Pat 2015

I’ve been thinking about my mom, but I can’t figure out the angle here.  Well, there’s the anniversary of her day of birth.  But, maybe it’s this:  After getting my perfomance reviewed at work — corporate America’s annual dance or bloodletting depending on how you are doing–I keep wondering if she’d be happy or pissed at me.

First week of the month, I was going full-on existential postal.  I can’t think much about where I am in life before I start thinking of all the places that I am not.  I am not rich, famous and beautiful, and I’d be good at all three, goddamnit, so I should be.  The crisis du month, though, was the triple-decker pileup of my birthday, my performance review and this thing at my place of toil that I can’t describe but involves sharing stuff about yourself.  

Amid the self-loathing caused by age and excess self reflection, I had a fleeting thought about my mother. A point I will get to after I set it up with too much detail.

Some days, I think I confound some of my coworkers.  The environment of my paycheck generation is well-educated and high performing. It definitely charts about the curve by most definitions, or it’s proof positive that with the right motivation and circumstances, and money to pay for it, anyone can get a graduate degree.  There’s a metric ton of letters after people’s names.

I was too desirous of money and the associated purchases — groceries and rent mainly — to stick around ivied halls any longer than I had to do to get my bachelor’s.  I wasn’t burning for any more learning of the formal sort circa 1985.

From 1985 almost to the day she died, Pat, my mother, reminded me I could still go to grad school.  I let her down on that decision for decades.

Today, I am docorate-less and masters-less in a sea of masters and doctors.  I have more years of relevant experience than many, though, so I hold my own with common sense and moxie.  Hence the confounding, I just don’t defer to not knowing shit, because there’s a lot of shit I know even without the sheepskin to prove it.  

it’s a bit like the end of the Wizard of Oz; I grant myself a doctorate of thinkology.

Now here’s where Pat comes in… That woman worked hard, year after year, helping to educate other people’s kids.  That hard work full on cramped the woman’s style.  Some of the other teachers and the school administrators crushed a bit of her creative sparkle. She was a little pounded down.  By retirement, she was caved in by it all.

She indoctrinated me into a fear about work.  A fear that you could lose your job for many types of infractions.  She had near perfect attendance over years and years.  She carried out all of the side jobs and extra tasks asked of teachers with nary a complaint — bus duty, after hours tutoring, grading papers on her own time, mentoring young teachers and helping with banquets and school events in the evenings.

I learned and listened and I have almost perfect attendance and do a lot of good citizeny extras at work.  But try as I might I can’t bury my non-conformist tendencies.  I am a good worker bee in a happy hive, but I’m a square peg in a round-holed world.

Problem is, I like it.

So, I work in a job that is easy for me.  I sacrifice some pay and will likely never have a good title, but I know everyone in the building.  My days are laid out with honkingly wide swathes of leeway and not a lot of  having my clocked punched by somebody else.

It’s a trade off.  It’s a choice.  And, it’s a little bit of anxiety.  If I got the gig where I got the pay that meant I have to manage stuff, I might fail.  I might have to leave my sneakers at home.  I might have to be at my desk for geometrically larger periods of time than I am now.

I think Pat might see the genius of my choice.  For good benefits and a not awful paycheck, the man isn’t keepnmg me down and the thoughts inside my head are free to breathe.

Outwardly, she’d tell me to do more.  She’d ask about promotions and growth opportunities.  She’d worry. 

Or maybe she’d smile.

This post is intended to insult your intelligence

Here I am, quietly home alone.  OK, not so quiet, considering the Rolling Stones are playing.  And, I haven’t quite nailed Virginia Wolff’s:

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

For a few hours it is a room of my own.  And, with my lemon trees in constant bloom and fruit, fluttering with birds, it is a room with a view.IMG_3768

The last few weeks of my employment have brought me closer to the employment of others, or their aspirations thereof.  Yeah, less pretentiously, I’ve been interviewing eager hopefuls for a job.  Not all that eager in truth.  Here are some minimum requirements to keep the conversation not the potentially fruitful side:

  • Know the name of the company that is on the phone or inside of which you sit
  • Know the name of the department, as above
  • Have some kind of vague notion of what it is we do and, therefore, what might be asked of you
  • Don’t make me cry with boredom.

The last one is actually much simpler than you might think, even if I am a bitch.  I love stories.  I love imagining myself in other shoes.  I love picking up tidbits of humanity as I chug along.

