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Hole imageOkay, time to write. Powerlessness. It sucks. There is so much going wrong in my life at the moment that it would be exhausting – to both me and the eventual reader – to list it out. So I won’t, but I’ll talk about some of it at least, because that’s what I do. It’s how I ended up here to begin with, and also, sometimes it helps.

I recently finished a three-week stint as a production assistant for a reality TV show. For the most part I enjoyed it. It was very different from anything I’d ever done, but in a good way. The notable thing I didn’t love was the long hours: 12-hour days and 60-hour weeks. I’ve never had a work schedule like that in my life, and it really rocked me. I was fighting something my last couple of days of work… the set medic (who was a total sweetheart) was perpetually plying me with Emergen-C and DayQuil. Still, the job ended and I promptly lost the battle. I’ve been coughing and hacking for a week now, and it isn’t improving my view of the world.

The pay – in spite of the long hours – is not very high. There’s a daily rate that breaks down to 40 hours at just-over minimum wage, then an additional 20 hours at time and a half. It’s not entirely the money I am complaining about, though. It’s more than I’ve made in awhile, and it felt great to be earning it. While I am grateful for all of the things I’ve been given in recent months (exceedingly grateful), I am not entirely comfortable with them. I’m far happier contributing to my own well being and that of my family. It makes me feel like a functioning member of society, and I appreciate that. No one likes feeling useless. Therefore, it was worth it to me to work 60 hours a week and barely see my family. The days I had off were erratic and difficult to plan around, so I essentially had almost no social life. But still, earning money just feels good.

In the end, the hardest part wasn’t the long hours or the amount earned. The hardest part was that the money I did earn went away so fast it’s almost like I never received it. Food, gas, a particularly costly Target run (it’s amazing how a handful of $15 necessities such as diapers, toilet paper and sunscreen can suddenly total $150… more than I made in a day). There were other odd expenses… my daughter’s health insurance company either lost her Social Security number or realized they never had it, so that got put on hold until we got a copy of her birth certificate ($23) to give the Social Security office, who then said they actually didn’t need it in order to give us her card. My husband spent three-plus hours in a gargantuan line to get that document they insisted we give them that it turned out they didn’t really need to begin with, time that would have been better spent doing any number of things, but I digress.

The best I can describe things is to say that I feel like I’m at the bottom of a very deep hole. It’s cold, dark and unpleasant, so of course I want out. I try to climb, to no avail. The money I made feels as if someone is throwing change down into the hole with me. It’s great that it’s there, and that I earned it, but trying to stand on it isn’t giving me much of a leg up, no matter how carefully I stack it. The hole is just as deep and I’m just as stuck.

I don’t mind hard work, and I am willing to work long hours. But I need my efforts to count for something. If I’m working 60 hours a week and it’s still not enough to get me out of the hole, then what? Even if I still had the job, or got a similar position, it wouldn’t be enough. That’s incredibly frustrating, and it leaves me feeling like there is no way out. Resumes I’ve sent attempting to get positions similar to my original one (executive assistant) have largely been ignored. I haven’t had a decent interview in ages, and the interviews I did get were for significantly lower-paying jobs. I could make myself crazy wondering why none of those came through, and I have. The bottom line is, there are too many desperate people vying for too few jobs. I’m not fresh out of college, and much of my relevant experience is not terribly recent. I’m still the same person with the same skill set, but that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. It’s maddening.

I’m not lazy, and I’m not waiting for something to be handed to me. I’m not comfortable with handouts. I want to work, but I want that work to feel like it’s creating momentum. I need to feel like there is a way out, a way to improve my family’s situation. I feel better when I’m working, and that’s worth something. I’m not discounting it. But that good feeling simply isn’t enough without an ultimate sense of forward progress. I want to know that my efforts are creating actual change… in my overall circumstances, not just my attitude.

So next week I’ll go back to working for my friend until something better comes along. I’d absolutely do P.A. work again; it might not be getting me out of the hole, but there’s something to be said for food, gas, diapers and toilet paper. The hole could be deeper and still more miserable. I’ll do anything to prevent that. Gratefully, too. But I still want out of the damned hole.