There is nothing more terrifying than never knowing where your next meal is going to come from. There is nothing more scary than the threat of being thrown out on the streets to survive against the harsh world. When you come home and they have shut off your power, or the creditors call you every hour on the hour, you feel as if the world has turned its back against you. You feel as if everyone has just stopped caring. I know this feeling intimately. Over the summer, my fiancee and I were extremely poor, having to fight, literally FIGHT to survive. We barely held on to our 930 square foot apartment, our car got repossessed, the electricity got turned off. Creditors kept calling and screaming into the phone at us. There was nothing in the world more alienating.
And yet we fought through it, and stuck together. In our darkest hour, the only things that kept us sane was each other and the knowledge, that somehow it would get better. Those feelings were like life-rafts for us, keeping us afloat in a sea of despair. We literally had nothing but each other, and our ramshackle apartment that we share. Being poor is terrifying, because it makes you feel as if your most basic needs -- food, water, and shelter, are imperiled, and it grinds you down. The fact that I am not alone, that I am indeed the majority of households in America, scares the crap out of me.
To know that there were literally millions of people going through the same thing my fiancee and I were going through is completely horrifying to me. We have suffered through a lot over the past two years, job losses, evictions, repossessions, and small claims court notices. All of our bills over the past couple of years has been passed due to the point that our utilities companies threaten very often to shut off our service. A lot of times, we had to rely on charity and SNAP for our food and drink. Sometimes, there was no food in the house at all -- for weeks on end. This isn't abnormal. Its the new normal.
Over the summer, I put filled out and turned in over 300 applications for employment. I spent countless hours online, and on the streets looking for a job, putting in applications anywhere, trying to make something stick. My standards for employment weren't very high, I just wanted a minimum wage job. In May, I had the chance to experience the joy of delivering pizzas "professionally". I had the job for a week, and they fired me because they hired too many people. The rest of the summer was spent looking for a job in earnest, and getting denial letter after denial letter saying that I was "overqualified" or "underqualified" or whatever bullshitting excuse the HR department could come up with for not hiring me.
It was harsh. I felt as if the world had simply tossed my fiancee aside and I aside and said "You are not worthy of survival in this world". My fiancee had her banking job sure, but 1200 dollars a month for two people simply wasn't enough money to go around. I did everything I could to help us get by while I was searching for a job - I donated plasma, got a paper route, tried to volunteer to get my experience up -- nothing helped. Nothing worked. Through July and August we had reached our worst point, and it seemed like all hope was lost.
I kind of receded into myself in early August. I started doubting my ability to take care of my fiancee. I know that seems a little sexist of me, I know I shouldn't think that just because she is a woman and I am a man that I should take care of her, but I still felt this overwhelming and crushing guilt for not living up to my "manly" duty and take care of her. Every time I saw her family -- my future in-laws -- I could do nothing but say that I was looking for a job. I am sure they made their judgements about me, that I was lazy, that I was weak, that I was not taking care of their daughter. I tried to explain myself to them, that I was trying desperately to find gainful employment, but I could see the worry in their eyes about me. It was absolutely shattering.
The scariest thing about this is that I am not alone. Far from it. My story is not unique...in fact I had it a lot better than most. I didn't have a house to be foreclosed on. I didn't have children to worry about. I didn't have a sick relative that was counting on me. Millions of people in the United States are on the verge of going down financially. Millions of people out there right now are worse off than I was this summer. Millions of people feel alone, alienated, and rejected by society this holiday season.
So when I hear talk of a recovery, I can't help but be a little cynical. I can't help but feel this recovery is only for rich people, who are milking the system again. Because I look around my neighborhood, and pretty much all I see are foreclosure signs, struggling families, and people being thrown on the streets. If there truly is a recovery, where are the jobs? Where is the hope?