Allow me to start from the beginning. Last weekend one of my wife’s metamours came to visit. Ess is a good guy: smart, driven, creative, extroverted and a genuine caretaker at heart — he ended up dropping out of college to attend to his dying grandmother, since no one else was willing to step up and be there for her. He clicks really well with all of us, and it was a good visit. No one was happy about it when he had to go back home; my wife Jae least of all.
We’d been laying plans for Ess to move out of his current home (where he’s stuck in a bad situation — his dad and step mom are basically using him as an indentured servant, and have been playing on his caretaker-ness/guilt tripping him into thinking he has to stay there and provide free labor for his dad’s poorly managed business). The plan was for him to take the next year to help his dad find someone to replace him for his dad’s landscaping business while Jae, Arr (her other metamour, who has been living with us for a while now) and I saved up for a bigger place to move into. (We have a two bedroom apartment currently, and while Jae is the center of our polyqule, Ess, Arr and I aren’t connected by more than good friendship and a mutual love of Jae, so right now Jae is the one who plays musical beds when looking for a place to sleep, but it’d get complicated if we added another person who didn’t have a set room.)
Anyway, that was derailed because when Ess told his dad that he had fallen in love, wanted to move to be with her, and therefore wouldn’t be available to help next season, his dad replied with: ‘if that’s how you’re going to be, get out of my house before it starts snowing.’ Which, I think, is a rather telling indication of how much Ess’ dad cares about him and his future.
So, we adjusted our plans. Ess was going to be moving in with us within a couple of months, depending on when we could arrange transportation. Then, Ess’ dad and step-mom started pulling more shit on him: his dad refuses to let him help with the business while he’s still there, which is tripping all of Ess’ caretaker/guilt switches, while his step-mom is piling him up with work around the house to keep him too busy to pursue his own side business or get his packing done instead. They’re both hounding him about how we are probably internet cultist murderers, and he’s going to come to grief if he moves away from home. (Meanwhile, absolutely everyone else he has talked to has congratulated him on getting out of that house.) It got bad enough that we’ve made arrangements to move him out next weekend. It’s going to be rushed and hectic, but it’ll also be a lot better for his long term happiness.
So, that segues into the next issue: Arr is a provider at heart. He demonstrates his care of people by giving gifts. He takes pride in being able to cover our grocery bills and get our computers fixed and things like that. He’s also probably the most financially conservative of the lot of us (possibly because Jae and I have been poor, living on 1.5x minimum wage at part time jobs, before. It was horrible, but we know we can make it without luxuries if we need to. Arr, on the other hand, defines at least a part of how meaningful his contribution to the family is by his ability to maintain a certain standard of living for everyone). So Arr was pretty anxious about how adding someone to our group was going to impact our finances, and especially our ability to pay for medical related things: Arr and Jae both need dentist visits, Jae is finally getting treatment for her depression and social anxiety now that mine is generally under control, and I have ongoing HRT and all the expenses that come from transition. On top of that, Jae’s student loans will be coming due soon.
So, Tuesday night that all sort of boiled over in an epic chain reaction of misery. We were all upset to begin with about Ess going home, but then his dad and step-mom started pulling their shit. He was upset and snappish and still in the low of having had to leave Jae, and wasn’t emotionally ready to talk about what was going on with his dad and step-mom yet, which left Jae feeling upset that she couldn’t take care of him, which left Arr and I upset that we couldn’t take care of her — and then Jae (who is more empathic than any of us) started picking up on Arr’s concerns about finances, and it boiled over into her depression to the point where she started talking about how we would all be better off if she weren’t around because (due to chronic migraines, knees that spontaneously dislocate if she steps wrong, depression, severe social anxiety, and a handful of other health issues we’ve been trying to find her appropriate treatment for) she hasn’t been able to work a regular job since the one she had to give up when she went into grad school — and even that one was an online one. So, she was seeing herself as a financial drain, and she was depressed and not valuing herself so she couldn’t see all the other ways she is important to us.
