Lost and Searching


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.

I’m Sorry: An Apology To Myself

I am sorry, so sorry.
I’m sorry for everything that I let happen to you, for all that I could not stop.
I’m sorry for all the children, the ones that caused you pain.
I’m sorry that I wasn’t stronger, that I didn’t stand and fight.
I wish that I could have done something, but I ran away in fright.

I’m sorry that I hurt you, that I could not love you.
I’m sorry that I mutilated you and took my anger out on your body.
I’m sorry that I didn’t learn a better way, one that left you safe.
I’m sorry that I pushed you away, and forced you to hide.

I’m sorry that I ran from you, that I did not stay to help you heal.
I’m sorry that I didn’t see just how bad you hurt.
I’m sorry I was so weak, that I could not show you love.

I’m sorry that you could not turn to me,
I’m sorry for ignoring your pleas.

I’m sorry for everything that you didn’t get to be.

But you are me and I was you,
And we were scared and we were broken.
We didn’t know how to handle it,
We didn’t know what to do.
We tried so hard, but we fell so far.

But I am here now, I will not leave.
We can talk it all out,
We can finally heal.
I’ll never leave you again.

Embodying Pain: The Story of My Childhood

Growing up, I was always what people would call ‘weird’. I always marched to my own beat, never following what others did. Everything about me was different. It wasn’t always easy. It meant I had few friends. I never really hung out with the other kids, preferring to stay to myself and use my own imagination to have fun.

I don’t know why this is. I never felt weird. I did what felt normal to me. I did feel different, but usually not in a bad way. I know I was different. For one, I was (and still am) more intelligent than the vast majority of those around me. In 1st grade I was the only kid allowed to read any book in the school library; everyone else had to stick to the section set aside for their grade. In 2nd grade they did all the standardized tests and decided I should be in an accelerated program, so in 3rd grade I went to a school with a class dedicated to the smartest kids in the district. In 5th grade, I got horrible grades but that was only because I didn’t want to do homework; it was beneath me. I aced all of tests though, including the standardized tests. I remember very specifically taking the standardized math test and giving a sarcastic answer because I thought it was stupid. Still got a 99% on it. I was always the top student in standardized tests. In 6th grade I stopped studying or taking notes. I didn’t need them, I knew it all as soon as I read it and applied it.

I don’t remember most years after that very well though. At that point I was just doing what I could to survive school. Bullying had always been around, but it got worse in middle school. My first bully was in kindergarten. I don’t remember much about it, but I was told it was a girl and she used to harass me everyday. Even when I switched schools, a bully would find me. I spent most of my time alone because of it. It sucked in grade school, but it wasn’t too bad. I still liked school then. In middle school though, it got vicious. That’s when the kids got really mean.

It also got more physical then. I was never beat up, really. I was too big for that, but that didn’t stop them from trying. The biggest ones never accomplished much, but they would try. I was never really one for fighting. It just wasn’t my style. That said, a few managed to push me too far. One kid came up behind me and put me in a chokehold. he ended up flat on his back after I threw him over me. He never touched me again. Another one kept pushing me until I grabbed him by the throat and held him off the ground. I never heard from him again. The biggest bully in the school came after me one day and we got into an actual fistfight. He tried to wrestle me down, but I wouldn’t go. The bell rang for class before anything could get serious, but he never tried to start another fight.

That didn’t stop them from abusing me verbally though. That was far worse than any physical attacks. The physical attacks would have been better. I could have defended myself in those situations. I never had the ammunition to fight back against verbal abuse. Even though I was smarter and better read, I was never one for words. Still not, really, unless I am writing. Because of that, I never had the ability to fight back against the teasing. It didn’t help that I was guileless, naive, and trusting, but for the most part, I just couldn’t fight back.

So, I closed myself off. I avoided everyone and spent my time in books. I could escape in them. I read hundreds of books each year. I spent all of my free time in the library. So much so that the librarian remembered me even 5 years later when she was working at the public library.

I internalized everything about my middle school experience. I bottled it up and did everything I could to forget it. I had no friends by the time it ended. I had had a few at the start, but even my best friend turned against me, eventually choosing to become one of my tormentors as well. I hated school. I wanted out as badly as I could. It was bad enough that I would become physically ill at the thought of going to school. There were many days I got to stay home from school because I was ‘sick’. I wasn’t really, I had just gotten so nervous and scared at the thought of going that I puked uncontrollably. Every morning I would try and talk my mom or my dad into letting me stay home. It rarely ever worked unless I was sick, so I tried harder to make myself puke so I could stay home. Eventually though, that stopped working and I was out of ways to stay home.

It was also during this time that I learned a lot of my worst habits. To this day when things go wrong and I hurt, I get the compulsion to hit something until I bleed. Either that or find anything sharp and start cutting. I don’t do it anymore except under extreme duress (and never the cutting anymore, just the punching). However, back then, it was all I had. I put holes in walls. I broke a lot of stuff. My knuckles are still fucked because of it. I’m also covered in scars. If it wasn’t cutting, it was burning myself.

I used to think it was something I learned from tv or something, but I don’t think it was. I never saw it as a cry for attention. If it was, I wouldn’t have done it places that couldn’t be seen. I did it because it was the only way I could focus all of the emotional and spiritual pain that I had into a very specific and finite form of physical pain. It was an escape, and in that hell that was middle school, I needed all the escape I could find.

