When you’re young, naive, & impressionable, you look at life as an adult as all peaches-n-cream, rosy rays of sunshine, & a gigantic piece of delicious red velvet cake. I guess if you come from the land of the wealthy & unlimited possibilities, it probably is or could be, at least financially. After high school, you kind of just assume you’ll go to a university & end up with some kind a decent paying job that has potential to rise through the ranks. No one really considers the fact that they could indeed wind up living in poverty because life doesn’t just hand you the ingredients for a successful future when you get the high school diploma. In fact, unless you actually came from absolute poverty as a child, you’ve unadmitably been raised to look down upon the impoverished class, scorn them under one’s breath, look at them with shame & disgust, as if they have personally wronged you with their social status.
Then you wind up making a bed with those people & are forced to lie down next to them. Not by choice, but by circumstance & the bad decisions made in your late teens & young adulthood. Okay, so technically it was kind of a choice, just unknowingly because at those ostentatiously know-it-all ages, you don’t really think things through, even though you really might believe that you are. There isn’t enough wisdom at that age to see past the immediate consequences of one’s actions, or the domino affect that continues on, long after the action has passed.
I really believed, even after getting pregnant “by accident” at 21, that I would still finish nursing school, the sperm donor would use his trade skills to open his own company, & we would live happily ever after, providing our child with everything it wanted & lots more. Reality smacked me hard in the face after our second baby was born exactly one year later & I found out both that I was pregnant again 15 weeks postpartum and that he was cheating on me with my teenage cousin. The one that I had hired to watch my babies with him while I went to night classes, because he couldn’t be trusted with the care of two babies under 16mos old by himself.
Long story short, we split up, I lost that third baby, moved into my dad’s basement, dropped out of nursing school & got a six-month trade school certificate in a higher-than-minimum wage paying grunt job in the medical field, found full time employment, got full custody to my boys, & married my husband, Ryan, all within a year’s time. Whew! That was the craziest, most life altering, & significant year of my life at that point. Little did I know, the rest of the years ahead were going to take me to places I never would’ve imagined being at in my wildest dreams.
I wish I could sit here & tell y’all that my hubs & I have made the greatest desicions together, built the best life possible for our family, but it’s not true. We added two girls to the mix, bringing the grand total to the mind-numbing insanity of kids to raise to 4. I will NEVER, EVER, regret those children for a second, even if I’m still living in poverty when I die, because they make every struggle I’ve faced worth it a thousand times over. But, truthfully speaking, having such a large family makes the struggles bigger, harder, & more stressful, because they suffer the consequences of all that my hubs & I can & cannot do for them.
The stigma of getting state-aid assistance for your family is as real as the air we breathe. People publicly scorn you when they see you take out that Bridge (EBT) Card at the grocery store. There’s bashing and false assumption based memes all over Facebook, posted by relatives, friends, & strangers alike. Everyone is so quick to assume that the one Bad Apple that they’ve heard about sets the standard for everyone else in the same boat. But I’m telling you from the bottom of my heart, we’re not all in the same boat at all just because we’re on the same program & financial class. We work. And we work hard at that. We do not abuse the system, take more than we deserve, or let our situation define us. We don’t want to be where we are, we’re not content living like this, nor do we expect anyone to give us handouts or pity from anyone. We take responsibility for our situation & have kept moving forward towards independence from the system. That independence has finally been attained, but we’re not better off, we’re still struggling. Once your pay checks can successfully pay all your bills completely, you’re done for, regardless if there’s a dime left over to buy food, clothing, or daily necessities for the house & one’s health. We don’t even have a penny leftover these days.
Because of my circumstances, I have learned more about life, people, & society, than I would’ve had I chosen the easier path in life, I think. I’ve learned to face humility & shame. To stand up for my rights & the well-being of those I love. I’ve learned what’s really important in life & what success truly means in the most humbling of ways. Would I be the strong-willed, always thankful, & optimistic person I am today had I not been thrown into this kind of life blindly? Probably not. Would I have learned that I’m a survivor, that life is rewarding in its unpredictability, & that there’s more to joy than materialism, had I ended up in a different socio-economic class? Definitely not. Despite the widespread views of poverty as a human failure, I feel as though I have won in life, because I have overcome & risen above every obstacle that was supposed to bring me down.
The holidays are always the biggest challenge for those who don’t have financial stability. The wealth of love we have an overabundance of, will not provide the bounty of food that is celebrated with, the gawdy but costly decorations for such festivities, nor the presents that Santa Claus is supposed to deposit under the tree lit up with sparkling lights that will put our electric bill through the roof, causing more stress in the following months. It is such a overwhelming time of year for those who are struggling financially. The standards set by society are so hard to obtain, that they perpetually hum in your ear what a loser you must be for not being able to provide the same as everyone else around you. Excuses must be made to avoid gatherings because you feel ashamed showing up empty handed, admittedly proving that you can barely even provide for your own. Applications must be filled out for assistance with gifts for your babies, allowing others to do the shopping that everyone else gets to do for their own, reminding you again, of all the bad that has left you in this situation. This time of year can easily unravel the most secure & confident people because those traits aren’t going to provide the financial means to have a happy holiday.
The struggle is demeaning, degrading, & mentally exhausting, but love conquers all. Love of my children & for my children makes me pull those boot straps tight & face all my personal insecurities to give them the absolute best holiday I am able to, even if it doesn’t measure up to the median standard. I will humiliate myself standing in line to beg someone else to donate toys for their absolute joy. I will sacrifice personal needs to save a few bucks to afford enough lights to make that Christmas tree sparkle. I will take everything negative that is in our way & turn it into a positive somehow, someway, to give these kids the holidays they dream of, remembering that despite our lack of financial well-to-do, there are still others yet who have circumstances even worse who can provide way less. Some can’t even provide love! LOVE! That’s enough to keep the holiday cheer in me despite all the obstacles & hurdles I will jump over to make the most out of this season.
I believe in fate, destiny, & a God/higher power. Though my predicament is the after effect of poor planning, rash judgement, & stupid, stupid mistakes along the way to adulthood, this is where I am supposed to be in life for a specific reason. There is always something to be learned in every situation. These life lessons give us wisdom & maturity, allow for self-exploration & personal growth. The experiences I’ve had living in the lower depths of society have opened my eyes to much I would not have seen along my life journey otherwise, had I not taken this bumpy, winding, less-traveled path. It’s been an amazing ride, that’s for sure, one for which I’ll always be grateful. Grateful for the love that has filled the places in my soul whereas others fill with material possessions. Grateful for the chance to grow as a person, more empathetic towards mankind in all circumstances, whereas others would cast judgement & look down upon them. I’m so incredibly proud of my family’s ability to cope with all the unforseen thrown our way & our ability to stay together through it all, whereas others would’ve thrown in the towel & called it quits. I’m always pushing towards a better & brighter future for my children & it’s happening, albeit slowly & painfully, but it’s getting there.
This year will be the first year our total income will put us above the national poverty-level, proof positive that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. But unless you hold your head up high & proud, continue to put one foot in front of the other, you’ll never reach it. There’s always hope, you just have to look inside yourself.
Sunday Confession: Always
Thank you for reading my confession this week! Please continue on to More Than Cheese and Beer to read more confessions from the bloggers who Link-Up & any anonymous confessions submitted to her Facebook page. If you want to follow me, you can find me on Facebook at The Daily Rantings of an Angrivated Mom.