Anyway, that ended up triggering me, bad. The way she eventually shut herself off from us was way too reminiscent of myself when I was at my worst with self harm — which isn’t something Jae does at all, but try explaining that to a panicked sadomasochist who used to beat, suffocate, or scald herself to deal with minor stress. Even though I intellectually knew better, it didn’t matter and I couldn’t give her the space that she needed to recuperate, which got worse because she got mad that I was thinking she would do these things — even though I knew better — which set off another trigger for me.
When I was growing up, my mom would threaten to leave us. I actually don’t know if it happened a lot, but it feels like it did because it’s one of the few things I really distinctly remember from when I was young. It would happen when she got angry, and I spent a lot of time terrified that my mother would leave us because we weren’t good enough — the house wasn’t clean enough, my grades weren’t high enough, she wasn’t happy enough… whatever. I was a kid. You know how kids are: It felt like whatever was wrong it had to be my fault.
So when Jae was angry and talking about how we’d all be better off if she left, I just lost it. I ran away, because I was supposed to be taking care of Jae — not going to pieces. And I fell apart completely. I think I spent maybe an hour or two sobbing wretchedly into the bed before Jae and Arr worked up the courage to come in and check on me. Anyway, there was a lot of hugging and apologizing and being there for each other, and things got better. Arr had never seen me like that before, and he was still nervous about my well being the next day: he paid extra attention to make sure I was eating (I have a bad habit of confusing depression and hunger because when I was depressed I didn’t bother with eating) and things like that.
So, that’s the emotional turmoil part. On to the financial.
I am not a provider by nature. If anything, I’m a guard dog. I’m perfectly happy to bumble along doing my own thing as long as the people I love are happy with whatever they’re doing. I’m introverted, and I’m still uncomfortable in larger social gatherings despite having my anxiety disorder well in hand thanks to my medications. But if someone upsets one of my people… Well, I’ve learned to reign in some of my natural protectiveness because I came to realize that it was actually detrimental to my wife’s well being — she doesn’t like the thought of me hating someone because of her being upset with them. So I generally try to hold back unless they’ve badgered Jae into a state where she can’t respond coherently, or if she asks me to involve myself, at which point I am perfectly happy to step in, make them back off and get Jae out of there so she can recover emotionally. I’d do the same for Arr or Ess, but I can’t for Ess because of distance and Arr is the most solid of all of us, and generally unfazed by people being stupidly insensitive. (There are a few cases where I just have to say: tough. That’s a horrible person regardless of their behaviour toward Jae, and I will happily despise them the rest of my life.)
Anyway, the point is: I am not meant to be a provider. Which kind of sucks, because out of all of us I do provide the greatest income. Which means I’m generally feeling a lot of pressure to provide for us — which is really hard for me to come to grips with, because I don’t even properly value money. I was never really taught anything in the way of money management, or how to judge what things are worth, or anything like that: I don’t even have a real grasp on how much I’m earning except as some vague numbers that I trust Jae and Arr to manage appropriately. When I think of things with actual value, I’m thinking of relationships and time, not dollars and cents. Mostly, I just put anything I earn in the bank and check to make sure it’s enough for bills periodically — I used to never spend any of it without checking with Jae first to see if whatever I wanted was in the budget and offered at a fair price, heh. It really bothered her because she felt weird about me asking her if I could spend ‘my’ money, but we’ve both learned a bit since then. I can actually judge whether or not we can afford 5$ on a book or game or something frivolous (even if I still can’t tell if that’s a good deal half the time), and she understands that I have trouble conceptualizing the value-as-goods of money — but that I very seriously value time, instead.
Arr thankfully relieved a lot of the pressure I felt to ‘be a provider’ when he moved in. Admittedly, Arr couldn’t match my income, but he did do stuff like the shopping (hello: severe anxiety. Shopping was a miserable experience for me — especially in conjunction with my gender dysphoria. I would see all these women out shopping for their families or with their families and I would feel so jealous of them and shitty about myself… it was bad. As far as I’m concerned, by taking on that task Arr is our provider — he’s the one who goes out and comes back with food for us, after all.)
