Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Winter of Our Discontent

Life is a series of paradoxes.  At least my life is.  Some days seem to be so filled with paradox that I end up wondering how the space-time continuum keeps from unraveling itself.

The past couple of days have seen more paradoxes than usual though.  Something goes right, then I turn around and something else goes dreadfully wrong.  A few more things will pile up in the "OMG Wrong" box, only to have something thrown at me out of the blue that looks almost too good to be true.

This has not been a particularly pleasant winter for me so far.  My finances are in a shambles, and digging out of the hole doesn't really seem to be making any sort of significant progress.  My electricity has been off since the end of October, and the electric company won't turn it back on (in anyone's name) until my outstanding bill is paid in full.  Only I don't make enough money at the job I finally managed to find to get that bill paid off.  I only make about $450 every 2 weeks from the job I currently have, and the bill is $1000.  Even if I had no other bills that Have to be paid (which I do) it would take me 3 paychecks - 6 weeks - to get it turned back on.  With other bills added into the mix, such as keeping a phone turned on, keeping the water turned on, keeping myself fed (albeit not well) making payments to get last winter's fines caught up and paid off, and contributing gas money to the various friends who are hauling me around when I have errands that Have to be run...... it doesn't leave much in the way of funds that I can set back TO pay against that outstanding electric bill.

I've been staying mostly with a friend of mine who lives nearby, so that there is at least heat and hot water.  Unfortunately, various portions of her family are coming in for the holiday season, and staying at her house, which means that as of this weekend I have no choice but to start staying at my place again.  Despite the lack of electricity or heat.  After all - even though the furnace burns natural gas, it still requires electricity to run, since it has a thermostat.

So.  If I could find a room mate (a Reliable room mate, that is) I could afford to put whatever they were paying me in rent against that outstanding electric bill, and get caught up in short order.  But until I have the electric back on, finding a room mate willing to move in (that I don't want to kill within 24 hours of them doing so) is more difficult than Mission Impossible.  Wonderful lil catch 22, eh?  If I had X, I could do Y, but until I've done Y, X cannot  be accomplished.

I finally broke down this afternoon, put my pride aside, and called the various community help agencies in town, hoping that at least one of them would be able to do Something to help me out of this jam.  No such luck.  We're not even out of the first full week of December, and none of them have any funds left TO help people out.  Not even a bit, so that I can get part of that bill paid up, and perhaps find other resources to help with the rest of it.

I don't know what I'm going to do at this point.  I don't make enough money to pay it on my own.  The room mates who ran up the bill skipped out owing me money.  I can't get a new room mate until it's back on, so hoping for that sort of miracle is out of the question.  I don't have anything left to pawn or sell to try and pay on the bill - I've already sold everything that the pawn shops would take for more than $5.  I've asked for more hours at work, but I'm already at the maximum number of hours they'll give me - simply because they refuse to hire anyone as a full time employee, lest they find themselves obligated by law to offer insurance and other benefits that they don't want to pay for.

And as I was sitting here, trying to think of some alternative that I might have missed, I get a phone call.  Last winter, I had decided to try and go back to school for a degree in Culinary Arts.  Not so much because I want to work in restaurants, or anything like that, but simply because I enjoy being in a classroom setting, I love to cook, and the classes would help me improve certain areas of my skills that are lacking.  I was told when I first started looking into things that it would be almost 2 years before they had a spot available for me, because spaces were limited and offered to highschool students first.  Only it seems they've had a couple of people drop out of the program, and a space has become available Now, ready to start January 3rd, with a schedule that would not conflict with my overnight job hours.

All I have to do, of course, is come up with $100 for uniforms (yes, uniforms for the culinary arts program - chef's whites) $150 for books, and convince the folks holding my student loans to put them back in forbearance so that I qualify for student financial aid.  Before next Wednesday.  Of course, if I Can manage to get them to put my student loans into forbearance, so that I qualify for financial aid, that would mean a $6000 Pell Grant check in a couple of weeks, which would cover my tuition and fees and books and uniforms and get all my bills caught up and maybe even leave enough left over to get a cheap PoS car to get to and from classes.  Which is going to be a major problem for me, since campus is on the far side of town.

If I don't jump at this opportunity to get into the program, it'll be at least 2 years before they have a space for me.  But there's no Practical way for me to take the opportunity that seems to be getting handed to me.  No transportation, half of my utilities off with no way to get them turned back on until the winter is nearly over, and no way to pay for tuition, fees, books, and uniforms right now.

And people wonder why I'm depressed.

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