Gambling with life
(or how to keep a room for yourself)
This little incident happened just two weeks before the beginning of the second semester: meaning ten weeks since I was paid last. The food, clothes, health insurance, yoga classes, re-payments of credit card, birthday celebrations and all other socialising – I could go without them for this long 10 weeks; but not without paying the rent. For the last five fortnights I borrowed from friends and family (and even colleagues) to cover the expenses. Borrowing from my family was the hardest, because they would send me their entire full monthly salary (in Bulgaria) to cover less than two weeks rent in Western Australia, the most expensive place in Australia and number nine or ten in the world. It broke my heart, because they did so without even asking – it was enough for them to sense that I needed it.
This is the third or the fourth semester, when I am teaching sessionally as an international academic, after submitting my PhD for examination while waiting for my thesis to be examined. I used to like the first time – it was certainly a good experience, the second time I found it challenging, the third time it became a necessity and now it was life-saving. It’s like a downward spiral.
I didn’t need a PhD to soon figure out that the only way to find the extra money was to try my luck gambling. Ironically, have never gambled before – and to do it out of necessity, rather than entertainment, has never before occurred to me. Unfortunately, the time has come. After 4 hours desperately trying to win, I inevitably lost half of the money I already had. I also lost inevitably most of the night, while I was only trying to pay the rent.
That same night it was too hard to come home without the rent, so I spent the remaining few hours of the night and early morning on a couch at Uni.
Although I did manage to pay the rent by borrowing more money from a friend, this story doesn’t have a happy end (or any end for that matter) precisely because it is still continuing.
I finally went to sleep in a room of my own – the room that Virginia Wolf claimed that every woman should have. But keeping that room is getting harder and harder. I will continue as much as I can the fight for it. But one thing I gave up that night was sessional teaching –and those know me would justify that I don’t give up easily. However, whether I do farm work in Bulgaria, post-doctoral fellowship in South Korea or work for the public sector in Australia is a better option than working as a sessional academic, where technically you don’t get any income for exactly half of the year (or 26 weeks out of 52). Regrettably, the income from one semester is hardly enough to maintain your minimal expenses, so it is therefore impossible to carry you through the semester brake.
I only share this story because I know that I am not the only one, who has gone to extremes to afford the rent in this state.
Thank you for stopping by.