I have a high credit rating. I know how to manage money, but at a deficit. When my mother died last year, I found approximately fifteen credit cards in a file drawer. Most of them were for clothing catalogs from the 80's. My debt is mainly from bereavement travel, flowers for funerals, a joint credit account that maxed, education, and medical costs.
I am a writer. I have applied to 8 MFA programs in 2 years. I have been wait-listed to one of the top writing programs in the country and offered residency to the school's low-res pilot program at an annual cost of $22,000. There is no funding for this program.
When I researched grants for artists, I was kindly notified by the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Program that the previously distributed national grant for low-income artists is no longer available. The fellowship may never be available again.
This is the country in which we live.
Every two weeks I certify for unemployment benefits. I have no medical insurance. I have appeared twice on American Public Media's Marketplace as a commentator for my generation's search for jobs in this economy.
There are no jobs in this economy. Or, if there are jobs, there are 12.7 million people who need them. This does not include undocumented persons or the homeless.
I live in a three-bedroom apartment in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago with two talented ladies and a four-year-old Shih-Tzu named Harvey. We are in our late 20's and early 30's. Our landlady is a retired teaching artist and our yard is like a New England faery forest or something from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. There are fiddlehead ferns painted on my bedroom wall.
My friendships are my trusted accompaniments, my family is my foundation–my memory and my reminder–and the modest attention I receive for my writing is my indicator.
What I want is the freedom of feminism and the domestic luxury of rearing children. I want the debt ceiling to reverse roles with my dreams.
I have been listening to Josh Ritter. There is a line in the song "Galahad" that goes, "I gotta carry you to heaven and despite what you'd imagine I have trouble bearing heavy things aloft."
If this is the way I feel about my student loans and my credit card debt, I can't imagine how it feels for those of us who are in more debt than I. Those of us who have children. Those of us who have homes foreclosed or soaring medical bills and pre-existing conditions.
Don't take out a loan for an MFA. Don’t be one of 12.7 million people crumpling under the weight of what they owe.
Dream bigger. Dream of being a mother-woman. Dream of the serene landscape of a Midwestern sunrise, of writing hours, and a soft life.
And don’t raise the debt ceiling for your dreams.
Turn up your speakers, play the saddest Lucinda Williams song you know, wear your highest heels, and blast open a skylight.