After I graduated from the University of Idaho in 1994 and returned to my home community of Idaho Falls to transition to adulthood, I had a very difficult time becoming independent. Idaho has notoriously low wages, and they are often in a slugfest with Mississippi for the worst state to live in within the 50 states. Education is really bad, laws are straight out of The Handmaid's Tale
and the Christian/Fascism Guidebook,
and a population that views toxic masculinity and aggression as beautiful things can be found on every corner in every town. But for all that...there is good fishing. So if fishing is what you like, it may all be worth it.
However, I didn't care much for fishing. What I wanted was a car, an apartment, and independence from a father that (quite frankly) thought of me as free labor to work on his pet projects (namely a farm). He was a narcissist and very self-centered. He viewed his family as his property (that included the wife/my mom) and it was just like any other piece of irrigation equipment. Of the many things he said to me over the years (there are so many good quotes), he once declared that he couldn't get me an internship at the Idaho National Laboratory (like other men who worked there did for their sons) as he was ashamed that I was majoring in English at school and I was fat (being gay was probably another facet but he never brought that one up).
Not to judge my father too harshly on this, what he was really saying was that he valued the opinions of others so much that he did not want to take any risk that might jeopardize his standing in their eyes. Getting me a job at the INL? That was a risk, as it was a prestigious place to work. It would have been nice to have that on a resume. So I went to work at craft stores, gas stations, and retail. At one time I had three jobs, with the highest paying $6.25 per hour. Minimum wage (at the time) was $4.50 per hour and this was in the nineties (it wasn't that long ago). Meanwhile, interns at the site (INL) were making $15.00 per hour. But my dad had his reasons.
I look back on it now, and all of those reasons seemed like a high social price to pay. Especially now in 2022. My father is still alive and relatively healthy for his age. I visit him three times a year. And when I go visit him he tells me how no one ever comes to visit, and how he is consumed with days on end of loneliness (mom died back in 2016). So all of these people whom he tried to please and literally threw his family under the bus for...got him no payoff at all. They don't visit, they don't call, they don't stop by. These are the things that he has sowed in his barren earth. He's now a man in his late eighties, and when his mind isn't clouded with memory loss and recognition, he's probably filled to the brim with regret.
Idaho was a terrible place to grow up in. Everyone was so passively abusive. Boys and young men around my age who were doing well were nearly always living in apartments that were paid for by rich parents. But I didn't realize this at the time. When I inquired or tried to find out, my questions were always deflected into some shortfall that was due to me not working hard enough. Back then...I wasn't so pointed with my questions. I'd say things like, "How is it that you and your girlfriend can afford this place? It's $600 a month. You guys seem to have so much free time." The answer: "Well, Mike...it starts with a good work ethic. Also, you could probably lose some weight. The reason why you're fat is because your lazy..." and the conversation would go something similar to that the entire time. But here's the thing: I listened. I took these to heart, learned to hate myself, and sometimes worked three different jobs to try and afford a new car. Over and over and over, I learned that if I wasn't succeeding, it was because I was lazy. It was all my own fault. Society wasn't to blame. America was (in fact) the greatest country on earth. And so on and so on and so on. The brainwashing is strong in Idaho.
Now, I look back on all of that, and I see that I wasn't the lazy one. I was talking over and over with peers whom I thought actually liked me and could not for the life of me see the immense amount of privilege that was present that allowed them tons of free time to socialize, have sex, get great looking bodies, and work on relationships. These people had parents that actually loved them and had vast resources. These people were straight (it's easier to pay bills when you have a partner helping with whatever little they can) in a world that rewards "being straight." These people were also not minorities of any kind. Idaho Falls was a very white town. I never put all these things together. All I knew was that I was the person with a bachelor's degree that was worthy of being a secretary for someone who was younger, taller, stupider, and had only a high school diploma. And I was too busy trying to live the American dream that I had no idea that the game I was playing was set on "nightmare mode" while the one everyone else was playing seemed to be set on "easy mode."
But the thing is...nightmare mode was always coming for everyone. It just hit me (and others like me) first, so I learned to deal with it and play this awful game of capitalism, which for lack of a better explanation, always starts out easy. In the beginning deals are plentiful, whether it is for goods, services, or housing. But these things were difficult to get for me playing on nightmare mode. But I still managed. And now, in 2022, nightmare mode has arrived for everyone, because a hundred years of locust-like behavior has consumed all the resources and the country is now full of people. All of the straight, white males who could have gotten by living in apartments paid for by parents in the nineties suddenly discover that their parents (even though they are rich) cannot afford $2500 a month for a one bedroom apartment. There's a certain perverse joy in seeing this happen to the children of people who I might have looked at twenty years ago when they were young and abusing people like me and laughing all the way to the bank, because the only reason poor people exist is because they are lazy. I might say to them, "And look who thinks they knew so much. This is the world that you voted for all those many years, and now you have it. Maybe it's your children who are lazy? Why aren't they able to move out? Are the bootstraps not good enough? Big disappointment, isn't it?"
However, I also know they'd never take responsibility for it. They'd blame Nanci Pelosi or demonize some liberal or democrat for destroying housing and making it impossible for their children to move out. They will rage, grab their guns, and point fearfully at brown people or gay people and scream, "You did this! How dare you burn our future to the ground!" But really, the harshness of our modern world, the shocking little that our hard-earned money can buy, and the aggressive and toxic insults that everyone is enduring is just Idaho. It was achieved step by step through right wing fear mongering to a certain cadence and beat with one goal: to make it hard for their enemies to succeed. The only thing is, making it hard for their enemies with such broad sweeping changes also ended up salting the earth for everyone, including their own children. I feel like the whole nation knows now what it is like to live in Idaho. So if you are feeling stressed, if you are feeling angry, if you are feeling punched and kicked... well...you now know what it was like to live in Idaho in the eighties and nineties. I do feel sorry for you in one aspect though: there probably isn't the quality of the fishing that can be found in Idaho to help you through these tough times.