Poor people are still people

When The Tall Daddy and I split up, I moved out in January and was in a really bad position financially until August, after I had gotten one or two paychecks.

The following is something I wrote at the time. I have edited it slightly, just to take out or clarify references to things that readers here wouldn’t necessarily know about, to take out names, etc. All of the rest is the same.

My intro to this at that time was that this is long and it’s not actually about me. Still true.


Due to general disorganization and being overwhelmed by life, I just sorted receipts for March and entered them into my budgeting software last night.

It was ugly.

Without getting into detail, I will just say that there was a significant difference between incoming and outgoing.

I just started subbing early in the month and only got paid for 1.5 days, so that will improve next month. Paychecks from the college will continue. [I was an adjunct at one of the local community colleges. Was supposed to teach two classes, but only one had enough students to run.]

I applied to sub in early January, but because of many things out of my control (length of hiring process, waiting for an orientation day, etc.), I couldn’t start until mid-March.

I applied to countless other jobs—generally what I’d consider “grunt work” because crappy work is better than no work—but was “overqualified” and not hired.

I am working on other income—a big health-related online class, private lessons, other opportunities that are currently behind the scenes—but they are not panning out yet.

In my budget deficit, there was just under $300 in IKEA pieces (so nice to have the computer off the floor, among other things) and around $25 in eating out. I have been thoughtful but not extremely so in my grocery shopping; that will change.

If you take out those extras and factor in more money that I am likely to earn as a result of consistent subbing, I might come close to breaking even in April. And these jobs are paying me more than minimum wage.

I’d need to work 32 hours per week at minimum wage to make what I make in three days of subbing. And another 20 hours per week to make what I am at the college. 52 hours per week to maybe make ends meet, as long as I had no extra expenses. Like an extra tank of gas. Or an oil change. Or a doctor’s appointment. Or any of the not-monthly payments that need to be made. Or an electric bill that includes air conditioning.

“Heat, what is your point?”

My point is this:

I have some savings to fall back on.
I have a degree. (Two of them, actually.)
I have a network of people who have helped me to get the work that I have and have been sending me other jobs I could apply for when they see them.
I had a lot of donations from friends, outfitting this apartment when I first moved.
I have an ex who is helpful, with sharing parenting time and cost. (Actually, he has taken on the bulk of both.)
I have a reliable car that is fuel efficient and paid off.

Despite all of that, it still sucks. And it’s still hard. And I’m still spinning my wheels and falling behind.

I know that if nothing else, I’ll have a teaching job in August, and my financial worries will be more or less gone. (Other stressors that are eating away at me will remain, but those aren’t necessarily relevant to this rant.) I just need to make it to August. (Or earlier, if I can find a job that isn’t teaching…which is my preference right now.)

I see first hand right now how easy it is for a single mom (or dad, but it’s usually moms) to fall into public assistance. (The majority of people on welfare are single moms.)

What if I had no savings?
What if I had no degree?
What if I had no transportation?
What if I had no free child care?
What if I had no other person contributing (significantly!) to the expenses of a toddler?
What if I had no friends to help?

It is easy to blame and judge, but I think the reality is that we judge because somewhere in the back of our heads, we know how close we really are to that being us. And it is scary.

I also am reasonably sure that I would qualify for some sort of assistance right now, and that pride prevents me from even looking into it. [I did end up on food stamps and state-run health insurance not long after I wrote this.] I assume that most who are standing in line, waiting to be questioned, talked down to, ridiculed, are human like I am, and feel shame and embarrassment in being there.

Choose empathy. You never know people’s story.


0 thoughts on “Poor people are still people”

  1. Yes! There are so many people working really hard and just not making it. There are always people who will take advantage of and manipulate systems designed to help, but most people are just doing their best. We need to remember this. Anyone of us can be a medical crisis or family change or other disaster away from being unable to make ends meet and needing help to get back on our feet.


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