I never grew up poor, but after my father kicked me out and I struggled to find a safe space to sleep at night, I obviously ended up with a limited budget. To be completely honest, I’m literally broke. Flat broke. Probably poor. Penniless basically.
When I hauled myself out of my home, I took everything from my bedroom after I found a place to live. I mean, everything. I refused to let my brother or father have anything I own. But I ended up having to sell at least half of it, sitting on the cold street by MICA’s dorms, walking to thrift shops in the area to see if they’d buy my clothes, going on Poshmark and flipping old tampon boxes from friends to ship my clothes off to a buyer. I can’t even afford to buy a box for my shipments. I literally flip boxes inside out, re-tape them, paint the inside of it brown or white, and send whatever clothing piece off to its new owner. Now, I make jewellery. Cheap, DIY pieces off of Buzzfeed and random websites to make rent. I’ve sold almost everything I own. I’ve applied for job after job, struggling to make a paycheck and stretching every dollar to my name to make it work for the day, the week, the month.
Nobody tells you what it’s like to be near-homeless and poor. Nobody tells you how strenuous it is to constantly apply for jobs and not get a call back; to struggle to find money to pay your tutition; to simply survive. Luckily for me, I have an amazing extended family. My aunt and grandmother took me in and they told me as long as I make decent marks, they would support me. It wasn’t long until my mother left the house as well that I was able to grasp onto someone’s hand and lift myself up straight–although, that’s a slight exaggeration, I was doing pretty good without her. I was scared and lost; trying to figure out where to sleep and how to survive, but luckily, I have a support system. Women who know what abuse is. Women who wouldn’t let me suffer. But that doesn’t mean I’m not broke.
My body is exhausted. I am constantly fighting for a dime, for something to live off of. I can’t fully explain what it’s like to have your body living in poverty (is that the right word–poverty?) but it’s hell. It’s a cup of 2$ coffee on campus being too damn expensive for your budget. It’s taking the bus because you can’t afford gas in your tank. It’s not being able to pay tickets or your tutition. It’s struggling marks because you’re too worried on surviving to fully focus on school. It’s figuring out how to get food at the end of the month before succumbing to welfare. It’s living on welfare and wanting to desperately get off it–why?–it’s stretching my body to its maximum capacities so that I can survive and struggle another day.
My body is deeply affected by my ethnicity, my social-econ status, and even my marks at university. I don’t know how to work it. The exhaustion, the creativity you have to have to survive, the ability to turn a dollar into ten, to budget so carefully so that you can make rent or afford food. The trauma of losing your home, to selling more than half of your belongings, to not being able to even afford a cup of coffee. My body is struggling to catch up to its new reality. It is filled with anxiety, cheap vegetables, and fire: possibly the only thing keeping me going, keeping my fight up.
The first night I was homeless was the toughest. I bawled my eyes out. Decided I could make it on my own without my father. Thought it was better to live life like this, on my own terms without scarifying my dignity, then to keep living in extreme abuse. My aunt called my mama. They took me in. My mama unpacked my new room while I bawled all overs again, not knowing that in two weeks, we’d split the bedroom in half and move her bed in with me. I’m broke, but I’m definitely fortunate.
I don’t know what else to say. My body is tired but I refuse to give up. I continue to barely make ends meet, to keep coming up with ways to make money, to stretching one dollar into ten and so much more. I am forced to constantly produce, to sell myself and my work, and if I can’t I pay the price. Capitalism has created a system where I cannot escape and where I am forced to completely wear myself down into the asphalt to simply survive. Maybe I should be grateful; if I was poor in Palestine or Egypt, my life would be ten times worse than it is now. Or maybe my family would support me like they do now. Maybe they’d marry me off quickly instead or pay my way through public university. I don’t know. I never will know.
What I do is this: I am near honeless. I am completely broke. My body is fighting and I am struggling to simply survive.