A group for our forgotten class. Personal stories, information and ideas for survival as well as fighting back.
How being poor sucks (a personal example)
How being poor sucks (a personal example)
So, for those here who don’t know me – a little background.
About a year ago I did something to my back (not entirely sure what – Doctor said it was muscle damage and referred me to physical therapy I can’t afford/no insurance, etc.) and haven’t been able to move quite the same way since. I worked another six or seven months until it got so bad that I couldn’t anymore, had to leave early one night because of it and the boss (I was a bartender at the time) very kindly let me go.
I’ve been unemployed now since… March, I think. Last week, my sister who manages a nearby restaurant helped me get a dish washing job. I’m in rough shape – but that matters less to me now than my need for money, to at least make my car payment, if nothing else. I’ve been living with my parents and they’ve been helping with pretty much everything. I do chores around the house, take care of the dog, help my sister out with her baby and drive my mom around… got some things to keep me busy but… I am getting sick of feeling like a burden.
Monday I worked in the busiest kitchen I’d ever been in, washing dishes and trying to keep up with teenagers (I’m 32 – and not in very good shape) on what was probably the busiest night of the year for that particular restaurant. I don’t think there was a single part of my body that didn’t hurt for a few days afterwards, but I felt pretty optimistic about it overall. It was money, you know? (Minimum wage is better than nothing) Started at 10:30 AM, didn’t stop till around 10:30 PM. This was on the Fourth of July.
I was covered in water, filth, sweat, and my back felt like someone had been beating it with a hammer, but I felt good – I made it through the double shift, at various points I felt like I was going to pass out – but I didn’t.
They told me that, before I can go back in, they’ll need two forms of ID – a driver’s license and a birth certificate or something. Pretty standard. So, as I haven’t gotten paid for Monday yet (two weeks until that happens) I had to ask my Father for a few bucks for a copy of my birth certificate. I remembered it costing seven dollars, he thought it would be five – but gave me a ten just in case (there is a point to this, which I’m getting to).
So I got to the town office right around closing time (4:25 – they close at 4:30), smiled at the clerk, and asked for a copy of my birth certificate. She didn’t smile. She gave me a “I can’t wait until I’m out of here” look, then asked for a picture ID. I put it down on the counter, and she told me it would be fifteen dollars for a birth record.
I think my eyes must have been trying to pop out of my head when I said “Wow, was only seven the last time I got one…” She gave me a pretty nasty look and said, “Well Sir, you must have gotten it a long time ago. When I started here back in 2010 it was ten dollars, and it’s gone up by 2.50 twice since then.” I shrugged, nodded, told her I’d have to come back later – and went to leave. There were a few other people at the office, some looking at me with pity, others with mild contempt. Heard one man grumble something about bums and welfare – not sure what that had to do with me, but in any event…
As I was heading for the door, she called after me, “You can use your debit card if you want, it’s a dollar more.” I winced inwardly, feeling pretty shitty about myself and said, “No money on that either, but thank you.” I hurried to get out of the building as quickly as I could after that.
So on my way home (I live thirty miles away from town – with my parents) I spent some time in idle reflection. The last time I got a birth certificate was more than ten years ago, so of course the price had gone up. The price of almost everything has gone up since then.
Hmm, maybe what I mean to say is I felt like wallowing in self pity – and did. Thinking to myself how, throughout my life, I have rarely been anything but broke or almost broke, even when I worked full time or over time – now it’ll be a struggle just to work part time. Now I can’t go in to work tomorrow because I don’t have that damned birth record. In any event, if you will forgive the venting (and even if you won’t)…
I am tired of the looks I get when people realize I am unemployed. I am tired of being rejected by potential dates before they even know my name. I am tired of being broke. I am tired of the pain I feel on a daily basis. I am tired of having to ask my family for money every time I need anything. I am also, I think… just tired in general – and maybe sick in the head, too.
I feel a bit like an ogre right now. Like all I want to do is find a nice rock to crawl under and hide my shame and my ugliness from the world. Maybe it’s that thing about there being no poor people in America – only temporarily embarrassed millionaires – as they say. I mean, I’m depressed and have almost daily panic attacks – so I’m obviously somewhat neurotic to begin with, but this shit is making me worse.
I don’t think I can put into words just how strongly I despise money – but also, just how much I despise myself for being weak, poor and out of work. I don’t know if society has convinced me that I am a loser – or if I actually am one. I have spent a fair amount of time debating that very question with myself.
I’m not the worst off of Americans, I have a place to live, food and so on – but you know, I’ve gotta say, I never pictured my life going this way. Always figured I’d be happily married with three kids by now, maybe a teacher or something. The simple truth is though, I’m too tired, too weak, too depressed and too frustrated to accomplish what I want to. On the other hand… I tried, for years, I tried very hard – I busted my ass.
So maybe I’m more of a failure than a loser.
Okay, momentarily shelving the self pity….
This is why we need progressive reform not just in our government, but in our society. Poverty is so often seen (and even felt by those who experience it) as some kind of character flaw, moral failing. It is assumed that if we do not have money, we are useless. It is assumed that if we receive help, or don’t work forty-eighty-one hundred hours a week… we are lazy. It is often automatically assumed that poor people are all just gaming the system, not actually poor.
My own circumstances be damned – I have known many single parents trying to raise children in even worse situations than I am in right now. I have heard people grumble about drug testing welfare recipients, about how terrible food stamps are, about their tax dollars going to waste on helping people they think are lazy good for nothings. I am tired of it. Damn tired of it.
I wish they could walk a mile in my shoes – or, better yet, in the shoes of a single parent who does receive assistance, works full time – and can barely get by even so. If they knew what the hell they were talking about – they would use very different words. Instead of lazy, we would hear “heroic”. Instead of useless, we would hear, “struggling”, instead of unemployed, perhaps we might hear, “A decent human being”.
Our safety net is catching fewer people with every passing year… and it is all the worse in states like Maine, with very republican governors. There just aren’t options, there is frequently no alternative to suffering – and even to despair. Somehow, we’ve got to create one.
Pardon my ranting and long-winded manner of getting to the point… but, my point is just this: Living with poverty is hard enough without being judged and despised for it. Without social constructs and our fellow human beings thinking – and even telling us, that we are worthless due to the simple fact of being broke.
I would say that it is a damned heroic struggle of epic proportions to struggle by in today’s world, with or without a job. It is a damned heroic struggle of epic proportions to live each day with the knowledge that nothing is likely to get better any time soon. It is even more so, to dare to believe, to hope that we can change, that our lives, our Country, even our world, can be made better.
I am exhausted, sad – and not feeling terribly good about myself at the moment. It just seems to me that there is too much wrongheaded thinking in the world – and worse, a lot of people just don’t give a flying fuck about any circumstances other than their own.
My hope here at JPR, is that we can do something (however small or large) to fight the real war that should be fought. The war on poverty, the war to save ourselves from a society that has made money God.
Thank you for reading.
(Note: This was cross posted from GD – as a couple other posts will be shortly)mntleo2, VoiceOfReason, LiberalArkie and 19 othersHaikugal, FanBoy, grouchomarxist, avaistheone1, melurkyoulongtime, em77, atomic, frylock, countryjake, polly7, irisblue, Enthusiast, KarenS, Downwinder, Coyote Walks, GoodWitch, Dragonfli, TIME TO PANIC, djean111 like this
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