My UID goes back to 2009, but I have been lurking here for a lot longer. During the insanity of the Bush years this site has been a beacon of sanity. Eventually I got an account. It took my awhile to get my feet wet. For the longest time I mostly lurked, just reading the front page. Then, I read the recommended list, then the rescued diaries, etc. After a time I started paying attention to the comments as well, and decided it was time to take the plunge and say something. I've only written a few diaries -- although a couple made the rec list -- and comment sporadically. Despite my lurking behavior, I read this site every day and constantly share what I learned on Daily Kos with my friends. This site has done more to shape my political philosophy than anything else in my life. I grew up with Republican parents, somewhat radical ones. At first I bought it, until the Bush years, then it became clear something was terribly wrong with what they believed. In fact, it was something I could not be a part of. I now consider myself a progressive. I identify with Bernie Sanders the most, and cheered when Elizabeth Warren won the senate seat. I stayed up late for the last election, reading Daily Kos and waiting for the results with bated breath.
As the economy fell apart around us due to the sheer incompetence and evil of the Bush administration, and the bankers who stole the country right out from under us -- I watched my hopes and dreams fall apart. My dreams of a good future where hard work was rewarded and people could find a job, earn a living wage and sleep well at night not wondering how they were possibly going to get by another day. These rich people are so out of touch, they think it's as easy as just working harder. Just got get a job, they say. You will be fine if you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. But, it's not nearly that easy. I live in an economically depressed area that is probably worse then some, although I'm sure there are places in the USA where it's more difficult then here. Even getting a job in fast food or retail is incredibly difficult. The area I live in is full of teenagers, so those jobs usually go to them. I'm 25, have some college and write articles online in an attempt to not completely go under, because I have to make some money somehow. As my struggle has become worse, I've had people tell me to supplement by income writing by finding a part time job. What I have tried to explain to them is that I have tried, but getting a part time job when you are overqualified and have too much experience is almost impossible. Those jobs almost always go to teenagers, who will happily take way less then what the work is worth because all they need is recreational income. Getting something full time is even harder, in this area, full time in retail or food service is pretty much nonexistent unless you are a manager. Shift managers don't even get salaried wages and often don't get full time hours.
In my last diary, I mourned the loss of my brother. He had also been my roommate. At the time I thought things would be okay. But, since then they have become progressively worse and I have found myself in a position where stress is constant and sleep often impossible. I lay awake at night thinking about my debt and wondering how I can pay my bills. I've contemplated suicide seriously. I don't think I would be capable of going through with it, but its hard to explain just how awful and worthless you feel when you can't pay your bills. And how, when there is absolutely nothing to look forward to except more dread, that you wish sometimes you wouldn't even wake up. After I lost my brother I couldn't stay in the apartment and ended up as one of the hidden homeless for almost a year. Considering this finding a job was almost impossible, and debt started to mount. Rich people will say that the poor get themselves into trouble because they live beyond their means, or they borrow too much money. However, what they don't understand is that poor people end up borrowing money because living within their means is impossible -- they just don't have enough money. Follow me below the fold, and I'll discuss the quagmire that is being poor, from personal experience.
It started out in desperation. Borrowing because I literally had no choice. I hated it. It made me feel guilty, worthless and terrible to begin with. As time went on, the problem became worse. See, the thing about debt is that as it accumulates, the bills to make the minimum payments become higher. And, when you are already struggling with money, making those minimum payments makes it harder to pay other bills, which as you might guess means more debt. And the cycle continues, and continues. At first I still had things under control for awhile, or thought I did. I was so traumatized from loss and homelessness that I don't think I even fully understood the trouble I was getting into. Eventually, I did indeed get an apartment with some roommates, but my troubles have still only gotten worse. After a time it became clear I could no longer make the minimum payments, and I set up a debt management plan. I was hoping I could get a better deal. At the time I was worried about making the monthly payments for the debt plan (they are significant), but I didn't know what else to do, and I couldn't afford bankruptcy. Those monthly payments have become incredibly hard to deal with. My monthly expenses are fairly small, but when half of my actual bills are pure debt, it's hard to keep going. Motivation is difficult and constantly being strung out makes things no better.
Rich people would tell me what to do in this situation. Someone like Donald Trump would tell me to file for bankruptcy. But, here's the catch 22 of being poor. The biggest one out there. If you are drowning in debt and your life is a disaster, filing for bankruptcy costs money. That is money poor people don't have, it's money I don't have. That rich jerk Trump has filed for bankruptcy multiple times, he's still super rich. I'm sure the amount of debt he has written off through bankruptcy is in the millions. And yet, for me it's insurmountable to get rid of my small debts, in comparison to his. And yet, someone like him would say he earned it, and that I am poor my by own doing. The thought literally makes me feel sick to my stomach. Where do these people get off talking to the poor like that? This is the disaster we face. How can you file for bankruptcy, something that costs money, when the reason you want to file for bankruptcy is because you don't have money. The answer is, you probably can't. I have barely managed to keep up with my debt management plan at all, it's made things super tight and awful. But, with how bad things have become I feel like I should just file for bankruptcy. The problems there being that I don't have the money to do so. And the thought makes me feel like any money I paid for the debt management plan was wasted if I'm going to file bankruptcy anyway.
