Friday, August 27, 2010

officially at a scary point

Although I won't use numbers here the financial situation has gotten to the point where after eleven months of job hunting without success; and not being eligible for unemployment because I was laid off by a 501(c)3 that didn't have to pay into unemployment; I am willing to take up the offer made by a friend of mine to apply for financial assistance from my church. The money I saved up was enough to help me get through, now that I'm looking at the end of it, exactly one year.

Unfortunately due to a few things that predated the lay-off by a few years (replacing a stolen classical guitar and a stolen laptop) the nest egg I was living off of could have been bigger than what I have lived off. Alas, my sister's two pitbulls did not catch the burglar in time before he or she stole my stuff. But it's hypothetical in the extreme to wonder how much money we all could have saved had someone not used a chair I bought the previous weekend that was sitting in my room to block off the entry point for the dogs. I'm the sort of person who kicked himself for having bought the chair so it could be used by burglars to fend off my sister's dogs. Yeah, I'm that kind of person, for reasons I can't begin to explain. Or maybe I explained that in the internalization/externalization of failure post a while back. All that hardly matters, I've made it a year on the money I have but that's going to run out.

Hindsight being what it is, had I applied for food stamps earlier I would have saved hundreds of bucks by spending via food stamps. I didn't want to be living off of government hand-outs and sincerely hoped I'd land work after a few months. The economy being the way it is and my job skills seeming to be as unwanted as they seem to be this was a gross miscalculation. I suppose in this respect I have unknowingly repeated the mistake my parents made when they were at a similar crossroads some twenty years ago. I suppose it's proof of the truth in the observation of what Bill Cosby called "the curse", that your children will end up being uncomfortably like you. We end up being like family even in our attempts to think differently from family. I have also elsewhere joked about being a dour Calvinist.

I suppose there are silver linings in all this. I have found how just how little I can live on in my current situation. I certainly wish that I wasn't living off of savings for an entire year! I didn't make a ton of money at my non-profit job but I didn't own a car, wasn't dating, and while I have an incontestably expensive hobby (classical guitar and music composition) I sunk most of the biggest investment costs into that hobby years ago when I had a very stable job and low living expenses. I even had money left over to get groceries for a friend of mine with a disability who was rarely able to leave the house. Certainly I can't help him now! That's unfortunate, but God lets different things buffet us from time to time.

This has been in many ways the saddest year in my life since my parents' divorced, at the risk of making a maudlin and probably inaccurate comparison. One of my old post-college acquaintences was murdered by her stalker. One of my favorite bloggers died of cancer. I found out one of my cousins had skin cancer and within a week of hearing the news and a mad dash with siblings down to Oregon to visit him (I don't even want to get into that now) my cousin was dead. There was no funeral or memorial service for him. My cousin was just cremated and that was that. I suppose that was the cheapest (read "most cost effective") path of action given the circumstances. I had to settle for finishing a prelude and fugue in B minor I was working on earlier this year using material by William Byrd as a way to compose a piece in memory of my cousin. He was with me and my other cousin some twenty years ago when I first began to ever play the guitar.

I've been reluctant to ask for financial help in the last year. I applied for food stamps only after about nine months, maybe. I did defer my loans early in the year. It feels different to ask to defer what you can't pay than to ask for financial assistance. I've seen people and heard people talk about how borrowing money from someone puts you in their power. I've seen a person do this, quixotically, by saying that borrowing from private lenders is bad because that puts you under the power of the lender ... but that accept federal grant money is fine because that's free money. This is so delusional I find it impossible to really discuss beyond an observation about how insane it is. If you are in debt to the king or to a private merchant you are still in debt and if you don't make a good faith effort to pay what you owe either one of them can take action against you. Of course if you stay in contact with your lenders and explain your situation quite a few of them are reasonable and able to work with you.

But even with all that I'm still at a point where I realize asking for financial help is my best, most realistic option. I can keep looking for work and will keep looking for work and I have learned how far I can get on an undisclosed amount of money, but it doesn't have to be a point of pride to realize you can make it so long before you need help. You can do the best you can with what you have in your situation and that still won't be good enough.

God has been faithful to see me through similarly bad times in the past. I really don't know how long it's going to be before I land a job. It could be in a few weeks, it could take months, it could be a year or more. I've met people who have been looking for work for two years. I've met people who are actually eligible for unemployment benefits and a lot of others who have no idea that 501(c)3's don't have to pay in if they don't want to. A lot of people have told me this isn't fair but I don't see that it's not fair.

At any rate I saved up a large enough of a nest egg that I've made it an entire year based on savings and severence package alone. I suppose that might present me as a biased observer of tax law pertaining to non-profits but if the employer tells you up front you won't get unemployment if you're fired or laid off then the onus is on you to save as much as you can for even the potential of a rainy day. In the scriptures and outside the scriptures this would be what's called acquiring wisdom. I am not a particularly wise fellow in my estimation about a lot of things but on at least that one subject I managed to aquire some wisdom. It's useful to remember the proverb that says, "Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him."

At the end of the day all our best wisdom in itself is never enough. The race is not to the swift, nor victory to the strong, nor prosperity to the wise, but time and chance happen to them all. Wisdom will not prevent disaster but wisdom can mitigate the level of effects disasters have when they come (barring death). We can't be wise enough or good enough to forestall or foresee every disaster. One of the best of the Israelite kings, Josiah, had a reign that presaged a disastrous collapse. The best kings of Israel were still not really good enough. As John Donne put it in his funeral sermon in 1626 our human condition is such that even our best virtues and beings are still not perfect since death overtakes us all and overtakes all our accomplishments. Of course John Donne, being a great preacher and a great poet to boot, did not stop there, but I don't see any need to repeat the entirety of a good sermon.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Anime director Satoshi Kon dead at the age of 47

I don't have anything to really say about this. I caught Perfect Blue years ago when it had a limited release in the U.S. I enjoyed the charmingly weird Paprika. I thought we'd see a lot more solid work from him and now he's gone.