This is about my hands and feet. Actually it’s about work and its remnants, about being working-class, Chicana, about going where you don’t belong, or where you think you don’t belong, or no matter where you go there is always some part of you on the outside, watching, seeing what gets played out, wondering how you fit in, what you need to do. This has been the story of my life, even in childhood. Is it a requisite for me becoming a writer? I think in a way it is.
I’m looking for work, a living wage. That, in and of itself, puts me in line with millions of people in this country who aren’t experiencing a slow-down–they’re experiencing a screeching halt. Karmically, is it time to search? Yes, but you can’t eat new opportunities for growth, and there’s not really much in the storehouse. This has been both a blessing and one of those opportunities I just mentioned.
Since finishing graduate school I’d been trying to get work as an editor or as a teacher. (The decision to seek something more meaningful, I also realize, is not one that millions of people even have a chance to consider.) What I had to acknowledge was that the search, while at one level intense, wasn’t intense enough. Better put, there was a piece of me that held on, even though I was unhappy.
Circumstances came together a couple of weeks ago to relieve me of my complacency. What does this have to do with hands and feet? What no longer having my job has meant is that I had to stop hiding, that I had to step up and step out, that I had to make myself more visible, and I had to face that the part of me that wanted to stay back, stay hidden. Part of what’s been required in this job search is to start attending networking events, that, in my mind, ‘people from the other side’ populate. What I mean here is, that, in my mind, these are the ‘happy, shiny people’ with homes (which I don’t have) and cars, (which I don’t have), and retirement funds. (Again, I think you already know what I’m going to write here.) Never mind that those folks have mortgages and debt lines and feel sorrow and loss and joy, too.
But back to the hands and feet issue. What I’ve been experiencing is a sense of shame. Shame that the tips of my fingers and the soles of my feet are calloused from a life where I worked on assembly lines, cleaned other people’s houses and cared for sick patients. Dressed to the nines, smile and firm handshake in place, passing out those smart business cards, part of me feels I will be found out before the canapes are done circulating.
And it never escapes me that I am served by Mexicanos y Mexicanas who are like me, and yet unlike me, and that somehow I am also standing, watching and knowing that I am supposed to write this and not forget.