I’ve been taking Everyday Feminism’s Everyday Self-Love course to help improve my self-esteem, which is… well, it’s kind of in the shitter. I can’t ever remember having good self-esteem. Maybe before childhood trauma or sexual abuse took place I did. My low self-esteem reached its peak at the age of eighteen when I became severely depressed and suicidal. Not in-your-face-I-have-a-plan suicidal, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer suicidal – while I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to be dead, I definitely didn’t want to be alive. I felt like a worthless burden and those feelings intensified when I had to quit my job and apply for disability. Living off of government handouts (because I didn’t work enough to contribute to my retirement fund) in a country full of conservative folks who shame welfare recipients will do that to you.
Today (sometime in June; it’ll probably be July when you read this) I signed into Skype to participate in the group conference call for the Self-Love course. It turned out to be just me, so I had a personal coaching session. And while going through a guided piece of coursework, I had a thought:
What if those conservatives are wrong, and it’s OK to be living off of government handouts?
Radical, I know. But bear with me here.
I can’t work right now. I’m not sure if I even want a college degree, but if I did, I worry that the system is too abelist to allow for me to succeed in attaining one. I’m not sure if this is a temporary thing or if this is permanent. I have been doing better since I started receiving disability benefits, so that could mean that eventually I will feel well enough to return to work. But it could also mean that I do well on a stress-and-trigger free schedule and not on the kind of schedule required to hold down a job. It could just mean that not ever working is the nature of my disability.
Is that really such a bad thing?
I know, I know. Government handouts. Siphoning off taxes from people who actually work for a living and deserve their hard earned money. Buying junk food with EBT cards and getting tattoos, having a fancy phone, and buying beer with government money. So shameful.
But the thing is?
I am still contributing.
Maybe not to society at large. But I keep the apartment clean. I bake bread from scratch. I sing in the church choir (when my anxiety isn’t so intense that I skip rehearsal). I take the dogs on a two mile walk and make sure their needs are met. I blog. Not for money, but I’ve had guest posts featured on Offbeat Bride, A Practical Wedding, and Offbeat Home and Life. I’ve affected people (two people? Maybe three? I jest, but really, I don’t have a huge readership) with the mental health and childhood trauma posts I write. I make dinner. I support my fiancée emotionally and spiritually as she provides for our “baby family” (meaning that we are just starting out on creating a family together, NOT that one of us is knocked up).
The thing is, guys, I truly believe that every person has worth and value. Every. Single. One. I’m the kind of person who could do prison ministry. There are no bad people in my book – only good people who do bad things. Disagree if you will, but as easy as it is for me to apply this logic to others, it was so difficult to apply it to myself. It was hard to think that my (albeit small) contributions were enough to substantiate me receiving government aid. It was hard to think that I was enough.
But maybe I am. And maybe it’s ok to receive handouts. And maybe I have worth, and value, and the things I do have worth, and value.
The assumption that people need to “earn” a living is odious. Nope. Sorry. It is.
EVERYONE. DESERVES. A. LIVING.
Everyone deserves comfort, safety, security. Everyone deserves food, water, shelter, and the ability to live and exist without fear that they are too poor to continue to live. Everyone deserves this. The “need” to prove your worth as a human being by holding down some 9-5 minimum-wage job is manufactured. It’s false. It’s wrong. And it didn’t exist before we moved into a capitalist economy. People who could not contribute in one way were still cared for, still loved, still appreciated, in non-capital or non-consumerist societies because it was recognized, as you do here, that they contribute in a myriad of other ways.
And you need to remember this every time that you feel weak or worthless. ❤
Shafiq, you are amazing. Thank you so much. It is so difficult for me much of the time to remember that I have worth and value outside of cultivating a career. As you said, it’s an odious assumption, but so firmly ingrained into our culture that I have taken it to heart when I shouldn’t have. You are so wise. :hug: