the magic 8 ball

by rantywoman

Volunteering at the farm has turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done here. I’ve met interesting people every time, and our conversations reflect many of the themes I’ve written about– the health insurance problem, the lack of jobs, the issue of overwork for those who are employed. This week I talked to a woman in a professional field who recently asked if she could cut her hours by one day per week and was laughed out of her boss’s office.

There’s a power in people talking to each other, and we are forced to do so when sorting vegetables hour after hour.

The human contact cheered me up this week just when I needed it. I was feeling down after my mom told me a story about a friend of hers, in her seventies, who is thinking of returning to her high-rise life in a big city because after more than a decade in a small town, she doesn’t feel like she has any true friends. She participates in casual activities with people but it never goes beyond that. I know this woman, and she is generally a very “positive thinking” type. Her story worried me once again that, past thirty-five, a single woman is doomed to a certain kind of isolation. I suppose I should feel grateful that I’m resourceful and like my own company.

I was also a little bummed and surprised to hear through the grapevine that the job in the small town nearby has been filled. I didn’t score an interview; I suppose at higher levels they can dispense with civil service processes. The woman who got it is married and a mother and originally from a small town, so admittedly she is probably a better fit than a single hussy from Hollywood (me, in other words).

The same day I heard that I may get contacted about some upcoming positions at my workplace in L.A. It’s flattering to feel wanted, but I lost some sleep thinking over the logistics. There’s one job in a posh spot that is desirable to work in but unaffordable to live in. There’s a high-level post that would be well-renumerated and great for my career but located in suburbia, about an hour away from the city. There’s the office job with the long hours and commute in which I could live in a highly-urbanized zone, with all the attendant pluses and minuses.

They are all tricky for a single person and leave me wondering, if I have to make such stark choices, what my values are. The suburban job would be best in terms of money and career; the posh job in terms of quality of life; the urban job in terms of excitement and potential to “blend in” as a single person. It’s difficult for me to think straight because, at this age, I can’t quite project what would make me happy. Would I feel too old and tired for urban night life? Would I be happy to have a quiet life in the suburbs as long as I was building a nest egg, or would I feel that money and career for its own sake means nothing but unrewarded stress? Would I feel like an odd egg and poor relation in the posh area, or would the beautiful scenery and ease of life be just what I needed?

It’s too bad it’s not working out here, because I wouldn’t have to answer those questions if I could stay. I could take a medium-stress job with the opportunity for growth in the future; I could stay close to friends and the city’s center while only participating to the extent I feel comfortable; and I could responsibly build a nest egg. If I have to separate those things from each other and choose, I’m not sure what I will do, but given the tales of economic woe out there, at least I have some choices that have some appeal (and I’m unsure whether, in the end, there will be more than one– or any–choice).