I've worked diligently at this mom-n-pop coffee shop and bakery since late July (over 9 months!), working nearly-full-time hours as a bar back. The work was menial and the pay was very meager - not quite so low as the minimum wage in New York, but also nowhere near a living wage for NYC - but I enjoyed serving my neighbors and co-workers, with joy, patience, and diligence. Plus I got to enjoy gourmet pastries, cakes and cookies all day.
But over the past few months, I've run into a couple bumps in the road.
The first was the realization of just how little my wages were. Upon completing a budget, I saw that I was $300 in the red each month. And you know my expenses were already as low as I could make them, what with my freegan groceries and all. So if I was to make ends meet while staying at Darling, I would need to increase my income - either a raise of $2 per hour or an additional part-time job with a higher hourly wage.
In the following weeks, I sought other job opportunities - responding to gigs on craigslist, leaving my resume in many different retail shops, posting up fliers for music lessons, etc. Nothing panned out.
Meanwhile, my bosses' expectations of me became increasingly stringent. They wanted me to work harder, faster, smarter; but despite my increased effort and efficiency, it seemed that I was unable to please them. They were consistently disappointed and I was increasingly frustrated, exhausted, and painfully aware of my financial reality.
She easily persuaded me as we talked all the way home.
The next day, I was approached by one of the managers, "Gio, I just want to let you know that the new schedule will go into effect on Monday."
"Ok, then I need to put in my two week's notice."
Now that those two weeks are up, I have some ideas about how I'm going to balance my budget moving forward. I've drawn up a new schedule that includes ten hours of busking and five hours of lessons each week. Supposing realistic earnings for each, I will be able to cover all of my expenses and still have plenty of time in the week to devote to both writing and GioSafari. In order to start saving, I'll be producing more music and merch for GioSafari and looking for odd jobs on craigslist.
Despite the relative unreliability of my new (old?) income sources, I'm feeling very optimistic about my current financial outlook - for the first time in a long time. Because even though my budget has been deep in the red for several months now, I have managed to save enough money - between the generosity of my friends and a hefty tax refund - to dig myself out of credit debt. Today I finally paid the full balance on the last of my credit cards, a debt that has floated over my head since I first moved to the city nearly four years ago.
My earnings from Darling played no small part in this landmark change; and back in November, I was also able to lease my apartment in Inwood with the help of my bosses. So I'm grateful for all that has resulted from my time at Darling - though still more valuable than the weekly paychecks, I'm most grateful for the many relationships and the sense of community that I've developed there. I've met and served so many neighbors, made many great new friends, and even met my ultra-cool girlfriend Meeko.
Indeed, things are looking up. And now that I've blocked out a good amount of time for writing each week, I promise you'll be hearing a lot more from me! Stay tuned in the next week or so for more of my thoughts on leaving Darling - the nitty-gritty about why I've left (Capitalism, eat my shorts!) and what the implications are for my life and community in the present and near future.