Monday, March 23, 2009

things old and new

Today we had a meeting at work for the case coordinating team, where we were reassured that our jobs are (relatively) stable. I'm glad, because now's not the time to be unemployed, but I wonder how much I'll want my job when they get through cutting everyone else's. Now I'm a baby sitter, a teacher, a counselor, a substance abuse therapist, a case coordinator, and a driver. God help all of us if they make me a maintenance guy, a chef, and a social worker too. My emergency back-up plan was to sell our cars and move my tiny family to Innisfree Village. (I hoped they take kittens. And married folk.) Other than figuring out how to afford a cell phone plan (not to mention retirement) on $500/month, that sounds like such a wonderful and simple life.

I don't mean to be ungrateful for my job, but maybe I am a little. I like what I do well enough, but I sometimes resent having to do it just to pay for life. This is why Abe and I are looking for a tiny house or duplex where we can have a tiny garden, why all of our furniture was free secondhand or from Goodwill, and why it took me a month to decide whether or not to get a new phone.

The new phone (so new! so shiny! and with an fm radio, a better camera than my camera, and an accelerometer that is a real feature, and not something I made up!) was "free," meaning I don't have to pay anything for it so long as I stay with At&T for another two years. I wrestled with this. I wondered: Where will I be in two years? What if I want my family to live on $500 a month? What if we have to live on $500 a month? Right now, that's less than our rent alone. And I freaked out a lot. Then I put on my reality hat (Abe crocheted it for me), and thought realistically. Realistically, I'll work at Florence Crittenton for another year (ish) or more. And after that, hopefully Abe and I will move to Idaho to be house parents at an awesome group home/ranch, or we'll move to Haiti to be hangers-on at my sister's house (please?), or I'll start grad school. I realized that this struggle wasn't just about really wanting to make a good decision about financial commitments - it was also me, thinking that denying myself things would somehow bring me closer to being the person I'd like to be (among other things, a person who is a little less attracted to new and shiny things).

If we're being honest, I didn't take care of my old phone the way I should have. I dropped it the first week I had it, putting a ding in the side and voiding the manufacturer's waranty. Then, when the phone turned out to be crazy (half the time, in some mode for 'emergency calls only'? If it was really an emergency, I could just yell my head off and I wouldn't need a phone. Also, I'm neurotic, and everything is an emergency. Don't try to tell me it's not an emergency to call my husband about whether we need baking powder or baking soda. I'll call 911.), I just had to deal with it. Could I have continued to deal with it? Yes. And I would love to be without a cell phone contract. But chances are good that I'll keep my cell phone plan for two years anyway, and a free phone that works beats a free phone that doesn't. I decided that there's nothing inherantly evil about new things. I need to care for the things that I have, new or not, and I need to reuse or recycle the things I don't need anymore in a responsible way.

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