WARNING: This blog entry is long and has a high “Boredom Potential.” You begin reading at your own risk.
/ˈhæp lɪs/ [hap-lis] –adjective
unlucky; luckless; unfortunate.
1560–70; hap1 + -less
—Can be confused: hapless, haply, happily.
miserable, woebegone, wretched, forlorn; pathetic, pitiable.
/ˈhɛlp lɪs/ [help-lis] –adjective
1. unable to help oneself; weak or dependent: a helpless invalid.
2. deprived of strength or power; powerless; incapacitated: They were helpless with laughter.
3. affording no help.
1125–75; ME; see help, -less
/ˈhoʊp lɪs/ [hohp-lis] –adjective
1. providing no hope; beyond optimism or hope; desperate: a hopeless case of cancer.
2. without hope; despairing: hopeless grief.
3. impossible to accomplish, solve, resolve, etc.: Balancing my budget is hopeless.
4. not able to learn or act, perform, or work as desired; inadequate for the purpose: As a bridge player, you’re hopeless.
1560–70; hope + -less
1. irremediable, remediless, incurable. 2. forlorn, disconsolate, dejected. Hopeless, despairing, despondent, desperate all describe an absence of hope. Hopeless is used of a feeling of futility and passive abandonment of oneself to fate: Hopeless and grim, he still clung to the cliff. Despairing refers to the loss of hope in regard to a particular situation, whether important or trivial; it suggests an intellectual judgment concerning probabilities: despairing of victory; despairing of finding his gloves. Despondent always suggests melancholy and depression; it refers to an emotional state rather than to an intellectual judgment: Despondent over ill health, he killed himself. She became despondent and suspicious. Desperate conveys a suggestion of recklessness resulting from loss of hope: As the time grew shorter, he became desperate. It may also refer to something arising from extreme need or danger: a desperate remedy; a desperate situation. Despairing and despondent may apply only to feelings.
Three distinct feelings that can be felt despite the conditions being the opposite. Sometimes they are sitting in the background, waving politely to remind you they are there, other times they are in your face yelling and screaming and occasionally kicking you in the shin. At this point, despite my emotional feelings of haplessness, helplessness and hopelessness, let me explain how I am well aware that this is not the case.
The start of this problem goes back a long time, to the beginning, even. It is no one persons fault, and blame cannot easily be placed on any individuals or groups, with few exceptions, and for the most part I suspect they may be ourselves. It probably starts with leaving New Zealand for the US, with high hopes and expectations a little beyond reality, and throughout it is plagued by circumstances far beyond our control. The economic problems play a large part, but it is also compounded by the area we live in and what industry is available, as well as the long and boring game of waiting for someone to do something – like USCIS.
When I left NZ I had a well-paying job, and had high hopes of that experience being useful in my hunt for work, here in the US. More than once after arriving I wondered why I left it. That said, with the economic issues being a global problem there is little guarantee I would have still been employed by the same company, although as with so many decisions in life I have no way of knowing what the outcome of staying (with Kelly moving to NZ) might have been.
Part of our problem was the way we dealt with USCIS. We weren’t 100% on the ball – if we’d gotten it right the first time, I would have had a work permit a lot earlier. If we’d gotten it right the second time, work permits would have been arriving not as early, but not as late. By the time I had an employment authorization card it was February of 2009, and very few places were hiring. We had also had to move out of our apartment (end of Nov, beginning of Dec 08) at this point, because Kelly’s college loans had come due for payments, and we couldn’t afford to pay loans as well as rent. See the next paragraph, but even having had a work permit in October or November (2008) probably wouldn’t have helped unless I had taken a job doing retail or something (I did always say I would work at Walmart if I had to). Kelly quit her job as a barista early in 2009, as the work environment was horrible and causing all kinds of emotional problems, and had begun to cause physical problems as a result. Kelly’s mom had offered to help us with the loans in return for cleaning the house.
