I caught a snippet of an interview on NPR last week in which the person speaking was lamenting that despite having an advanced degree “from a good school” he felt that he was never going to be able to “break into the upper middle class”. He worked as a teacher. His wife also had a reasonable job. But he cited out of control housing costs, child care, and stagnating salaries as factors in him coming to the conclusion that he was doing about as well as he ever would, socioeconomically speaking, in life.
Listening to him I felt that sinking feeling of commiseration. I don’t think we will be busting out of the purgatory of middle class either. It’s a tough place to be. On one had, we are so very fortunate to have a solid roof over our heads, plenty of healthy food on the table, and healthcare. On the other hand, the line between what we have and not having enough is shockingly thin. I’ve known, on some level, for years now, but it’s only recently that I’ve started admit out loud that what we’ve got now might be as good as it gets.
After writing regularly for years, my writing engines sputtered and stalled last year. I think it had something to do with feeling stalled in life. I kept waiting for my “real” life to begin. “I’ll start writing again once I finish school” I thought. That turned into “once I get my IBCLC exam results” which morphed into “once I get a job”. Then, feeling stuck in our two bedroom house I reasoned, “I’ve nothing to write about now. I’ll start up again when we buy a new house.” I think what I wanted to write about was my happy ending. I wanted a neat, tidy story.
“Once upon a time there was a lovely girl, and though many foes stood in her way, through perseverance and hard work she had the perfect family, fulfilling (but not too stressful) career she dreamed of, and a big beautiful old house. And they all lived happily ever after.”
But of course, there really is no endpoint to life (until THE END) and I am in no hurry to get there. The past few weeks I’ve been writing, in my head, as I fall asleep. It’s time to put my fingers to the keyboard again. I did pass the exam (with flying colors). I got an amazing job as a hospital based lactation consultant; starting a new department from scratch. I was feeling pretty good about life when I fell and severely broke my wrist, rocking the precarious stability of our lives. We had an offer accepted on a big beautiful old house (on a street nearly as busy as a freeway – only way we could afford it) and then had to back out when the problems with the old part of the house overruled the beauty. So we remain in our cozy, but crowded little two bedroom home in a neighborhood of questionable safety (This week’s crime tally: my car rifled through once at night, one of our Christmas packages stolen, and one drive by shooting a quarter mile from our house). My children are equal parts challenging and a joy. They, like their parents, are smart and quirky which causes us no end to our worries. We pay obscene amounts of money for them to attend a private school that we aren’t very happy with, yet can’t see any other safe options for them. We lament our finances more than I ever thought possible, as much as my parents did before me, which is sad but seemingly unavoidable. After a couple of years of school and a new job I’m trying hard to get back to some semblance of order; planning meals, baking more again, tending my neglected garden (both literally and figuratively). Stuck in the middle. And I suspect that I have a lot of my friends for company; thirty or forty something years old – somewhere between strugling and thriving. Not where we thought we would be. At least the middle is not a lonely place.
Like the man in the NPR interview I am coming to realize that despite all of the hard work, my future may never look how I had hoped it might. There is no “starting over” as I thought there could be when I started this blog. The two parts of my life aren’t as neat and distinct as I had hoped them to be. Perhaps this is the second verse, but it’s not the last. There’s a third and a fourth. Maybe I just keep singing, improvising new lines as I go along, just trying to keep up with the music.