Social Insecurity

Breathe a sigh of relief. For this is not an essay on interpersonal awkwardness.

Like the arrival of an unexpected and unwanted weekend guest, annually the U.S. government distributes a Statement about one’s lifetime earnings.

Or, at least, the income one self-reported on annual tax forms.

Baby-sitting and lawn-cutting cash – if such work still occurs anywhere by anyone – most likely is not included. Except among the uber-honest Goody Two-Shoes on the planet.

The Social Security document is a one dimensional diary, as are most diaries: a weather report followed by bland, lifeless statements about little. Seinfeld as composed on paper with a binding.

Curiously, if depressingly underwhelming, year-by-year income is excruciatingly detailed from one’s first responsible paying job to the present. Every bit as agonizing, those years without income are likewise identified.

The anemic, pathetic five hundred-dollar entry appearing first on my Statement not only doesn’t seem like a lot, it wasn’t a lot. Although at 90 cents an hour, that was a lot of working time. Seemed like half my childhood! I assembled printed catalogue pages into three ring binders for Chelsea Fan & Blower.

Surely, there must have been more. Maybe there was a garage sale with unreported cash that year?

No, not likely. Not at 15 years old. Teenagers don’t have junk to sell at their ages. Or a garage. And, yes, I lied about my age in order to get working papers.

Then those no income years. That is called college. Also known as the Meal Plan Era. A time at which palettes were less sophisticated, cars less reliable and a steady state of nervousness about romantic companionship status inflicted itself on such less significant subjects as midterms and term papers.

But wait. Like every formulaic TV drama or sitcom, there is a turnaround.

The graduate assistantship that paid a whopping $3,000 annually. Plus free tuition.

Maybe the only thing worse than the annual Statement is the stream of relentless appeals to join AARP. To which at least some recipients exclaim out loud: “I DON’T QUALIFY!” Adding, in more reflective moments, “YET.”

Turns out, the annual Statement really isn’t so bad. Kind of uplifting, in fact.

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