Some of you may not know this, but I’m really poor. I grew up in a poor household (I’ve got lots of great poor people stories! And other weird stories about my childhood). Now that I’ve moved out… I’m even more poor. The only income that I’ve got is financial aid, composed mostly of student loans. I live with my partner, who was working for a while, but he just got laid off, so there goes that money. I’ve been without a cell phone for about a month now because it broke and I can’t afford to get it fix (or pay the bill, for that matter). Also, I was just evicted. (My friends call these things my “financial adventures”.)
I’m a full time student, so that kind of puts some difficulty in finding a job. But I’m also very involved in the freethought community: I’m currently president of Freethinkers FSU, director of the conference committee for the Humanists of Florida Association, and now I’m one of four board members for Secular Woman. All of that doesn’t leave much time for a job (although I do try to make a bit of money by selling crocheted items). I know what some people will say (because that’s pretty much all I hear from my mother these days): “Stop doing all of that extra stuff and find a job!” I have a few responses to that: (1) It’s a little late for that. I can’t just stop being involved in these organizations. I can’t just say, “Yeah, I know I said I’d help organize this group and I know you all kind of need me to do these things, but… I’m out of here. Have fun cleaning up after me. kthxbye.” (2) These “extra” things I do are what make life worth living. My life would be rather dull without these organizations. My life would kind of suck without doing these things that make me feel like I’m actually making some small difference in the world (or maybe just in the lives of a few people, but that’s enough). And most of my friends are involved in the freethought community, too. Basically, activism and organizing are my recreational activities. (3) Even if I wasn’t doing all this “extra” stuff, I would still have a hard time finding a job. It took me six months last time I was looking to find anyone willing to hire me (and I pretty much just got lucky that time: I ended up working for the US Census). I guess my skills aren’t exactly marketable and my schedule isn’t exactly flexible.
But even thought I know all these things, I still feel guilty; lazy. And that’s one of the suckiest things about being poor. Everyone telling you that you’re poor because you’re lazy; because you’re not trying hard enough. And I’ve internalized that, even as I try to fight against those ideas. I’m aware enough to know this isn’t true. I don’t blame other people for their poverty. But I can’t help but blame myself for mine.
I guess that’s all I care to write about this at the moment. But I will write about this topic again in the future. There’s lots to be said about poverty, guilt, and class privilege.