The Help.

Last week, I finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  And I really liked it.  I ordered the movie from the library and am anxious for it to come it.

For those of you who don’t know, The Help is about life in the south during the Civil RIghts movement.  There is a click of white women living in Jackson and there is the community of black women who serve as maids for them and their friends.  One of the white women starts to drift away from the queen bee of the click as she begins seeing more and more things that are horrible to her about racism, despite her upbringing.  She starts to see her other friend’s blind obedience to the queen bee and how willing she is to give up other friendships for it.  The girl who drifts away from the pack is nicknamed Skeeter, for her being “painfully tall”and thus unattractive to men, and she suddenly begins seeking out the comfort of the maids and the stories that they eventually tell her.  A journalist, she finds a job but ultimately gets her satisfaction from writing a controversial collective of anonymous maids’ stories serving white women and raising their children who inevitably forget their childhood loves and become just like their parents.

I see myself in Skeeter in a lot of ways, like how she wants to understand other people and isn’t afraid to say something’s wrong when it’s not right.  One thing that doesn’t match up with Skeeter and myself, however, is the fact that she’s still so dependent on her parents.  For example: “Goodbye, Miss Phelan.  I hope you make the deadline,” she says, but before she hangs up, she mutters, “and for God’s sake, you’re a twenty-four-year-old educated woman.  Go get an apartment.”

Another passage that stood out to me that I really liked at the time:

I slam the tennis ball into the blackboard, trying my best not to think about anything.  Lately I’ve found myself praying, when I’ve never been a very religious person.  I find myself whispering long, never-ending sentences to God, begging for Mother to feel some relief, pleading for good news about the book, sometimes even asking for some hint of what to do about Stuart.  Often I catch myself praying when I didn’t even know I was doing it.

There was just something in Skeeter’s religionless-ness yet tendency to seek consolation in such a way that reminds me of myself or really anyone who feels weak and confused.

I also found The Help inspirational, like What if someone wrote a book like this about my own causes on the US Reservations?  Maybe one day that will be me, that someone.  Either way, you should check out the book.  It’s long, but it goes by quickly and I think it offers a really unique perspective.  And you know how obsessed I am with perspective.

“Freelance” i.e. “Unemployed”

Cameroon

Picture: Me in Cameroon with some village children after being asked (and sponsored!) to help build a gravity-fed well system and act as a French translator, a useful hobby!

If you google what a “freelance” really is, you’ll find many defenses against paralleling “freelance” to “unemployed”. The defenders are, of course, freelancers. I, myself, have always turned my nose up on the title “freelancer”, truly viewing this as “I can’t get a job”, as something I’ve done as a hobby to get money on the side. I thought, maybe I’m just being a bit too harsh or critical? But, no, I stand beside my argument. Those who call themselves “freelancers” are, really, just “unemployed”. I was a freelance writer for a paper until I was offered a regular position, but I was doing it for fun because I write all of the time anyway. So, sure, there are people who do it for fun. They’re not necessarily “unemployed”. But anyone who relies on “freelancing” as a real job? Hmm…

My question is why do people who use this euphemism “freelance” in place of “unemployed” the same people who are so defensive about this topic? If you don’t have a job, why bother hiding? I would embrace the fact that I’m still trying to make money in what I want to do rather than giving up on writing or whatever altogether and working at a grocery store or a restaurant or some other menial high school summer job. Of course, I don’t think writing is a job. I don’t think art is a job either, and I can only half-heartedly accept music as a career. That’s because I do all of these things as hobbies. I’ve held jobs in all of those positions before, but always as side jobs for a little extra cash or because someone approached me and wanted to hire me. In a world with so many bigger issues than who’s wearing what, who can replicate reality on paper the best, or entertainment… I become skeptical of society in a heartbeat. And, quite frankly, I also become unsympathetic for the “freelancers” who can mope about their disguised “unemployment”.

So maybe this is more a debate of what kind of majors are truly significant to society or to what extent we should really “follow our dreams”. Maybe this is just me rolling my eyes at people who can’t get off their asses and move out of their parents’ house and get a real job. I don’t really know. I guess my point is, whether or not you choose to hang on to that unfruitful major and label yourself as a “freelance” whatever, at least acknowledge the fact that you’re “unemployed” and searching. The first step to recovery is admitting what’s wrong, now isn’t it?