I’m disabled and I’m unable to make it in a conventional job. I’m facing very hard challenges at this point in life. I’m creeping up on age sixty and I have few or no prospects of bettering my financial condition, which is dismal. I live in a challenging home environment, I’m facing multiple health problems, and I continually think, “There must be a way out of this.” But is there? My family members also face health challenges and I don’t know that anyone will be able to help me if I get into a jam I can’t get out of on my own, which I almost certainly will. And all of this is frightening.
The concept of happiness doesn’t enter the picture. I’m just hoping to have some level of comfort, to prevent homelessness for myself which would spell a rapid death, and to die under good circumstances when the time comes. I can’t count on any of this.
When I was young, the jobs I tried to do were often too demanding because of my disability and because of limitations created by the treatment of my condition. Now I feel as though an alligator has me in a death roll. Another way of seeing it: I’m in a raft on a mountain stream, and I’m aware that a one-hundred-foot waterfall is up ahead—and I can’t stop the raft. What would you do?
I was a fool. I believed I could make good money if I applied myself well enough in writing. For more than 99 percent of writers, published or not, this just doesn’t happen. I’m also an extreme nicotine addict, and I cannot afford to maintain this habit any longer.
I was not being realistic. But I have a right to exist. Is enforcing that right up to me? Probably so. If a person is competent, they should be responsible for their destiny. This is not to say that a person can magically make money appear, or food or shelter. This is just to say we can’t live indefinitely in denial. Sometimes we must take action. And when someone tries to tell us we should not exist, maybe we should push back.
When we muster the courage to push back on an oppressor, it is worth noting that often they will back off. Your pushback doesn’t necessarily need to be super strong. Many oppressors are cowardly to the extent that even a mild counterattack is enough to discourage them. We can’t live as human doormats. If we can’t make it in a job, then maybe we need to organize—to knock on enough doors to produce the results we need so that we can provide for ourselves.
Conventional employment isn’t the only way to continue. Gig work is often an alternative. Collecting public benefits, such as Social Security, is an alternative. You won’t be the richest, or the most fashionably dressed, but you should be able to survive. Happiness comes next. And if you ask me, “How are you doing?” I might answer: “I’m working on it.”
Jack Bragen is author of “Revising Behaviors that Don’t Work,” “Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia,” and “Jack Bragen’s 2021 Fiction Collection,” and lives in Martinez.