So, from my point of view money is basically a resource I have to grind for in real life, and as long as we have it I don’t have to mess with it much because I have people I trust who will take care of that part for me. And I don’t feel the pressure of being a “provider” anymore, which is wonderful — but I do feel a certain sort of similar pressure because I know we rely on the income I make. I make the majority of our money, even if I can’t convert it into goods and services in my head. I started picking up all of my overtime to pay for Jae’s healthcare and my transition costs, which means we rely on my income that much more because there’s that much more of it to be relied on. This is extra tough for me because it involves giving up time — which I do value on a personal level — for money, which I’m not well equipped to equate with a value at all.
Jae has been trying to get me to look for a new job. When I look at the numbers and research online, it’s pretty clear that starting pay for the sort of work I’m capable of is actually around 5k a year more than I’m making. Add to that the fact that I was doing this sort of work for years before I was promoted to a position that matched my labours, and I’ve developed the sense that the company I’m working for is rather exploitative of it’s work force… which has been exacerbated by recent ‘merit’ raises that didn’t even meet the rate of inflation (so I’m essentially being told: Good job! You get a raise! You are now functionally earning less value than you were last year, congratulations on reaping the rewards of your hard work.)
So, yeah. Jae has been encouraging me to look for new work where I can be paid what I’m actually worth, and be making the same amount of income I am now without having to invest half of my weekends in overtime. And I have to admit: that’s a really, really enticing prospect.
The only problem is: We rely on my current income. If I start a new job somewhere else and it falls through, we are screwed. My job pays for our rent, our healthcare, and all of our recurring bills with just a little bit left over when I do manage to clock the maximum overtime I’m allowed. And while I’m more confident in my abilities than I ever have been before thanks to my anxiety medication, I’m also deeply aware of one other factor: I’m transgender, male-to-female. Women are paid less than men for similar work, on average, so I can expect to have to fight for whatever I earn wherever else I move… and that’s okay. I mean: it isn’t. It’s sexist bullshit. But I can deal with that. What I can’t do anything about is that being transgender is not a protected status in my state. I can be fired for being trans at the drop of a hat, and transfolk have a documented history of difficulty keeping jobs because they can be so easily — and legally — discriminated against. Many transfolk come out and, shortly later, are looking for new work. I’m still in the transition process, so I’d be facing that gamble wherever I went. Yes, I could probably find better work — but I’ve already come out to management here, months ago, and they haven’t suddenly started finding problems with my work and built up a case to dismiss me. That makes this job stable in a way that I can’t guarantee another one would be… and like I said: If we lose my income, we’re screwed.
That’s why I’ve been talking about finding a second job instead of finding a ‘new’ job. That stability is extremely important — and while Ess will be looking for work, too (and I fully expect him to find something) the only person I can directly control is myself. And after all these years, I do have an ingrained sense of needing to provide funds. Plus, I’m the most employable out of all of us: I have a college degree, years of experience in technology related fields, and I’m an accomplished programmer. I’ve been looking at doing freelance programming and web design work, currently, because that would have the best pay for the most flexible hours, wouldn’t violate my current non-compete clause, and it should be something I can get underway reasonably quickly and then let go of when Ess finds work.
I would vastly prefer to make my income by writing. I would like to make my entire financial contribution through writing because that would mean spending my time doing something I love, which is what I personally value a lot more than I value any amount of money. Unfortunately, that’s just not feasible — and even if I don’t personally value money, I am practical enough to know that it has value and we need it to keep food on our table and a roof over our heads. It really bothers me that I have the highest income out of all of us, because it makes my dream of being a full time writer that much more impractical — and it actually does bother me every time I get a raise or a promotion because even though that means we have more money to cover our bills, our needs, and our wants… it also means we’re that much more reliant on me to provide that money, which makes my dream of writing full time that much more impractical.
