safe

In my version of Hell, the world collapses around me because I made a wrong choice.

I’m not talking about a bad choice, something obvious or self-destructive, just the wrong choice. And I’m left standing there, wondering how to undo something that can’t be undone; trying to make things right.

That’s _my_ version of Hell.

This image of the worst possible scenario has become very clear in my mind. So clear, in fact, that I am left paralyzed, unable and unwilling to make big decisions. So strong that the very idea that I’ll be in a situation where I’ll have to make decisions that directly or indirectly affect others is frightening. I just can’t do it. I don’t want to deal with it.

I can’t make you understand this fear if you don’t understand where it comes from. I am the head of household in so many ways. It’s not just the money. I am the anchor, the central point, the responsible party, the adult. {{When did I get to be the adult?}} I provide for others. It’s just the way it is.

If I make a wrong turn, I take the others with me. I don’t have the luxury of being able to shrug it off and start again. I have to get it right because I have no margin for error. No parents to bail me out. No siblings to help in case of emergency. I help them, not the other way around. What would I do if I allowed myself to get into a situation where I needed them? That fiasco early this year when I was forced to buy the first car I could get my hands on proves that I can’t count on my sisters for long.

Arianna spent some of the summer being very generous. But then, spending money was always her thing. It makes her happy to spend money. It makes her happier to spend money when no one else has any. I knew, however, that it wouldn’t last. And now she’s broke, earning a substitute teacher’s salary as a last-year student teacher and bitching and moaning about the workload. She’s quitting her weekend job, after just 8 weeks of enduring it. I worked there for more than a year and a half, giving up my weekends for financial security (being able to pay the rent) and she can’t handle a few months. And I don’t really disagree with her on how hard it is to work 7 days a week, it’s just that without that extra money I worry that she’s not going to be able to pay for her portion of the rent. _That_ worries me a lot.

When I quit my weekend job I was counting on a lot of things going my way, which they haven’t, boys and girls, as I’ve already said over and over. The interview with the City of Houston office came out of nowhere. I knew that sometime this year I would have to start looking for a job, I just wasn’t ready yet. But here I was being summoned to an interview for a job that is several steps up the ladder, high profile and would probably do wonders for my career path. And all I can think about is how “unsafe” the job is. All I can think about are all the reasons why I shouldn’t even consider taking this job. All I can think about is every single way this could go wrong and how that would impact my family.

Look how boring I’ve become. {{frown}} I used to race my car down deserted highways against cute boys with lots to prove. I snuck into the house by climbing to the second-story porch in a dress and nylons more times than I can remember. I instigated a school walkout twice during my infamous high school career. I cut my teeth on rum and coke and bad boys while remembering to turn in my homework and show up for work and making sure that I never got into too much trouble because, quite frankly, I almost never got caught doing anything wrong. It was fun.

Today I strive for safe. I want money in my bank account, something that hasn’t happened yet. I want my family to be secure. I want to know that my little brother will be able to go to college without killing himself to pay for it. I want to make sure that my mother hasn’t been completely destroyed by my father. I want to make sure that my father doesn’t die alone and abandoned. I want to see Arianna settled with some nice guy so I can stop anticipating her bringing home another one of her fixer-upper losers. I want Linda and her husband to come to some sort of truce before they kill each other, mostly because I want to see the kids happy.

Notice that I didn’t ask for happy or successful or fun for myself. I do that a lot these days — forget about what I need and want. Five years ago I would have killed for this job with the City of Houston office. From a public relations standpoint, the job is a dream. Not so much media relations as marketing communications. And I know that I can do it. But I cannot get past the Maria stumbling block… you know, the desire to be a good daughter that makes everything else fade into nothing.

The university is going to counter-offer the city job. I still haven’t received my formal offer letter from the city, and that’s making me nervous. The university won’t talk about anything until I receive a formal offer. And I’ve been waiting since last Friday for my offer letter. The worst-case scenario is that the city doesn’t give me a formal offer and the university isn’t forced to pay me any more than I’m making now. (I don’t think that will happen because the Human Resources woman called me last Friday to tell me that I was selected for the position and she’d contact me this week to discuss salary and to make a formal offer.) The second worst scenario is that the city doesn’t meet my salary demands and I don’t go there. But it’s not a completely bad thing because I can take their lower-than-I’d-like salary offer and force the university to at least match it. That would give me a nice raise for the same job. Another scenario is that the city does meet my salary demands, but the university can’t come close. Then I’d be forced to leave no matter what. The best scenario I can come up with is that the city offers me something in the range I’m looking for and the university counters with at least the same.

Can you tell that I’m rooting for the university? Maybe I should be looking to leave no matter what the money, like Arianna told me. But I like it here, despite my frequent complaints. And I’d feel a lot safer working here than at the City of Houston office.

Safe. There’s that word again.

Well, anyway, I’ll let you know what happens.

Hasta la próxima!

Author: Paloma Cruz

Find out more about Paloma Cruz through the About page. Connect with her on Twitter (www.twitter.com/palomacruz) and (Facebook).

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