I only pretend to hate people.  But I just might be the one who smiles at you and shares conspiratorial chatter in a long grocery line or unruly crowd.

In a job interview, I really, really, really want to like you.  I’m incentivized out the ass — there’re piles of work of both the shit and not shit variety that I’m meant to be covering, because we haven’t met you yet.  I already have a full-time job, so doing yours alongside my own is just the reason I want to hug you and squeeze you and bask in the salvation and glory that your hire will be.

I need you for my very sanity.

It’s a pretty minimal bargain this boredom thing.  A low bar, in fact.

But, I’m not going to write about my experiences.  The universe knows that the gods of Google have not always smiled warmly upon my face and shoulders, so I will leave the above as guidelines only.  As they say in movie land, any resemblance to real people and real anything really is coincidental.  My thoughts from my head.

However, I will mention an experience told to me.  In comparing notes with another person doing an entirely different job search, she mentioned a phrase that has stuck with me for weeks.

In response to the worn, tattered, clichéd intro question “why are you looking to leave your current position?” the person’s response was just the kind of philosophical conundrum that rolls inside my echoing skull for hours of navel-contemplation fun.  The reply about her current gig, and despite the quotes, I wasn’t there, so I’m either paraphrasing or making it up:

It’s OK, but some days it’s like it’s just an insult to my intelligence.

Let’s leave aside that this statement was uttered in a job interview.  While I tend to do well enough I suppose in a conference room full of interrogators (well enough to get jobs, it would seem), I’ve said enough monumentally stupid things in the workplace to not feel like casting the obvious stone.

Instead, what’s killing me, the riddle I can’t fucking solve or information I ain’t parsing — What the fuck really is an insult to one’s intelligence?

OK, OK, reader thus far, there is my prose.  I’ll give you that.  Although, it’s less of an insult to your intelligence and more a cry that you could have done so much better with your synapses and your time than to have read this far.

Earlier today, I put spoons and knives and toast plates and coffee mugs into the dishwasher.  It did not challenge me.  The thoughts inside my head were dull and plodding not glimmering and profound.  Was filling the dishwasher an “insult to my intelligence.”

At work some days I tick little boxes.  I collate.  I answer phones.  I do things for other people that I don’t feel like doing for myself.  I remember things like telling my boss that we should have cookies for a festive little reason.  I buy plane tickets.  I cancel plane tickets.  I spent ungodly amounts of time in Outlook calendar moving squares around in infinite patterns.

Some days I ab-so-fucking-lute-ly hate it.  I have to remind myself that the first world joy of office work is M&Ms and sodas, mini-cupcakes and the internet.  Dear, sweet, timewastingly infinite internet.

And, there are assholes.  Insulted I have been.  But my intelligence, she is still there even when the assholes try to shake my convictions.

So, if you got this far, do me a favor.  Give me an example of what might in the glare of fluorescent lighting and computer screens be an actual insult to your intelligence.

I cannot rest until I know.

New Year in too long on the planet

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So here it is, the beginning of what will mark half a hundred years on the big, blue marble, that’s half a century or 50 years or a whole boatload of hours and days. Even saying “big, blue marble” has old written all over it. Ah, the ’70s.

I haven’t written in eons. Why? Because I’m lazy. And television has gotten better. Mostly because I’m lazy.

The view from almost 50 years is a tad less melodramatic than past decades, I fear. Good in the long run for mental health, I suppose, but shitty as hell if you’re scouring your synapses for a bit of bullshit to share on the web. I had to will myself into a fury about something, and in the end it’s not so much fury as irritation. Thoroughly mature of me, I guess.

So’s here’s a few words on said irritation. Chafing, if you will.

The sheer torture of the way I have made money to pay the bills the last quarter century is that by it’s very nature the best and brightest and the youngest and the most precious of well-scrubbed spawn of the elite universities come to hover. Turns out the life blood of research institutes and non-profits are fellows, scholars, and eager grads. I’ve even worked in the belly of the beast, universities themselves, where students are unavoidable.

Now the straight up benefit of toiling among these folks is a low bar on all things related to corporate dress codes. Short of naked skin or hole-y pajamas, not the lord’s pjs but ones with gaps between the threads, I think I’ve worn it to work. Above are my current favorite work shoes.