This is the reality that poor people like me live through every single day. Stressed out, strung out people with overburdened minds who can barely crack a smile because they are constantly worried about how they are going to pay their bills. Let me give you an example from my life. I have tried to write articles for online magazines, freelance. I've had limited success. I started out writing for entertaining sites, top ten list sites. They required real research and writing talent. Writing something for some of them seemed like a good idea. They would pay about 100 per article. However, it turns out that as time has gone on, I've found the amount of work required is often not enough to even break minimum wage. There are other sites out there, especially the political ones, that actually pay decent wages, but as you can imagine these sites are very, very competitive. It is only very recently that I discovered there were political sites that could afford to pay decent wages to writers. The problem is, I have been unable to find the time to write anything for any of them to even look at. Why? Because, as a poor person I have to try to focus on sure things. I try to write for the sites I know will accept stuff quickly, because I really need the money soon. The problem being, it means I don't have the time to even try to write for better sites and make some decent money. When you are poor you have zero breathing room. Trying to improve your situation is hard, because in almost any case it means not paying as much attention to whatever gets you the little money you are getting. To someone who is already struggling to stay afloat, priorities are important. I wish I could find a part time job, or anything really to supplement my income. But, it's just not that easy to "go out and get a job" like it was even ten years ago. I feel like my future has been stolen from me. The promise of a decent economy and a job that pays a living wage are a distant dream of a dream -- something that I'm starting to wonder if I will ever actually see. It makes you want to just give up, that's being poor.
And when you are trying to make money freelance, because it's all you can find, it brings a whole new set of stresses. Imagine writing an article, you spend a ton of time on it, and send it in to the editor. You had already pitched it, and the topic had been approved. They get back to you, revisions are required. You revise it that day and send it back... still, more revisions. Panicking because this has ate up a ton of time you could have spent writing new articles, with bills getting closer, you revise again immediately and send it back. Then, you realize you missed something when copying and pasting. This has been going on for me the past week, the stress has been unimaginable. I am so tired from insomnia, from laying awake at night, I want to get a soda or something to focus. I'm too broke to even do that. I found myself walking around my apartment complex trying to find a little bit of change, and failed. I don't have the coins to wash my clothes and it makes me feel ashamed. Ashamed I can't wash them. Ashamed I'm poor, I feel like I've failed. Like I'm worthless to society. I know, deep down, that's not necessarily true, but that's what it feels like. Imagine payment being delayed several times during a week when you are broke. Now, due to the delays from my copying and pasting error, I might not be paid until Sunday. At best. I literally have 55 cents in my paypal account, 20 cents in my bank and 30 cents in change I managed to find. That's my money. I've already sold nearly all my possessions except my computer, mattress and clothes. I always want to scream when I see lists of tips for low income people that include "selling your old stuff", I did that long ago. I have a truck, it's really old (1993 I think) and junky but for now it works, and I need it to get around. My area isn't very walking or public transportation friendly.
True poverty isn't something you understand until you've lived it -- although that doesn't mean you can't empathize with others regardless, or be sympathetic with them. But, it is certainly an eye opener to hit such horrible levels of poverty. I need my car, I need my insurance to not lapse, but it's due soon and I don't even know how I will make the payment. Not only am I still trying to get one article to stop being delayed, but that has prevented me from other writing, to make more money. Now, I don't know what I will do to pay a couple bills I have coming in a few days. I've had insomnia issues for awhile, but stress exacerbates it to the nth degree. It's been so bad I could hardly sleep the last two nights, even though I haven't touched a drop of caffeine in days. I live in constant fear and misery. For many people the amount of money I am worrying about would hardly be that big of a deal. In the grand scheme of things a couple hundred dollars is nothing, people like Trump probably waste that much money before they've finished breakfast. But, to someone who lives on a shoestring budget and a haze of exhaustion and fear, it feels almost insurmountable. That is true poverty, when a couple hundred dollars feels like millions, and you don't know how you are going to get by. The things that scared me when I was a child don't even have the slightest effect on my anymore. I'm scared about bills, about debt, about keeping my car insurance, about staying in my apartment. Those are real fears, real nightmares. It's the nightmare our country has become, thanks to Bush, thanks to the modern day robber barons who pulled off the biggest coup in American history, and instead of simply consolidating their gains they've gone on an unholy crusade against the poor to make them as miserable as possible. They've cut food stamps, tried to drug test people as an insult to their dignity. They've done every single thing they can to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. It IS class warfare, make no mistake about that.
I'm sorry this is so long. I'm scared. I'm tired. I'm hungry and broke and my waking hours are nightmares. I wish that somehow, some way things would stop being so terrible when I wake up the next day. I constantly refresh my email hoping for some good news. It's made me question my faith in everything. I feel broken and ashamed. I am not at all proud of my country. America, the richest in the world some say, and yet so many people living in poverty. So much sadness, so much stress and hunger. So much loss. I miss my brother, I miss the time when I could wake up and actually smile. I miss the country I thought America was when I was growing up. I miss the dreams I had before the depression shattered them into a million pieces. The dream of going back to finish college, the dream of making something of my life. I want to become a journalist, but I can't even find the time to pursue freelance journalism part time, I want to stop being hungry and scared. I want to afford bankruptcy, but I could I wouldn't need to file for it. I want to stop stressing constantly about bills. I'm panicked, I don't know what I will do to pay the bills coming up in a few days. But, I do know that if something doesn't change drastically, America's problems will only get worse. The country that many so proudly proclaim as "the best in the world" will continue to treat their poor more like subhuman, and anything that made us great will fall apart.
Here's hoping that someday the world gets better. In the meantime, I'm going to try to cheer myself up, somehow. I'll keep an eye on the comments. I wish you all the best.