I’m nearing the end of my fellowship at Fordham (I have one more year after this one of guaranteed funding), and I’m actually not horribly far behind schedule to get done. I’m putting the finishing touches on a proposal draft to send off to my advisor this weekend and also have about 40-50 pages of drafted material that will go in the dissertation itself.
And I have a plan. That’s the big thing. I *think* I’m in a position to finish on time, but if not, I’ll handle it. There’s a part of me that’s obsessing over it, and I actually have this drive to save all the money I can right now, as if having a few thousand dollars in the bank could substitute for a regular paycheck if it came to that. But I know I’ll work it out if I don’t get done on time (always a possibility) and if I don’t find a permanent job right off (much more of a factor).
Here’s the thing, though: I’m diabetic and have other health problems, and I need insurance. I couldn’t afford medical expenses otherwise. Ten years ago, if I was looking at the possibility of adjuncting – which is basically the contract work done by people who are either finishing up their doctorates or have done that but not landed a job – I’d be scared I wouldn’t have health insurance and wouldn’t be able to see my doctor or even get the medication I needed. I’d be scared I wouldn’t be able to make ends meet on what is usually a depressingly low pay rate.
Obamacare may not be perfect – in fact, I know it’s not in a lot of ways, but in 2014 we’ll have the health insurance exchanges. I’ll have tax breaks to help me pay for my insurance and a way to get something other than COBRA as an individual – along with the obligation of other, healthier people to help me get the health care I need (and the obligation to help others out as well). Sharing the load. The other safety net programs are encouraging, too. I won’t be starving, no matter how little money I end up making.
I’m not really worried yet about being tossed out on the street. I may have to tighten my belt, but I’ll make it work. It’s not like I’m living large even now, and I’ve gotten by on smaller paychecks before. So for me this is less about the real fear I’ll need those programs, than the comfort in knowing they’re there if I do. I know our safety net isn’t what it needs to be, by a long shot, and I know it should be a net rather than a hammock – when people are forced to rely on it regularly by an exploitative economy there’s obviously something seriously wrong. Still, I’m focusing on the “safety” element, and am really very glad to know that if I can’t make it work on my own, there’s something there to catch me.
Food stamps, Obamacare, welfare… these things aren’t perfect. By a long shot. Still, looking at the possibility of needing them, the fact that they’re there lets me breathe a bit easier.