I came to not-profits honestly enough. I temped, matching invoices to packing slips at a teeny improvised desk next to the accounts payable manager. It was a job, and with my mad alphabetizing and counting skills I was a colossus of temp agency legend.

Before that historic moment, however, I had worked in a couple of more legitimate career realms. I started out a transfer agency for a mutual funds company. Since that offers no visual, think any corporation in the universe with the imaginative flair of banking or insurance. Day in, day out, it was a sea of skirts, suits, pantyhose in shades of beige, gray, black or navy.

A friend got taken aside for wearing espadrilles and told by management that she was destroying her chances for success.
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Career suicide. I think the jute was offensive to all that was good in the banking class.

Next up, I worked in publishing, well the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. We were a bullpen of writerly and librarian types, who all dressed like writerly and librarian types. The editors, I think all editors, wore suits. Never did I have a job that was so conscience of the clock (many a morning I faced an inquisition at the coffee maker as Michael the editor inquired as to why I had not logged into my computer at 8:02, 120 minutes past expectations). Never did a job feel so buttoned down in a room of the least buttoned down poets and scholars that could be gathered up and put to work.

One day, the editor just above me in the hierarchical food chain, who may have been called Terry, offhandedly discussed clothing. I believe her intent was directed to me, as I was in earshot matching the description she was providing. The curt upshot – she herself would never wear so much black, as the different pieces never matched properly (and absolutely).

At a non-profit, working away, matching invoices in a little corner of a biomedical research lab in my earnest temp hopefulness for permanent employment was a turning point. The only sartorial concern in a lab that’s affiliated with MIT is not exposing flesh to radiation, biohazards, acids and bases. The dress code consisted of not smelling, and even that wasn’t an immutable law.

At 49 years and almost 11 months on the planet, reams of reading in my brain, thoughts from the Feminine Mystique to Joan Rivers, a thousand different observations, I dress how I feel. I dress for comfort. And, I dress as an extension of the baby shoe steps my mother Pat had taken in choosing footwear.

Now, a billion or so pointless words into this little essay, I endeavor to get to the point.

I work with people in the formative years of their careers. They are delightfully enthusiastic and forward thinking about their own hopes and aspirations. I no longer see myself as a “career gal” on the rise. I see myself as a strong swimmer back floating in the ocean of making a paycheck. A good day at the office has mini-cupcakes and a couple of amusing interchanges with the nicer of my colleagues.

Now my cross to bear, and by cross to bear I mean thing to make me whiney in an otherwise comfortable existence, is the youngsters and their kind advice. No less than three women in my office imply they could help make me over. Well, one of them is not actually young, she’s more of a contemporary, and I don’t think she actually believes I should dress like her. She just likes to bust my chops, a stance I respect.

The others, though, they want to field trip me over to Anthropologie or Ann Taylor or wherever the fuck young women shop. Maybe the dreaded Forever 21, which I vow to put out of business with my own Forever 49 chain.

They want me in the heels I never could walk in at any stage in my life. Now, with the arthritic pain in my spine a constant reminder of my mortality, I would choose even less to teeter in pumps, mules and sling backs.

In adolescence, I tried. I clicked on unsteady legs like a colt. In my 20s and 30s, I couldn’t quite get the rhythm of dressing up in heels with drinking, and opted for flats to avoid skinned knees. Although, at various moments in my own hopes and aspirations, I tried hard to wear the uniforms and dress for success. By my 40s, I embraced flats, boot heels and, under duress, low-heeled pumps for funerals and interviews.

I don’t want fashion advice from adorable 20-30-year-olds. As adorable as they are, they cannot understand that I once was adorable, too.

I haven’t given up. But, if I can choose anything at this age, it is to be myself. So, fuck it, here I am.

It ought to be a holiday

Every year, well more frequently than that, I think about my mother. I think about her on the Ides of March, the portentous day in which Brutus stabbed Caesar and my mother was born. Not the same year, mind you, as I’m not tapping this out on my ancient Roman computer.

Actually, it was portent upon portent for old Pat. She was born on the Ides of March the year of the stock market crash for the Great Depression. She was meant for great things.

So, another anniversary rolls around.

I like to remember the ways in which Pat stood out from the crowd. Or in my warped and selfish and self-absorbed brain, the ways in which Pat affected me and stood out from the crowd.

Today’s memory is tied to the current season of my manual toil. OK, typing and sitting at a desk isn’t manual labor, but some days it grinds you just the same. I got callouses on my tappy type finger tips.

