Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pretty Vacant

I hate to admit this, but in eight days I will be vacating downtown for Alamo Heights, or Alamo Whites, whatever you prefer. I know what you are thinking: isn't that a little too waspy for Grace Ingeborg? The answer is yes, but with good reason.

I am sick of smelling urine while walking down the sidewalk. I am sick of the city pressure washing the sidewalks at 2am outside my window. I am sick of the stupid tourists and their rugrats trying to pet my dog. He doesn't like it.

I am sick of the gorgeous old buildings that lay empty, rotting into crack dens. I am sick of seeing the same homeless people over & over. They opened Haven for Hope months ago, but I haven't seen much of a difference. 

I am sick of seeing the vacant expressions of young men & women high and completely numb to the world around them. Do they have a mother somewhere? Doesn't someone in the world love them? 

Last week I saw a guy maybe a few years older than I. He was decked out like he had just left Whole Earth Provision Co. Maybe he was on his way to Austin or Boulder or somewhere equally crunchy. Since then I have seen him laying on the sidewalk grate in front of the Travis Building high on god knows what. Hiking apparently was not on the itinerary.

When I moved downtown I started seeing a blonde guy, about my age as well. At first we just thought he was down on his luck. A year later I still see him occasionally. Sometimes coherent but sometimes completely vacant, still, like nothingness. Now he looks like he's fifty instead of thirty. 

I used to wonder how people get to that point, but after this summer of unemployment I feel lucky to not have fallen into that trap. There are a lot of horrible circumstances that can make a person feel worthless.

Truthfully there was at least a week or two this summer I didn't get out of bed or didn't leave the building. Getting fired, unfairly, really took a toll on my self-worth. It was just devastating. Especially since there are literally no jobs out there. Before this summer I had never been unemployed for over two weeks. Two months felt like purgatory.

We wrap so much of our identity into what we do for a living. And if we love our job, what's wrong with that? But getting the "its not personal, it's business" line is a slap in the face. Jobs are personal. It's how we feed our families, and pay our rent, & put clothes on our back. What could be more personal than that? 

So, when I see these people living on the streets of San Antonio I can't help but wonder if something similar happened to them. Pair job loss with feelings of worthlessness and you have a potentially dangerous situation. Can't go to the doctor if you lost your healthcare. But there's always a needle & a spoon somewhere. 

-- Sent from my Palm Pre

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