Anyway, back to my employment (or lack thereof). It took until May of ’09 to get my first interview, and they turned me down. My first job in the USA was working as a camp counselor at a summer camp. Great job, great times, didn’t pay very well. Kelly had been cleaning her parents house (where we had been living), but was offered a summer job as a babysitter for two awesome kids. All this time we were trying to keep a lid on our debt – not necessarily bringing it down, but paying the minimums so that it wouldn’t hurt us too badly. Summer of 2009 was lived very much on a week by week basis.
The end of summer came, and Kelly had found a more permanent job working for the Harrisonburg Rockingham Child Day Care Center, where she still is! I worked for a couple of months for the Boys and Girls Club in Timberville, but they had issues with me, I had issues with them, and we decided the best course of action was for me to resign. Winter of 2009/2010 was bleak, to say the least. Kelly’s job paid the bills, but it was right around December that benefits began, and the impact on the paycheck was greater than we anticipated. Many nights were spent wondering if it would ever get better. Several weeks were spent with one or two dollars in the bank at the end.
The turnaround came in February, and financially it couldn’t have been a better time. Rosetta Stone offered me a temporary position (with a small hope of continuing permanently) in the test lab, as a Software Testing Analyst. From the middle of February 2010 to early June, I worked 40-50+ hours a week to make as much money as I possibly could, and thus began the debt-blitz of early 2010. We had a number of things that had piled up that we needed to get dealt with – Crash had been with us nearly a year and he needed some things attended to, I think the car needed something done, and beyond that the goal was to pay off as much debt as we could. This was primarily successful – we brought our monthly budget down a little, and survived to tell the tale. But sure enough, June came (having had the contract extended twice), and Rosetta Stone said “We don’t need you, but we might soon.” Insert large amounts of hopelessness, and begin looking for work again.
I went back to camp for a couple of weeks over summer, and at the end of August I had a call from Rosetta Stone asking for an interview. If there is one thing I can say for RS it is that their communication skills have some things to be desired, but long story short on August 31, 2010 I started as a permanent, part time employee on the test lab’s second shift (5pm-12am, Monday to Friday, limited to 35 hours a week).
And so here we are – it is the middle of December 2010. We have lived with Kelly’s parents for two years (and about two weeks), and the hope of regaining our independence is slowly, slowly rising again. It isn’t that we haven’t enjoyed living with the rest of the family, I know I have. It isn’t that we don’t appreciate the support provided, I know I do. For the most part we all get along, and we seem happy and comfortable. But we don’t want to abuse the privilege. Already we’ve stayed a lot longer than we had initially hoped or expected – and the way we are set up to a large degree reflects that. Our various boxes of ‘stuff’ were haphazardly packed with little regard for what was going where, and this has resulted in several hours of looking for things that were possibly in a box with something else that we have no idea on the location of.
At this stage, the goal I think is for around May next year, if not before. Realistically, we have several thousand dollars allocated (between now and then) to pay off some of the loans that are really hurting our monthly bank balances and preventing us from moving, and then we can find somewhere to move to. Additionally, May seems like an ideal month to move – aside from a trip to the deep south for a wedding it will be warm, and friends will be more available to help.
We certainly aren’t ‘unlucky’ or entirely ‘unfortunate.’ We are finally at a point where we fail to meet the criteria for ‘unable to help oneself’ or ‘powerless.’ And while it will take time, the task ahead is certainly not ‘impossible to accomplish’
The hard part now is waiting. Every day that goes by I wish I could have done something to help us dig ourselves out faster, but I think I’ve done everything I can. From planning when we pay bills to constantly calculating our budget over a month, over a fortnight and for other special events (like Christmas). Our financial life is about as organized as it could possibly be, and the struggle is remembering why we shouldn’t be mindlessly spending money (a temptation that I constantly fight, and sometimes lose). Keeping our mind on the prize, we must keep our eye on the road, for it is rocky and there are monsters.