At work these days the pesky little papers (now computer files) that once a year worker drones planet-wide, or at least U.S.-wide, bemoan are due — the annual performance reviews. The neat little report where you and your boss get to write out how you’re “meeting expectations” and otherwise doing what a cog does when one is employed.

You say to yourself right about now, I can hear you breathing and thinking, you say, but how does that relate to Pat. Surely, she was not your boss, apart from the sense in which we are all subordinates to our mothers.

Well, here’s the thing. I might be one of the only people rambling around that has written their own performance “self reports” for the decades that I have been employed as a grown up adult, who got their start years before they were allowed to work.

Pat, enmeshed in some heavy duty politics and just short of Brutus-like backstabbing in my town’s school system, turned her typewriter over to her precocious daughter one fine day and asked for her help in word smithing her review. She had to describe her classroom contributions, and since she floated around helping learning disabled kids within other people’s classrooms, she had to talk about that too.

By nature, she was a mix of fierceness on some opinions and topics (ahem, Catholic molesters) and shy reticence on a whole lot more. She complained to those nearest and dearest, but she was way too polite to complain to anyone or anything with any authority, including a cashier at a convenient store. (Although, the school teacher might pop out at any time if said cashier couldn’t do the math to make simple change.)

Real humility, not the false stuff that often passes for humility, was part of her core, and she could not find any words at all to describe what she contributed. She knew what she did, but she couldn’t spin it to advertise her brand.

I could do that for her and with some nudging to not get carried away with florid prose extolling her greatness, together we spoke about her patience with kids in the classroom. Her vast experience. Her gentle but persistent nature. Her true and deep caring for children and learning and education. Her mastery of basic skills and pedagogies and learning methods. That she could set and meet goals until the sun rose and set a hundred years.

She was a champion to a whole lot of kids fumbling in classrooms with dyslexia, a host of other syndromes and disorders, and simply poor study skills.

Pat was also a drill sergeant. No misplaced modifiers, misspellings (which I incidentally just mistyped), prepositions dangling at a sentence’s end, no math not shown happened on her watch. For the stuff where there is a right and wrong way to do it, by god she was going to teach you the right way or die trying.

All of her skills, the ones that made strangers come up to me in high school and beyond and say they knew my mother and that she was great, they were in her heart effortlessly as a teacher.

But, she did suck at telling management what was up. I helped do that for her. I was a kid and it was a fun writing assignment and in truth I had no feel for the politics or fear of the consequences, so I could write without inhibition. She could not. It became an annual ritual in her later years of work.

Now, about a thousand years later, or maybe just shy of that, I have to do the same kind of reports for myself.

So, I sit at my desk and return to the game that I had done at my mother’s typewriter. I right fast and furiously, and I have learned how to advertise my own brand but temper it with a soupçon of self-reflection. I allow for the things I do not know, and I hammer out my strengths. I find the notes of self improvement that are surmountable and demonstrate my good attitude.

I try very hard not to by cynical. But, for that to happen, I do not dwell, I do not agonize. If I spend over 15 minutes on the thing, at about 10 minutes in, I walk away until my head is in the game and I give it only 5 minutes more.

It’s impossible to tell your boss that in addition to my 25-30 years of doing the things for myself, I might have done 10 years more. We breeze through the things, the virtual online handshake is done and another year will pass.

And my highest proof of mastery were the words of my attorney, the one I hired on account of my work at the time not really feeling the love, the labor lawyer who helped me out of a jam. That besuited gentleman pulled all of my Human Resources records out of the belly of the employment beast, and he went through each paper with the loving care that an hourly fee will get you.

Upon sage and learned analysis, he proclaimed that while many a person had come through his office doors with a sad story to tell about the workplace, almost all of them had some marks in their permanent records. But my file, the years of reviews and meetings, they were a pristine and glimmering example. He said in all his years of lawyering he had never seen such stellar performance reviews.

Another year older and deeper in debt

Here’s my overdue musing on yet another birthday. I can’t believe I’m completely easing into total decrepitude, but 49 is a grown-up, fucking age anyway you slice it.

On the other hand, I ain’t dead yet.

Maybe it’s the baby boomers, of which I think I am one, tail end of a generation and all that. After all dear old dad was in Fort Lee, NJ during the big one, WW2. But, perhaps the baby boomers and their clinging to the old ways of listening to electric guitars, hot-tubbing and refusing to give up capital F Fun really are making a dent in how aging is perceived. 60 is the new 30 and all.