My greatest escape was going to private school at my church for High School. I was the only kid that wanted to go there, but I literally thought I would kill somebody if I had to go to public High School. Just going and seeing Willamette had scared the shit out of me. I thought that if I went there, the bullying would just continue to escalate until someone pushed me until I broke and I beat them to death. I always knew it was a possibility and I was afraid of it. I didn’t want to do it, but I didn’t think I would be able to stop it. I had never been able to stop the bullying before, how could I stop it there? And if they kept pushing me until I broke, I would break badly. So, I begged my parents to send me to Northside Christian Academy. It probably wasn’t the best school to be attending, but it was a safe haven. I was among friends there and was away from the bullying.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the complete escape I needed, but that was out of my hands. I was away from the bullying and the other kids, but that was when my home life started falling apart. My mom started getting sick and was in and out of the hospital and the mental wards (though I think that last part was due to the meds she was on more than anything). I remember the Pastor (who was our principal) taking my sister and I to see her sometimes, even in the middle of school. Taking my mom to the hospital for a headache or something else became a part of my life. Once I had my license, I remember I had to take her a lot or pick her up because she couldn’t drive. I would have to leave school sometimes or get up late at night and take her to or pick her up from Urgent Care. It was tumultuous and I tired of it, but she was my mom and I loved her so I did it (though I would argue it at every turn, but I was an impetuous teen that had better things to be doing).

I don’t remember when it happened, but sometime between 15 and 18 my parents separated and eventually divorced. It was devastating. All I could think was ‘Just last year I was getting grossed out by them making out in public places… and now my mom isn’t even living here anymore’. I was lost. They were my archetype for love, and now it was gone. I didn’t know what to do. I was completely lost at that point. I don’t remember being overly affected by it at the time, but looking back I clearly was. I can’t even tell you what year it happened or how old I was. I don’t even remember when they told us. I have no memory whatsoever of that, which I didn’t know until right now. I remember having to go to a counselor, but not for very long. It didn’t really help, I never felt comfortable enough to talk to her. She also wanted to focus on controlling my anger without ever getting to the root cause of it.

That school should have been an escape to allow me to start healing from the traumas of grade and middle school, but I never got the chance. With my mom’s illness, my parent’s divorce, my looming end of schooling, and the eventual dumping by Anna, I was done for. All of that together on top of the years of torment in school finally just crushed me. Anna was just the last blow. I remember coming home from seeing her that last time and lying down on my floor and not moving much for about 12 hours. At the time I thought it was because she had hurt me, but I think it was more than that. After she dumped me, I literally had nothing left in me. I just lay there, bawling, blank, bereft, and broken all at once. I had come unglued.

That was probably the first massive change that I had. From that day forward, I was a different person. From then on, I was leaving it all behind. I had already found my secondary schooling and had it all planned, but now I threw myself at it. My mom told me she never expected me to be the one to strike out on my own and leave. Granted, my dad still helped me out and took care of me a lot throughout, but as far as I was concerned, I was never coming back. I was done with my previous life and I never wanted to go back. I was only looking forward, though in looking forward I was very pointedly not looking back. I did everything I could to keep from looking back and seeing all the destruction that had birthed this new version of me.

It was a version of me that could not last long. He was born to fail, and at the first real sign of strife, he did. I had spent most of my time in school very poor as I had trouble finding work and lived off what little my dad was able to send me. Even when I did find work, I was doing all that I could just to pay rent, let alone eat. There were weeks when all I had was a bag of rice. I remember being so hungry one pay day that I broke down and bought a burger and fries at Whataburger. I was so hungry that I had to force myself not to go feral on it. When I was done, my body shut itself down to process it all and I passed out at the bus stop. When that job finally ran out and I got laid off, it was all over. The boy that ran from home without looking back was no more, and I had to look back to find help.

I ended up moving back to Oregon and staying with my dad for a few months before moving in with my mother, whom I had only just reconnected with after several years without contact. Nearly 5 years later and I’m still living with her. For the first 2 and a half years, I didn’t really do much. That was my darkest time and I was completely lost. But, now, I pay my way and I do what I can to take care of myself. I had planned to move out this year, but the finances just won’t allow it, so I bide my time and work towards it.

Through all of this, the bullying, the divorce, the devastation, I never really talked to anyone. I have never been good expressing things verbally. I can write things very well (as evinced by this blog) but I am horrible about talking. I probably could have talked to any number of people about it, but I never knew how to express it in words. I did write back then, but it was only for me. I wrote poetry and songs all about the hatred, betrayal, and pain that I felt. I’ve still only ever shared that stuff with one person. I very much lived within my own mind. I have always tried to run through and figure things out in my own mind, though it has never accomplished much.

Through this blog, I have learned to start expressing myself more. I have family and friends that read this, as well as some of you I have never met that read it as well. Many are surprised by the things they find here. They could guess at it, but I never told them. I just held it as deep as I could and hid it from everyone. But, in writing it here, I am loosening my grip on it all and starting to talk about it. Because I am, it is allowing me to start growing as a person in ways I haven’t done in years, if ever.

If you’ve made it this far, I have one last thing to impart: Don’t internalize it all. Talk to someone, even if you don’t know how. Cry and rage and be afraid, but make it known. If you hold it within, it will eat you alive. You don’t want to be where I have been, wishing for death because you don’t know how to live. It will get better, but not until you deal with what has happened.