I had an appointment with a temporary accounting agency yesterday. I was dreading going. I feel stuck between wanting to go to work again and taking time off to reflect. Before I met with the recruiter, they had me take a test on basic accounting principles, general ledger work, excel, and ten-key speed. It wasn't difficult but I hated having to do it. It is universally known that the types of work this agency gets falls on the easy side, but not always. Unfortunately, the pay reflects that type of work.
It can be very humiliating to take on a job that pays considerably less than what one is used to earning. I remember when J lost his job a month after 9/11 he was unemployed for almost a year. When his unemployment benefits ran out and it didn't look like he was going to get a job in his field, he took on a job with a clothing retail company in a mall (gasp!) and another job with a telemarketing company that required its employees to take turns leading the daily call to arms. A pep talk of sorts where all of the employees stood in a circle and each person was asked to stand in the middle and loudly lead the rest of the team in some sort of chanting to inspire them to sell the most of whatever it was they were selling, ink cartridges? He eventually got a job related to IT but the pay was just marginally better than receiving unemployment. I remember how elated he was to get that job and how embarrassed he was at the pay.
I remember telling him there is no shame in a hard day's work. That every dollar is hard-earned. Now I have to tell myself that.
The recruiter was nice enough. We're both transplants to Seattle. Although, her roots runner deeper than mine having lived here for a decade now. We talked about possible salaries and types of work they tend to get. For now, I'm quite ok with taking on a job that's "easy". One of the things I hate about my profession is the stress associated with money and deadlines. Accounting can sometimes be a thankless job: you're always an expense rather than a revenue generator. It is only if you work for a financial auditing company like one of the Big 4 CPA firms do you actually generate revenue as an accountant. I started my career with one of the Big 4 firms and I don't plan on going back.
While I was waiting to see the recruiter, I flipped through a copy of Print magazine they had at the lobby. It's a design-oriented magazine; quite odd to have in the lobby for an accounting and finance agency. There was an article about a woman in Chicago who owns her own button-making company called the Busy Beaver Button Co. They make pins for political campaigns, rock groups, and companies. She started making buttons/pins in college to earn extra money and made it into her profession. I envy those whose talents seem more immediate, those in the arts and music. There was a picture of the woman, I think she was called Christen, hunched over an old-fashioned button-making machine, satisfaction beaming from her eyes and a devilish smile suggesting that her life was better than mine. She seemed content with her work. I want that for me. I doubt I'll find it in credits or debits, or in analyzing budget variances. These jobs are necessary for a company to function. But they seem soulless. Maybe I expect too much out of my work. Maybe I'd be a lot happier in life if i just accepted the fact that I work to earn a living and there it stops.
I came home to a status update from a cousin who lives in the DC area that his wife and their new baby boy had arrived safely home. This cousin is four years younger than me. He was born in Chicago just two months before I arrived from Manila. He speaks Tagalog because he was surrounded by titas, titos and cousins who did not speak English at home. Of the group of cousins who grew up in a small corner in the North side of Chicago, a neighborhood between Horner Park and St Ben's, he's the second youngest and whose life was the rockiest. His father died when my cousin was around ten years old. Tito Elit died of lung cancer when he was in his forties. How happy he would be to see his grandson; they've named him Elliot. I think he would approve.
I've got another cousin who lives in Las Vegas with his wife and son. His parents happen to live in Las Vegas as well, having moved there from Chicago four years ago when they retired. I've got another cousin who calls Houston home. Then there's one in San Jose. Oh, and the ones who grew up in the Philippines but have since moved to California. My brother still lives in Chicago as does another cousin and her family. She lives in the house she grew up in. It is across the street from the apartment I called home for the better part of my life. These are all cousins from my dad's side of the family. We grew up together. I grew up in a two-flat apartment; my family lived on the second floor and one cousin's family lived on the first floor. I had cousins who lived across the street and for a brief moment, a cousin who lived right next door. Cousins became brothers and sisters. It was nice. I miss it.
I don't think we'll all ever live in the same city again. A product of our own choices and choices put upon us because of work. I think about my future and I see kids and I want them to grow up with their cousins, believing them to be more than cousins, believing them to be like brothers and sisters.
My childhood was special in that we, my brother, cousins and I, are all roughly the same age. The difference in age from the oldest to the youngest is perhaps ten years, but for the core group of us, the ones who grew up together, in that corner of Chicago, the age difference is perhaps just 5 years from the oldest to the youngest. The first of us to have kids had twin daughters born ten years ago. Two of us have had kids now in the past year. My brother and I have yet to have them, much to the chagrin of my mother. I think my brother is ready. I know I am. Our children won't grow up the way we did. They'll meet each other at family reunions and they'll be of different ages, maybe too large of a difference to really find anything in each other to bind them but for their blood.
They'll never commiserate with each other over a botched haircut given by a tita. They'll not go on long road trips together to Disney World where another tita will be left behind in a bathroom and it's at once funny and sad. They won't cross the street to have dinner on a Tuesday because you can. They won't share secrets; important ones that help save you because you're afraid of what will happen if your family finds out and she tells you it's ok. They won't walk home from school together, and they'll miss out on the teasing. We teased each other because we loved each other.
Of the things in my life for which I am most thankful and that which I miss the most, it is that group of cousins who came to the US and didn't speak a word of English but because they had each other made their own way into this world. I wonder, if they, like me, strive to capture that feeling again with their own families. Do they look for it around the corner, in emails or phone calls. Do they often wish we all lived across the street from each other only so that our family can be together again and this life that can be so difficult at times can be eased by the knowledge that you aren't alone. I constantly feel the pull of my family working against my love for exploring this world and experiencing as much of it as I can.
I found this photo of all us when we were much younger. I wonder what visions of our futures we each had back then. I hope we are all happy.