Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Microstory 1822: Child Support

When I was growing up, my family told me to get a hard-working job. It may have been the very first thing they said to me. I bet I came out of my mother 65 years ago, and they said, son, you need to know the value of honest manual labor. They didn’t care how well I did in school, or how good I was at socializing with the other kids. They could still remember the great depression, even though a long time had passed for them already, and they didn’t want me to go through the same problems they did. It was a nice sentiment, but it wasn’t very forward-thinking. Since they didn’t value education, I didn’t have much of a chance to explore my strengths, and learn new skills. I went from one blue collar job to the next. This factory, that warehouse, this office basement, that farm. I know it sounds like I kept getting fired, but that’s not what it was like. I would just keep getting better opportunities, or have to move somewhere else. In those days, finding work wasn’t all that hard. People always needed people like me to do the things that they didn’t want to do, and which robots hadn’t figured out how to do...yet. That’s kind of what this story is about. I had heard that someone or something would be coming for our jobs, but I didn’t know that meant every job I was possibly qualified to do. I didn’t know the last job I lost would be the last I ever had. I had picked up so many skills along the way, but it seemed like they were all out of date before I was old enough to survive on my retirement. You may think I was bitter, but I wasn’t. I saw it coming. I am not against automation in general. I even made sure my kids got themselves some skills that would make them indispensable within the workforce. But my daddy didn’t teach me the same, so I was unprepared for it to happen so soon.

I’m sure glad I raised my children differently than my parents did. It was a bit of a double edged sword, though. Now that they were grown, and had built great careers for themselves, they had more than enough amongst them to support me and my wife in my early forced retirement. Her parents were even worse. No daughter of theirs was going to work a day in her life. She was expected to find a man to take care of her. That was meant to be my responsibility, and I was failing everybody. Not once did my kids make me feel bad about giving us money even though I wasn’t even 60 years old yet. They said they were more than happy to give back what we gave to them. I know that this happened. I know that I raised them, and taught them, and helped them. It just didn’t feel like enough, and it felt like they were giving back far too much comparatively. Things did not get any better as the years went by. It was incredibly stressful, asking them for a little help when my social security benefits weren’t enough. It was a little less stressful when they started sending us what was basically an allowance, so we didn’t have to ask, but it was still difficult. It was better for the most part when they decided to set us up with some kind of fancy computer account where money would automatically transfer from their banks to ours, but in other ways, this was worse, because I felt like such a disappointment. One thing I let go was my health. We chose to eat a lot of fast food, because it’s cheaper, of course, and we wanted to stay frugal, since we had not truly earned this money. On the upside, my early death is going to release the kids from some of the burden. On the downside, I’m worried about my wife’s health, and there’s also this annoying thing about suffering a lethal heart attack at age 65. That’s not great.

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