I get scared, whenever I do something to earn more, or start looking for a better paying job, or whatever that it means I’m never going to be in a position to really spend my time doing the things that I love and value. So, I finally started looking more seriously at earning something from my writing, because otherwise I worry that some day I’ll get to the point where I just can’t justify spending the time on it when I could be spending the time earning more to support us, instead.
deep breath here, because all of this isn’t even the end of the week from hell, yet
So, further amping up the worries about money, we then found out that Jae’s mom will be losing her job in the next year when that part of her company is relocated. Jae’s mom is the breadwinner for her household, so that’s pretty scary news. It also directly impacts us because we’re on their family phone plan — keeping us on the phone plan has been Jae’s mom recurring Christmas gift to us. We’ll be waiving our participation in that so that Jae’s mom can reduce to a smaller plan — every little bit, right? I also know that Jae is going to need for us to be able to help support her mom if it gets really bad before she can find work. And I actually like my mother-in-law, so I want to be able to help her too, if she ends up needing it.
So, between the phone bill, Jae’s student loans, and Ess’ unexpectedly early relocation our finances are about to take a pretty serious ongoing hit. We’re all kind of on edge about that — even though we’re all also really glad that Ess is getting out of the house he’s been stuck in and we’re all looking forward to his being here, too. We know it will work out, but we also knew it would be really tight for a while, until Ess found work — and really crowded until we found a better place that we could afford with our combined incomes, after Ess found work.
So that’s why I’ve been looking at work, why I’ve been too depressed to write this week, and why I finally put up a Patreon page to ask for donations from my readers. (Which I still feel crappy about, even though I know that if I don’t ever make it at least possible for me to earn money from my writing there’s no way I’ll be able to keep it up long term, let alone make it full time.)
But the week still wasn’t over.
On Friday Arr came home from his ninety day review — which had been put off a few times due to conflicts with meeting times among the managers — with the entirely unexpected news that they had let him go.
So, as of Friday, I am once again the sole source of income for my household. This is not a role I excel in. I’m even more freaked out about and resistant to the prospect of looking for a replacement, higher paying job elsewhere, since the devil I know is at least a devil that I know doesn’t give a fig about me being trans.
So… yeah. I really don’t know what to do about it. When Arr has a job again and Ess is moved in and has found work, too, it probably won’t be as big of a deal. I certainly hope not. At that point I’m hoping that Ess’ contributions are enough that I can stop doing all the overtime ever, and maybe start writing some books purely for sale in addition to Midnight Moonlight, or do more to advertise the story I’ve got and the books that are currently available on amazon and Smashwords.
But for now, I am feeling that pressure. Not just to keep the job I have, but to do whatever I can to make more money, now, to cover what we’ve just lost access to and what we’ll need while Ess is looking… because I know I have the most marketable skill set out of all of us, and because over the years I’ve internalized my role as the financier, if not the provider. And it really, really sucks, because every time I feel hit by that pressure I start thinking about how impractical writing is (something my mom harped on when I was younger — whenever I was asked what I wanted to be and I answered, ‘an author’ I was told: ‘that’s nice, but what are you going to do for real?’ until I stopped answering like that) and it feels more and more impossible that I’ll be able to do it full time.
Frankly, I don’t even know that I can say that my dream is to be a full time author, anymore. At some point in the last five years I started thinking that I needed to dream smaller: like, maybe my dream can just be to be a freelance programmer, and not dependant on a company’s goodwill to keep food on my family’s table? Which still feels impractical because, re: history of severe anxiety, I still don’t do well with selling my skills and services to people. Hell, I don’t even value them, re: history of depression. I’ve only recently started realizing I’m not paid what I’m worth where I’m at — it was just last year that I finally had enough sense of my own value to push for the promotion that at least makes my job description describe the work I’ve actually been doing the past five years (and included about 7k a year as a raise, if that gives you any idea of how little I was being paid for my skill set prior to that).
Ahhh. Anyway, I’m rambling. And I should get back to work, since my break is about over. (Yay, that weekend overtime.) I’m not actually vexed about any of it right now. I think I spent most of my emotional investment at the start of the week, heh. Mostly I just want to get through today, go to sleep, wash, rinse and repeat. It sucks right now, but I do have confidence that it will get better. And I hold out hope that once Ess and Arr are both contributing to our finances I’ll be able to scale back a little on the overtime without letting anyone down, and get back to some of the things I wish I could afford to spend time on now.
Thanks for listening,