When we were cleaning out our closets this weekend in preparation for the home sale, I uncovered an old job offer letter. It was for my first full-time gig after college (an associate news producer for a cable news channel). My hourly wage — $7.65 an hour. I don’t know what shocks me more, the fact that a professional position in my field would pay me the same wage I could’ve earned at Burger King, or that we were able to make ends meet.
Life was so uncomfortable back then. There was no soft place to fall. There were only student loans, a stinky window air conditioner and ramen noodles. I remember standing behind food stamp recipients at the grocery store, being all confused because they could get things like steak, Doritos and Swiss Cake Rolls when all I could afford was a loaf of bread, eggs and some packets of Kool-Aid. That infamous crack — we had definitely fallen into it.
Finding this artifact as we’re preparing to build our dream house was bittersweet. God, we’ve come so far in 10 years. I think about all the people who earn this kind of money now, working full-time, raising families. Trying to afford not Nikes, but just plain old shoes. Hoping they can pay for hot lunch tickets. Wondering if Cub Scout dues will be in the budget this year.
I’m so thankful — man am I thankful — that we earn a comfortable living. But I think of how I busted my ass for that $7.65 an hour. It pisses me off that so many work so hard for so fucking little. But what can I do, sitting here in suburbia, drinking my Crystal Light and pecking away at one of our three computers. Voting Democrat and tipping well hardly seems sufficient. But I suppose it’s a start.