What I realize, as I refuse to go gentle into that good night, is that people really do have strong ideas or pictures in their heads of what middle age looks like. In the golden oldie days of my hitting comedy clubs night after night, I had a joke about being 40 and it not being a compliment if someone tags a remark with “for your age,” as in “You look great! For your age.”

In other words, I’m not sure I’m completely digging all of the times that folks say to me (and to M.) that we don’t look our age. Baby, this right here, this chubby body and all, this is what 49 looks like.

I know it’s meant well and maybe it’s true. After all I know a chick about 6 months younger than me who rocks the mom jeans and acrylic sweaters. But, if you look at her face, she’s not actually decrepit either.

For fuck’s sake, I don’t really know anyone under the age of 90 who looks like the Crypt Keeper, so why is that our image? I would totally make out with Helen Mirren.

And with all of that, my secret will be the launch of the upcoming “Forever 49,” a store for normal people. My jeans will be old school, the way jeans were meant to be, with zippers that are not so short and low they end at your clit. T-shirts will be long enough to not just cover your belly button but reach your hips. More simply, clothes will go back to fitting you well and covering your muffin top, not create a whole other roll.

Here’s to another fucking decade of living. And, when the wrinkles catch up, I’ll just wear my sunglasses indoors.

Clearing a blockage

In the distant haze of a distant past, there is a very fuzzy memory. It is of a little girl named Tamara or Teresa or Tammy or Tatyana (well maybe not Tatyana, as I didn't grow up in Moscow). Let's call her Terry.

Terry somewhere in the years of elementary school and junior high branded herself a poet and marketed hard. In what could be my largely inaccurate memory, she read a poem at every assembly the schools ever had. Her crowning achievement was an award and inclusion in a scholastic something or other meant to reward young Byrons and Yeatses in utero.

What I also remember of Terry was that the poems were bad. Or given that my literary criticism skills at the age of 10 match my literary criticism skills today, that is, non-existent, maybe she was OK for a kid. However, seat upon auditorium seat of us children squirmed and groaned in unison. Even those friends of Terry's in the crowd found the poetry excruciating.

To this day, I fear being Terry.

When I perform stand up comedy, write, even ask a question at a meeting, my inner critic sweats giant pulsing rivers of flopsweat. Thankfully, it's invisible flop sweat of the mind, an internal anxiety, else I'd carry a towel and have to have suits fashioned of terry cloth.

I thought of Terry when talking to a professional person who is charged with helping to make me a better professional person. She checks in with me on my professional goals, and I try earnestly, vigorously to absorb and enact the rather practical, but perhaps a tad touchy feely, advice and actions she provides. Coach she is and kindly is paid to listen.

I told her about Terry. I also told her about an another voice I allowed into my writing head, who didn't belong there in the crowd of other voices. I may have made mention before of the dark noise I heard and credit for locking up my efforts to write for what's now years.

In a moment of a kind of intellectual enamor, I shared some writing with a member of the ivory-towered, ivy-covered halls. He, older, ostensibly wiser, definitely better educated had encouraged me, even as I was doing light editing, tech support and formatting for a tome he was writing on a Macintosh computer.

He kindly asked about my aspirations, somehow sensing my typing and word-processing skills maybe had other uses beyond office monkey. Naturally and happily, I shared what I had been up to creatively, eager to have someone ask. Nope, more than that, eager to have someone with a collegiate pedigree ask, like somehow, the words of the elites mean more or differently than the words of us plebeians.

In retrospect, where my brain should have gone was to the wise voices of my kind of people. Tony V., great Boston-based comedian, has (had?) a bit about Harvard. Not wrecking it too bad, the point of the bit is that they have the same books with the same words as everyone else, and everyone can access books; Harvard doesn't have a secret trove of information that is theirs alone.

In the end, the professor (actually he was a dean emeritus from a major powerhouse school) deemed my writing technically good and lively and funny. OK. On that we can possibly agree (on the days I'm not full of self-doubt and loathing).

However, he ultimately belittled me by asking the question possibly every person who ever feels like writing or creating or reaching beyond some kind of smaller purpose asks themselves – Why write? Why is it important? In his mind, and in the words that seeped from his mouth over Arnold Palmers at the Faculty Club for lunch, he decided I had enough working where I work, doing what I do to earn a paycheck, and shouldn't I think about that?

