You Can’t Always Get What You Want

“I’m done making plans. I’m just gonna see where the wind blows me,” is what my boyfriend casually said the other night, a little sentiment loaded with meaning beyond simple existentialism or wanderlust. We are recovering from a brief separation where, in a fit of emotional exhaustion, I declared that we would be better off on our own, that our lifestyles and dreams were incompatible. Economic instability is hard, whether you are in a relationship or on your own.

My mom was upset when I told her. She implored me to be more positive, to “pray on it,” at which point I hung up on her. Praying for capitalism to fix its inherent contradictions is as useful as wishing or writing a letter to an elected official. We were riding on some big dreams for awhile, love letters and promises of forever. We talked about a raucous punkrock wedding surrounded by all the people we love, daydreamed about us being a family, and imagined what it would be like to actually settle in one place for awhile. None of those things seemed far-fetched at the time, but as days turned into weeks turned into months of unemployment they began to feel like childish wishes.

Everything is precarious. Dropping off resumes, trolling Craigslist, and even having the occasional interview or promising conversation feel like exercises in futility, tiny strings tethering us to the ranks of the unemployed, holding fast to prevent a fall from grace into the pool of “discouraged” workers. “Keep trying, stay positive, everything will work out,” we lie to each other, alternating days of ecstatic possibility with those of crushing disappointment. “Money doesn’t matter. At least we are poor together.” But money does matter…and the weight of ones own inability to find a job, mixed with the weight of watching someone you love struggle so hard without result, added to the weight of watching the future dreams of the “we” drift further and further back beyond the horizon is too much to carry sometimes.

Cigarettes and alcohol and tattoos do not keep you poor. If I had $1000 back that that I spent on those vices over the last couple years…I would still be doing exactly what I am doing now, except maybe I would have a pair of jeans that were not full of holes, maybe I would have a few more books. It’s easy to look at the mistakes, the vices, the capricious decisions, and draw a string of correlation through them to explain downward mobility and economic instability. But that doesn’t prove anything. When my parents got together, a family of five could survive comfortably on the wages of one person that never went to college. Today I am grateful for my IUD because the thought of trying to support a family of three on the wages of two unemployed/marginally employed/precariously employed people is terrifying.

We are closer now then before, disabused of the notion that love is enough, but holding tighter just to spite the laws of probability. His back is full of knots that I cannot seem to affect, no matter how hard I try. My eyes are constantly burning to stay strong. Our options are not ours together, we can not control where and how and what kind of work we find. The anxiety of spending so many years pushing ahead and getting nowhere is powerful; the wind will blow us each to our next port of call, nomads that we are, somewhere the grass must be green. Today we will just enjoy the blue sky and hold hands while waiting for our number in the food stamp office to be called.


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