too comfortable to commit to a hardcore job search and too afraid to rock the boat. And the Powers That Be felt no need to fix a situation that did not appear to be broken.

So I focused on my novel.

The sense of being undervalued, unrecognized and unimportant flooded over me like a tidal wave. It seemed to strike me on many fronts at once: personal, social, professional- I was looking at my life beneath the magnifying glass of a birthday and I didn’t like what I was seeing. Without my usual creative pursuits to retreat to, I was forced to recognize the truth: that I wasn’t happy with my life, and that I couldn’t keep on getting by with Good Enough.

And then I continued to panic because I didn’t know where to start. The changes felt massive and out of my control, and they still do, but I’m coming around to the realization that they have to happen now. One step at a time- I don’t even know what direction, but I need to start making changes in my life.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on July 11, 2019.

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