In an essay that you’ve probably already read, this is where the writer segues into the costs of buying gifts, of the debt that accumulates at this time of year. In that essay, the writer details the fact that American retailers depend on the holiday season to turn enough of a profit for the year.
This is not that essay.
I spent the summer working full-time for my old college with the bright promise of my new job around the corner. I calculated what I still needed to purchase, the expenses I would have before my first check in September, and I realized I had $500 to spend on new school clothes for the kids.
To say this felt like a miracle would not be an overstatement.
One of the ways I’ve made it as a single parent of three kids is to practice what my friend Mike and I call Disaster Thinking. Disaster Thinking is not merely planning for potential disasters, although that’s part of it. It’s also expecting them, and then carrying out many of your plans as though the disaster is a future you just haven’t caught up with yet.
For the last seven years, I’ve been an adjunct professor of writing at three different institutions, while raising three kids mostly on my own. At the University of Oregon, that meant an annual, full-time salary of $27,000, though they offered me great benefits. At other schools, my salary ranged from $2,000/class to $4,000/class, though my cap was typically four or five classes a year, and never any work in the summer. This meant many summers (which would sometimes stretch to fall) on food stamps supplemented with a few trips to the food bank. It meant shopping at Goodwill, borrowing money from my mom or brother, floating checks, free lunch applications, payday loans. It also meant that I relied on friends for non-monetary help, too: picking up my kids from theater or chess, or getting groceries after I had back surgery, or just letting me vent and worry aloud about how hard it was to make ends meet.