Do not feel like reading? Listen to the audio file: https://soundcloud.com/itanya92/building-the-foundation
It was the month of February, and coming up on a month out of a slow holiday season I was already exhausted. Letting my tastebuds tinge under the tartness of the brewed green leaf (Sencha is my caffeine of choice), I told myself: “I get one today, just one”, knowing that more cups wouldn’t make a difference.”
I just recovered half a million dollars in outstanding invoices for my company. This was my first full-time job. With no accounting degree or experience I pulled a classic move of “if you give me a chance, I’ll get you out of this” and I stuck the landing.
Too bad I was leaving in less than a month.
The world of freelance offered new possibilities. With flexible location and hours, there was now time for smart breaks, space to detach from everyone’s responsibilities, and focus on what I truly wanted. A blank page of possibilities and I wrote it full (I started as a freelance writer).
Risk of burnout was now replaced with pure volume. The volume of gigs, the volume of messages, the volume of words to be delivered to a client matching their written specifications and their assumed expectations. But once the dust settled and I had a few steady quality clients, I could schedule my rock climbing gym sessions for the afternoon and breathe. I could take the car out to the mountains on a Wednesday and check my phone before I went, knowing that I could enjoy the traffic-free journey and still get all my work done by the end of the week. I have arrived.
Until my costs went up. My rent jumped 20% in one month. The market rent rate of course, did not experience this drastic of a jump, availability was the main factor. As our landlord decided to sell the house where me and 4 other roommates lived to capitalize on the hot market, my room searches were not turning results. And after taking a room temporarily at a friend-of-a friend’s place I had to think differently. Instead of competing in the cornered market I moved to the neighboring Aurora, right next to the train line, splitting a suite with another girl. The suite, of course, was at a premium price. The lush availability of freshly built luxury housing and the brutal competition for older affordable apartments doesn’t just characterize Denver, it is now becoming apparent in every place in the US with a hint of an industry, a drivable distance to natural beauty.
It is the endless strive for excellence that is causing this split. It is the success of capitalism rather than its failure that is growing the chasm that divides us.
I think of the irony of this post going on LinkedIn, my feed still purging the ‘how much money I raised’ posts.
The view that real estate is an investment emerged in the 1980s and gained strength in the 2000s. Using a home as a financial instrument was now not only for the wealthy with multiple residences but for the working Americans with one residence. Feeding off the narrative of the American dream, the new home owners classes emphasize that your home is your first and your most significant assent. It is a mark of stability and a base for future wealth.
As I looked down at my new home owner’s class certificate, I thought about that American dream. How despite having a decent income I didn’t qualify to buy a house because I didn’t have unbreakable two years of full-time work history. How both of my parents, even though they worked full-time since month two of arriving to the US 13 years ago couldn’t even get a condo.
I thought about how the American dream has been hyped up, dissected, and sold. The work of American families since WWII fighting for decent wages and working conditions, buried under mountains of greed. And my immigrant family has bought the shiny package. They have accepted their position. I was still fighting for the remainders of the shiny wrapper.
In February, 1,396ft pencil scraper on 432 Park Avenue in Manhattan started to sway in the wind. It is the western hemisphere’s “tallest residential tower” and when the wealthy residents expressed their concerns, The New Yorker wrote that all tall buildings sway in high winds and that there is no safety hazard, just possible mild discomfort from queasiness. Since, to address the issue the building developer has put a counterweight on the top of the tower.
How long will income inequality persist, eroding the base of hard-working kind Americans who made me feel at home when I first came? How long before they, overburdened, too will topple over?
Vagabond nomadic travelers subreddit has over 1 million members. Instagram has a collection of over 10 million tags for van life. In February, Highwayman Films released Nomadland, the story of the houseless in the US.
I do not ask when capitalism will fall for it has already fallen. When millions of people who have built this country left their shattered lives and now roam the roads, we know we are living in collapse.
When those who did everything right and strived for excellence live in a box that sways in the winds of the Manhattan skies we know that there are no novel ways of getting out of this.
All the options has been exhausted, all the effort has been spent. The only thing that remains is change.
It is time to extend a hand of compassion to each other. To share our knowledge and resources not with the market but with one another. Instead of gulping caffeine to please our employers, let’s support one another so we leave the employers altogether.
AltWork as a movement gets back to the basics, helping people use the land to build their own housing and grow their own food, bringing them back to what matters, bringing them back home. Will you join us?