The question was posed as a value judgement on the status quo, which he deemed fine. Really, he held my gig as administrative support very high in both importance and my fortune in having it. In contrast, he asked me to consider the value of my writing and if it had any, and why I was not more satisfied with the status quo.

Sigh.

I thought about that conversation, as I had an entirely different sort of conversation about my writing with the woman who helps professionalize me. Again, I was asked what I wanted and why. This time, though, the point was to get me to chose and press for what I value. No judgment.

In the end, if I'm not Terry and just godawful, and if I just might have something to say that amuses another human, maybe that's enough.

;

Dawn of the kind of dead

I have never been what you would call a morning person. In fact, I'm definitely more of a night crawler.

Most of the dawns I have seen in my life, I have seen on account of not making it to beddy by the night before. I've seen a few dawn's early light by virtue of not sleeping at all.

But, here I am today having snapped this photo after waking in the dark. Complacent, middle-aged me is trying a new thing. It's a new thing that circumstance has foisted on me, and goddamn it I am tired right now. I saw dawn by waking up and greeting it, not meeting it from the other side.

If things play out, I'll be experimenting with the old circadian rhythms. I'll be all up in the early to bed early to rise lifestyle. I'll undoubtedly fall asleep on the couch by 8 p.m., if not face down in my plate at the dinner table. Although, I've been known to fall asleep on the couch on a normal day.

If you see me writing more, it's because we are down to one car at the moment. Whilst saving the environment and carpooling, I am spending a bit of time thumb twiddling, as it were. M. has to get into work early. My place of employment is on his path south to that work. So, I get dropped off early and picked up late.

They say the elderly sometimes need less sleep. Maybe this month is the week I cross over and become one of the early rising elderly. Damn-it, I want my AARP card and movie discounts now.

More on money, but not mine

After a 20+ “career,” or something like a career, I guess the kids call them “jobs,” working in non-profits and grant management, I ended up in a strange little niche. Instead of looking for money, I help give it away.

The environment is greater than first world conditions, it's privilege and quality of life and life-work balance.

Smack dab in the world of the richies, my poor self works.

Life is literally a buffet, at least on some days of the week. And, almost every damn day, having been trained as the accomplice to my mother's many capers, I have to squash deep down the desire to tuck a free bagel or yogurt or two, wrapped in a reused plastic bag, into my purse.

In honor of Labor Day and not getting screwed by the man

Lately, when I've had idle ranting thoughts, I've really wanted to post about “kids today,” and how they don't know nuthin'. Like I know people in the real world, not just the scary internets world, who shit on unions and the word feminist.

Here's what the whippersnappers don't know. Life is fucking hard and the people with the money and the power and the means to fuck you up can and will. Not only is there no free lunch, but keep an eye on the other hand if you see a hand out.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s. In my lifetime, a lot of women didn't own shit like cars and houses. My mom, educated, working, a widow with five kids, had stories about banks looking for co-signers on her mortgage and car payments, because the lady folk needed a hand and couldn't be expected to maintain good credit.

Just barely beyond the span of my life, in 1963 when Congress mandated equal pay for women, it was A-OK to pay a chick less, you know, just because. Up until the '80s, airlines fired female flight attendants who got married.

Civil rights happened, because for some reason African Americans thought they should be treated like all other Americans with jobs, decent pay, fair working conditions, voting without dogs growling at you, regular stuff. People died trying for a better deal.

We didn't eat grapes as a kid, and in our church we prayed for grape pickers not far from where I live now. Turns out it's better, but it isn't good. To this day, the fight goes on to regulate common sense and decency. Should farms really have to be told to provide adequate shade and water to workers in triple-digit heat?

So, I sit here in a house with my name on the paperwork. My crockpot dinner is largely from the local farmers' market. I sit in complacent comfort knowing I make a decent wage, my job treats me fair, my house is livable, I have health care and probably will have a couple of bucks in retirement. I get to use birth control. I'm educated.

When all of that comes together, here's what I know. Other people fought like hell for all of that to be possible for me today. None of that came together by the grace of those people born better off than me and mine. No one gave anyone their rights on a silver platter.

Someone fought for every right and privilege. Collectively, they fought more strongly. It's a continuum, and when we forget to stay organized, vote our own interests, speak out, fight, we'll have failed everything our predecessors sought to make better.