I could list lots of theoretical reasons for my support of a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) but a lot of others have done this already, possibly much better than I could (for example here
, lots more here
, or listen to this
). So, I want to share my personal reasons for why I want a BIG, how my life would be positively impacted by having a bottom under my feet.
Basically, I am burned out from trying to do it all on my own. Yet, I cannot take a break, or even slow down, because I have to earn money to live. That’s just how the system works. I tried and failed to get around that. It just burned me out more.
What burned me out? Being in a career that was wrong for me, a career I picked because I had been discouraged to pursue what my heart was longing to do (“there’s no money in it!”). Actually, I never was supported in fully figuring out what I really long to do. On top of a career that burned me out, I raised a child by myself, not only without help from his father but with constant interference from him. As child support, I basically got peanuts. I paid to fight in court for everything from visiting my parents with their only grandchild to letting this child see a counselor so he could better deal with the damage caused by time with his father. Things got really bad when I supported my young teenage son to follow his heart and no longer spend time with his father. His father blamed me, so the whole thing landed in court. Courts don’t really give a child, no matter what age, a say, so he had a case.
When my son graduated high school, I decided to take the leap and change my life. I figured I was done raising a child and dealing with an abusive guy who, now that the child was an adult, had no longer power over me. At least so I thought. He filed one more petition around our son’s 19th birthday: To get me to pay for his court costs. Fortunately, the court didn’t agree, $3000 in legal fees later. Now I really was done with that, so I thought.
I didn’t realize that I had to heal from all that!
I had to heal from all the damage to myself from living with cognitive dissonance working for a company whose values were contrary to mine. I had to heal from several relationships with men that were unhealthy, often abusive. I had to heal from a couple of decades of chronic stress from the almost constant court action (or threat thereof), of unjustified police visits, of defending myself against false accusations. I had to heal from doing it all largely alone, with little support other than financial support from my parents, which was hugely important, especially given that my legal expenses were upward of $200,000 for divorce and aftermath. This support, money that I had planned to use in retirement, also helped me live without earning money while working toward and finishing a thesis on a topic close to my heart and life, trying to realign my life with my values by earning a second masters degree.
Unfortunately, I didn’t fully understand how much healing I have to do, so instead of spending my energy on that, I tried – and failed – to build my own business. That burned me out even more. My body seems to be slowly falling apart with psychosomatic symptoms of stress and trauma. At least on some level.
On other levels, I am getting stronger, fitter than I have ever been. I discovered belly dance. It seems like I have always been a dancer – I just didn’t know that until I turned 40. And I didn’t discover my passion for belly dance until very recently. It took yet another unhealthy relationship with a man that left me with more wounds, often going deeper than older ones because he had claimed to help me heal. Only when I ended that relationship and yet again dusted myself off to venture on did I see the benefits of having passion in my life. It didn’t have to be tied to a person. I didn’t want to risk that again.
So, yes, I am tired. I want to relax, live, and even thrive. And I want to contribute. Oh, how much I long to contribute! I want to do that differently than the standard 9-to-5 option so that I can respect my body’s limits rather than pushing against them. Working part-time now, I am not sure if I could sustain a full-time job (unless I could take naps, maybe…). I don’t earn enough working part-time to stop depleting my savings. I also dream of turning my passion for belly dance into a way of healing myself and then help others heal, transforming our traumas into thriving lives. And not have to turn that into a money-making venture. I don’t dare pursue that dream because I have no safety net. Nobody to support me with the basics. Too traumatized and too intellectually opposed to pursue the panacea given by our cultural narrative: Marriage. I have a sense if I had that kind of support guaranteed without having to be part of an institution I don’t support, if I had a basic income guarantee, I could fly. And rest when I needed to…
Instead, I cannot even relax because if I take time to heal I will continue the chronic stress created by worrying about how to survive when my savings run out. Not exactly an environment conducive to healing. So, I will have to fit the healing into time left by a job, hopefully finding one that won’t further deplete me. Still. I won’t fly. I’ll crawl.
I support a Basic Income Guarantee, not because I think my situation is particularly unique. Actually, I probably have enough privilege to get by on my own (I have turned a doctor’s appointment into a part-time job, after all). I also know a lot of people have gone through way more than I have.
That is where the theory meets story. To use a (bad?) pun: BIG is bigger than me. You don’t get a BIG because you deserve it or earned it (or how else you want to linguistically hide your privilege). BIG does not discriminate. You get it because you are alive; because as a society, we have decided to support each other in following our dreams. All of us. Whether you were lucky enough to be born with privilege or not. That will be a society where we fully accept that being interdependent means being responsible for each other’s well-being.
BIG ensures that all of us have a chance at living a life without fear of poverty (and it’s comorbitities, like lack of health care).
And yet, stories tend to move us more than theory. So, I decided to share my personal story of how BIG would support me.