Being Poor: One More Thing to Overcome
Sometimes it’s hard to ignore or put away thoughts about just where your life is and how far you are from somewhere you’d like to be.
I have so many ideas of what I want. I do not seek grandiose things, I just want a simple life where I can provide for myself and be able to do stuff if I feel like it. And I’m not talking about trips or buying major items. I’m talking pay may bills and have $100 extra a week to play with. I had that for a short time and enjoyed it. I liked being able to do stuff and not having to worry about whether I would pay a bill or eat.
I’m okay with being poor. I grew up poor. I didn’t know it at the time though. My family did the best out of all of the friends I had, but that was relative. Compared to the rest of the people, we were lower middle class. It wasn’t horrible. As far as I know, there wasn’t any government assistance, but we definitely got school clothes at goodwill and didn’t eat out often. When we did go out for a big family meal, it was to Olive Garden. Growing up, I thought that was a really fancy place to go. I didn’t find out until college that that was where other people went for cheap lunches. They went there for lunch like I went to Taco Bell (to get the $1.98 meal).
However, I can’t say it was rough growing up. I never wanted for anything, we just didn’t get to get much extra stuff. It never seemed bad though. We had what we needed and that was fine. I wanted more as all kids do, but it didn’t degrade my childhood.
Can’t say the same about my adult life though. I’ve lived well below the poverty level from the time I moved out of the house. Throughout college, my dad helped me out because I had issues finding work. I got by, but barely. I had enough to pay rent and eat, if I rationed the money well. Living in California wasn’t too bad. I lived with my Aunt and Uncle and they helped take care of me. For that, I will always be grateful. I hope that one day I can repay my Aunt for that kindness.
Living in Texas was a different story though. There it was always a struggle. Even after I got a job I struggled. I frequently had to choose between food and rent, and rent always won. There were days on end where I didn’t eat. I went to bed hungry more nights than not. And I woke up hungry too. Went to work hungry. I wouldn’t eat until I got off work and even then, it wouldn’t be much. It got desperate at times. I gave into impulses to eat that I would never consider again. I remember feeling lucky when I had enough money to buy a bag of rice and a package of hot dogs. That lasted me 2 weeks.
The greatest day was when I happened to have an extra $10. I used it to go to Whataburger and get myself a honey barbecue chicken sandwich meal. At that point, I was so hungry that it took everything in me not to eat it like an animal. I barely succeeded; it was gone in under 3 minutes, at most. I remember sitting at the bus stop after that meal and nearly passing out because my body was shutting down to conserve the energy that it had found; it knew it would be a while. Another time, my roommate went out of state and he told me to eat whatever he had in the fridge. Once he was gone and I checked it, I found some stuff, but the main thing was a kielbasa sausage. I remember heating up the pan to eat it (I hadn’t had protein in about a week at this point) and I was so hungry that I only managed to cook about 1/3 of it. The rest I gorged on while it was still cold because I just couldn’t wait for it to get hot. Took me a while to be able to eat kielbasa again after that.
It wasn’t always that bad though. There were weeks when i was able to buy groceries, but even the best weeks saw me spend no more than about $30 on food. Most weeks it was between $10 and 20. I didn’t have much, but I managed to survive. I never thought it could get worse than that though. And then it did.
After a year at my job, I got fired. Wasn’t for poor performance, my boss just couldn’t afford it any longer. Not sure why. He never let me work more than 30 hours a week even though I was supposedly full time. Either way, after I got fired, I ended up calling my dad and by the end of the week he was down there and we were packing my stuff to move me back to Oregon. When we got back, I went everywhere looking for work. I applied at pretty much every single automotive shop in town and got turned down at every turn. I felt like I was doing all that I could, but apparently it wasn’t good enough. My dad ended up kicking me out of his place because he was tired of me not having a job.
That’s when I ended up moving in with my mom and grandma. I still couldn’t pay rent, but I did manage to get food stamps. And for 2 years, the only ‘income’ that I had was $200 a month in food stamps. The only time I bought things for myself was when i got Christmas or birthday money, and that generally went towards clothing or other essentials. I’ve talked about this period of my life at length, but never this aspect of it. I had nothing at this time. My mom tried to help me out where she could, but she wasn’t doing much better than I was and so we did what we could to get by. Food boxes, sales, whatever.
Eventually, I did find work. And I felt like a king! I was making $10 an hour working 60 hours a week. It was rough, but it was soooo worth it. Because of that, I was able to buy myself stuff. I bought nicer clothing (not much, I still only own a weeks worth of clothing), a flat screen tv, a PS3, a blu ray player for my mom, and even a trip to Vegas to see Rammstein. It was the best year, monetarily, that I have ever had. But it couldn’t last.
You see, throughout those 3 years without work, I was dodging bill collectors and deferring and forbearing my student loans, had a couple hospital trips I had to pay for, and a few other things. Eventually, it all caught up with me. I managed to avoid garnishment (or worse), but it meant that I had to start shelling out the majority of my income to pay stuff. And thus, the ability to buy myself what I wanted ended.
Then, to make matters worse, the overtime stopped and I lost a large chunk of my income to that. Suddenly, I was struggling to make ends meet again. I managed, but barely. I still got to do stuff on occasion, but very little. And though I had still been poor even with the OT, I was poorer still. Even in my more grandiose times, I still made less than 25,000 in a year. Made even less than that the following year. And now I’m struggling even more, having been outsourced at the end of 2012 (right before fucking Christmas, no less). While I did find work quickly, I am only working a few hours a week and relying mostly on unemployment to get by.
In an odd twist though, I worry less about my money and food now than I ever have before. I couldn’t tell you why. I haven’t been to the store in 2 weeks because I don’t have money for groceries, but I’m alright with it. I’ve managed to eat. Ironically, I worry about food more when I have money to buy it. When I can afford to eat, I worry about not having enough and end up overindulging because I’m afraid of not having anything to eat. Having been there before, I know just how scary it is not to eat. But when I can’t afford to eat, there’s a disconnect. I know I don’t have money for it, so I put it out of my mind and worry about making sure I have a place to live first.
As it is now, I have been poor for my entire life. More so in my adult life, but poor nonetheless. In a way, I am used to it, but it is not what I want. As I said before, I don’t want much, I just want more than I have. I’m not afraid to work for it, I just can’t seem to find ways to work for it. I had found a job that I wanted to stick with and try to move up in, but they ended up deciding that it was better to send my job to the Philippines where the wages are cheaper. I found a new job, but I get almost no hours.
All I have left that I can think of is art, but art is such a hard thing to make money on, it seems. I can make all the art I want, but unless people like it , how will I make money? I’m good, I know I am, but I’m nowhere near a lot of others. There is still much that I have to learn about making art. I would love to make it my career, somehow, but I don’t know that it is possible. I’ll not give up at it, but I’ll most likely always have to have a day job and day jobs rarely pay all that well.
One last sidetrack before I end this: Being poor effects a lot more than just my ability to eat and take care of myself. It also makes it that much harder to find someone. It’s another negative tick to add to it all. On top of being fat, awkward, and broken, I’m also poor as shit. I mean, I can barely take care of myself, how am I supposed to take a woman out or do stuff for her if we end up dating? I’m the type that won’t necessarily shower someone with gifts, but that wants to be able to take care of them and pay for stuff when we go out. I don’t want to mooch on someone, I want to be the one to provide. And being poor inhibits that.