Poor People Ain’t Got No Time For Life

It has dawned on me as I have gotten older and been on this adulting journey how much of my life is taken up by whatever I need to do to get by. Whether it was a job or jobs or scrimping or even being on welfare, the acts of sacrifice one makes to live. It’s heartbreaking when you do the math sometimes of what comes out of your daily grind and what you end up to show for it. I hear in my head now the voices of those who will wax prophetically, “life is what you make it”, “pursue a career you love and you won’t feel like you’re working”. Or that really slap you in the face response of “if you hate your job just quit”. But the reality is that when you’re poor you don’t have the privilege of cutting off your nose to spite your face. You will have to subject yourself to so much extraction of you just to keep your head above water.

I have a friend who busts his ass working in the service industry. He is a proud, diligent and serious young man who would never ask for a handout. He would never concede to the idea of being exhausted and over it. He knows like I just how much is at stake for people like us. Young Black people from Harlem who didn’t follow those tried true formulas of going to college and ” pretending to make it” or finding our hustle routes in the street. In addition to his service job ,he has another job that also takes up the remainder of his time. I often want to hang out with him but I understand that his schedule doesn’t allow for play play. He is not an anomaly but rather the rule. I mean, let’s get real as a society we’re overworked. The standard of two weekend days is an insult to people who give their jobs over 50 hours a week. We won’t even begin to count in the demands of commutes, the residuals of home life and trying to establish and maintain relationships. Somehow through all of this ,we’re supposed to nurture “the Dream”, were supposed to believe we too can have that nice picket fence life in the suburbs and if we get to be a ripe old age we can sit back reaping the benefits of hard work and sacrifice with a big ass kool-aid smile on our faces.

The pandemic opened my eyes up more if I’m being honest. The idea that people weren’t necessarily unable to do their job from home allows for so much more of a more just labor system in many respects. The ritual of the rat race had ceased and I bet for many working from home allowed many people to finally know what it feels like to sleep 8 hours on a Tuesday. It allowed for people to not be swallowed up by agencies and organizations that prioritize profits first and people last. These same agencies and organizations that have now switched policies with glee now that they’ve somehow found a vaccine that will absolve the chaos of the last year and a half. The usual bullshit shall return. And as I write this ,I reflect on those who didn’t have the privilege to work from home. I reflect on those cashiers, those waiters, those stock clerks and all those other roles so vitally necessary to society but who are amongst the lowest paid and the least protected.

I wonder as a society , as a country where we could be if we weren’t so overworked. If the myriad of ways that labor impacts everyone wasn’t so costly. If we as a society weren’t so brainwashed to believe that working yourself to death was an act of virtue. If parents had enough time to spend with their kids. If spouses had enough time to love spouses. If friends were able to see each other more frequently. I often reflect on how much easier friendship was as a child and I realize it’s because we spent time with our friends at schools and playgrounds. As an adult you’re locked into roles and made to be a robot. LOL. I laugh at this shit to be honest. I laugh because when it’s all so crazy and very little makes sense, there has to be an underlying element of humor in it. Recently I heard about the unveiling of these super human like robots that will be put in a sort of service role. And its funny cause it makes me think , well what’s next for humans if they will replace us with robots? Cause in a capitalist society money is king and labor is the most expensive cost. What’s to stop all these factions from making humans obsolete? If only altruism figured as highly in the American industrial psyche as greed and profit.

There has to be a better way. Very few of us “make it”. And often what I see from those who do, is higher risk of heart attack and stroke, shitty relationships and the emptiness from pouring everything into “the Dream”. Shit is real out here and I see very little changing in policies and culture that supports quality of life. It ain’t a prize to have to work two or more jobs to pay rent. It shouldn’t be the default form single adults in NYC to need roommates. It’s insulting for doctors to prescribe ad nauseam the 8 hrs of sleep per night when people’s schedules are as long and hectic as they are. Who the fuck is really getting 8hrs of sleep while working a full time job that they commute to? And when you get high blood pressure and diabetes and have heart attacks and strokes , they say you didn’t take care of yourself enough. LOL somebody make it make sense.

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