I never imagined at $55,000 a year, I’d have trouble making ends meet. And my wife brings in another 25. My son’s in public school. It’s no good. I mean, there’s 37 kids in the class, uh, no art and music, no advanced placement classes. Other kids, their mother has to make them practice the piano. You can’t pull my son away from the piano. He needs teachers. I spend half the day thinking about what happens if I slip and fall down on my own front porch, you know? It should be hard. I like that it’s hard. Putting your daughter through college, that’s-that’s a man’s job. A man’s accomplishment. But it should be a little easier. Just a little easier. ‘Cause in that difference is… everything.
–The West Wing, “20 Hours in America”
Tonight/last night (it gets fuzzy; I’m not sleeping again) was good. We had a Get Out the Vote (GOTV) summit for the coordinated campaign, and I finally feel like I’m back in the loop again. It turns out that I was right–I basically got lost in the shuffle when things got rearranged for the coordinated campaign. The field organizer I’d been working with got shifted out toward central Mass, and they pulled the field organizer from that part of central mass out here to western Mass. (Don’t ask what the logic is there. I have no idea. Welcome to campaign life.) But we have a dry run this weekend, and I’m all signed up for that.
Plus, I snagged some rally signs for my Halloween costume. I’m going to be a yard sign, and on my back it’s going to say, “I’m a yard sign. I can’t vote, so go knock some doors.” I haaaaate yard signs, and the old guard organizers in my area are obsessed with them. They started in on it tonight, and I wanted to stand up in a chair and yell, “LET ME TELL YOU A THING. Yard signs do not work in anything bigger than small-town school board elections. I don’t care that you think they work because I can cite four peer-reviewed studies that say you’re just WRONG, so please, for the love of the old gods and the new, can we SHUT UP about yard signs?” I didn’t, of course. I just covered my mouth and laughed silently until they shut up. And then some guy started in on, “When I was in Bangkok, they advertised on the ice cream trucks that would drive around all the neighborhoods.” At that point I had to excuse myself to the bathroom because ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS I CAN’T EVEN. Just because you’ve been working on campaigns for the last 60 years doesn’t mean you actually know what you’re doing. The demographics have shifted, the technology has shifted, and we have lots of studies proving that the things we’re asking you to do work and the things you want us to let you do don’t work.
Political organizing has taught me many things, but patience is probably not one of them. I mean, I can tolerate it, but not especially well. And at some point, something snarky would slip out of my mouth because sometimes I just can’t contain it. Like, “Hey, this is not Bangkok in 1955,” or “If you mention yard signs one more time, I will impale you on one and you can be the yard sign.” This is also why I’d never get elected to public office. Remember Joe Biden in the 2012 Veep Debate? Multiply that by ten and add a bunch of words they’d have to bleep out, and that would be me. I’d probably be all composed and smart for half of it, and then my opponent would say something really provocative, and I’d slip. It would be hilarious, but it would make me unelectable.
(I swear I’m not actually a serial killer or anything. I wouldn’t actually impale anyone. I just get really sick of people who have no idea what they’re talking about hijacking meetings run by people who do know what they’re talking about.)
Anyway, it was cool because somebody I’d worked with on the Obama campaign in 2012 showed up. She was our neighborhood team leader, and she became a bit of a surrogate mother figure to me. We’ve been in touch sporadically–she now runs a pro-choice group–but our paths haven’t crossed in months. It was really cool to catch up with her. And she invited me to a meet and greet tomorrow night. It’s our lieutenant governor candidate, our state senator and representative, and some other state senators and reps. I’ve met most of them before, at least the ones from my district, but meet and greets are always kind of fun. But the location is this diner where nobody under 70 goes ordinarily, and they play Fox News. Interesting choice of venue for a Democratic party event. *shrugs*
Then, because I was feeling pretty good, I decided I was going to go online and apply to the state university near me to go back and finish my undergrad degree. They use a common application, so I went to that site and started doing it. First of all, they want a $75 application fee. I can’t even pay to heat my house, and that’s almost two weeks’ worth of food. You can apply for a fee waiver–but your high school guidance counselor has to verify your financial need for a waiver. I graduated in 2004, for fuck’s sake. I don’t have a high school guidance counselor.
Then they want your parents’ entire life history. Well, okay, their educational history. Which meant I had to Google my father’s resume. The father who sexually abused, raped, and tortured me for 16 years. The father who was a cop. The father who’s now the chair of the criminal justice department at a Midwestern college. I thought I was going to die from a heart attack–I don’t even want to know how high my heart rate jumped up–but I managed that.
But the final straw was standardized test scores. You can’t submit the application without test scores, but you can only enter test scores going back to 2009. I took the SAT and ACT in 2003. I remember what my scores were, but I don’t have the proof anymore. And it won’t let me enter them because the dates are invalid. Oh, and you can’t submit it without contact info for your high school guidance counselor, which, as previously mentioned, I don’t have.
The whole thing is clearly meant for high school kids. I know I cannot possibly be the only nontraditional student trying to apply to college, but they’ve made the application literally impossible. I probably shouldn’t have even bothered trying–I’ve been in such a bad place, and I know my sanity is very fragile right now. But I tried because I’m an idiot, and now I feel totally hopeless. I feel like the whole world wants me to fail, like they don’t want me to be able to get a degree so I can never get a job that will let me escape poverty. I feel like they want me to kill myself because I’m a worthless burden on society. I know that’s crazy, bordering on paranoid, and yet…I can’t convince myself out of believing it.
I hate my brain. I really, really hate it.
I don’t expect things to be easy. Like the quote at the top, I think things should be hard. But not like this. My life right now is too hard. It’s impossible for me to succeed. It’s the Kobayashi Maru, only it’s not a simulation and it doesn’t end once I accept that I can’t fix the impossible situation. Making my life work should be hard, but it should be just a little easier. But I don’t have the advantage of running into any White House staffers in a bar who can craft policy inspired by my difficulties. I barely have a voice, and nobody who has power to change things really notices me, not enough to see how hard things are.