A commenter made the remark that it seems like I write in black and white contrasts, and ignore the shades of gray. I get what she’s saying about the shades of gray. Sometimes things aren’t worse; they are simply different. I also know I have been doing an endless amount of complaining lately; however, the differences in my life before CF’s antics and my life now are stark contrasts in black and white.
I really have gone from being privileged to being poor. I’ve done the calculations many times. I need $900/month just to pay my bills- that’s no food, no utilities and no rent. Just my regular monthly bills that remain the same each and every month. At $11/hour I earn less than $1800/month. After I take out 20% in taxes (and honestly, I don’t know how much they take; it could be less I suppose) and pay those bills I will have slightly somewhere between $500-$550/month left over. I need to buy food, dog food, deodorant, saline solution, toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, tampons, etc. with that money. I realize I won’t have to buy that stuff every month (well, except for tampons and toilet paper) but by the time I’ve paid for those things I won’t have anything left. And remember I’m purchasing those things for three people (except the tampons, of course). If I work a second job that will help to pay for my share of the utilities. It won’t be going to help pay for extras. That’s poor. Working poor, but poor nonetheless.
To me shades of gray would be downsizing from the oversized house in a prestigious part of town into a more modest house in perhaps an older section of town. Shades of gray would be going from, say $250,000/year down to $80,000, or even $30,000-$40,000. Hell, shades of gray would have been when I went from having access to 100% of my husband’s paycheck to only having access to 66% of it!
I saw shades of gray earlier when this whole thing first went down. Shades of gray was suddenly being left with just enough to pay our bills in our home while I used savings to buy food and whatever the kids wanted or needed. Shades of gray was no longer taking the kids out on weekends, no longer buying clothes for my daughter on a regular, for absolutely no reason, basis, no longer being able to buy my son an Xbox just because, not being able to throw elaborate birthday parties, and not spending as much money on Christmas. Shades of gray was budgeting our money and having to choose between A and B because I knew I could no longer do both in the same pay period.
There are no longer any shades of gray. There is no adjusting or downsizing our lifestyle right now. We used to have a home of our own; now we don’t. It’s not a matter of living in a smaller house, or having to reduce spending in order to stay there. I can’t afford a home period. We live with my mom in her house. Before it was, “We used to have everything we needed and most of what we wanted,” and now it’s, “I’m going to be working 40 hours a week just to pay our bills and put food on the table. We have most of what we need and nothing that we want because there’s nothing left over for extras.” It is not a matter of my kids won’t get as much as they used to. They won’t get anything from me now unless I’m working 60-80 hours and even then it won’t be much.
As for either being the most popular kid in school or being lonely, well, again it is a black and white comparison. Rock Star really did shine at her last school. She made a name for herself on the very first day. She did more pushups than any of the kids in her gym class, including the boys and she had the coaches watching her. One of them begged her to play soccer; the coach had never seen her play, and for the record, my daughter never has played, but based upon her performance in gym class she wanted her on her team. She stood out on the gymnastics team, which wasn’t hard to do because there weren’t any competitive gyms in the area and she came from a background of 23 hour a week practices and had been competing since 2nd grade. She was voted MVP and All-Conference her first year of cheerleading. Numerous boys flirted with her and asked her out. Her principal knew her by name and would bring candy to the gymnasts. Her teachers all knew her as well. When I say she had a movie like existence in high school I am being completely honest. I used to joke I lived vicariously through her. It was a school of 1100 students and she made a name for herself; I think there were very few people who didn’t know who she was. She had a full and active social and school life.
Here, she is not involved in school. She hasn’t made a name for herself. She doesn’t stand out. She really is a nameless, faceless nobody. That’s not me throwing her or myself a pity party. It’s a statement of fact. There are approximately 1700 student here and I’d be surprised if more than 20 of them even casually knew of her, meaning they took a class with her and remembered her.
This isn’t a small rural school where they really need kids to participate on their teams. My daughter spent her entire life in a gym. It’s the only thing she’s good at as far as sports go. She’s not going to try out and make the softball or volleyball or soccer team when she’s never played outside of gym class. Not here where those kids on the team now have spent years and years playing, probably since they were very young. Shades of gray happened in our last move where she went from competing in gymnastics at the club level to competing on the high school team. It happened when she switched from gymnastics being her entire life to simply being a part of her life. It happened when she accepted the fact that she would never improve, would never gain skills and in fact, would probably lose skills. But she embraced life there and was able to appreciate her new life, even if she would have given everything up to be able to compete with her former teammates still.
Every day I ask her how school was and if she met anybody new. She has mentioned a few names but I rarely see her interacting after hours with any of them. The people she snapchats with and Facetimes are the people she was friends with back in our last two states. I’m not running her and her friends to the mall. I’m not taking her out to dinner with friends before the football game; she hasn’t attended a single football game, including Homecoming, and I doubt she will. She doesn’t hang with friends on the weekends. I don’t have kids at the house. The only two people she talks about on a regular basis are a boy I don’t want her dating and a girl who is constantly telling off the teachers and who apparently took pictures of a test and sold the answers to other students.
She will tell you herself that she doesn’t like it here and that she misses her old life. She is just biding her time until college two years from now. Those are her words. She was telling me today she almost had an emotional breakdown in class. When I asked what was wrong she replied, “Mom, I have no friends and I’m failing a class. I feel so stupid and I hate it here.”
Maybe things will change. I hope she chooses to go out for cheerleading in the next month or two. I hope she begins to cultivate relationships outside of school. I hope she ends up with a great circle of friends from work. I hope things pick up for her. But right now they haven’t. She hates it here. There are no shades of gray. It is all black and white. If I could make her world gray I would.