Commentary – What It’s Like to Be Poor and Make Terrible Decisions

My blog today is on an article that I stumbled upon after a Youtube video on the distribution of wealth in America prompted me to look into where I landed on the scale and how much the top 1% really -do- make…and I found this:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-11-23/what-its-be-poor-and-make-terrible-decisions

I attempted to register with the website to join the commentary discussion, but unfortunately the ‘standard approval time’ for this site is between 4 and 7 days. Zero Hedge’s rule #5 notes that they’re ‘far too busy to contact users, so if someone asks for your password they have too much time on their hands to be us,’ and when rules #4 told me that I should have no expectation of privacy, I said no thank you. When a website’s register rules are condescending to me, I can only imagine how the users and SUPER BUSY staff must be.

So I’m just gonna be on here instead. xD

Basically, this article is a personal account from one woman about how there’s no hope to reach out of poverty, even if you try, and that this mentality has kept her stuck and “made” her make terrible decisions. I thought to myself, “Okay, what sort of situation would force someone to make decisions that aren’t in their own best interest?” I went there expecting to find some factual evidence of things that our government may be doing to hinder the progress of those who aren’t even a blip on the wealth distribution scale. Instead…well, I found a lot of excuses.

My End of the Story

First, I’d like to tell you all a bit more about me so you know I’m not an elitist prick who’s typing this from my iPad with my Starbucks coffee on my college campus that my parents paid for me to go to and who pay for my college dorm. I’m 24 years old, and as you all know, I’m a tattoo artist. I’m an only child, but growing up, we didn’t have a huge amount of money, so I’m not as ‘spoiled’ as the only child terminology leads many to believe. Emotionally spoiled…oh yeah. My parents thought I was a prodigy and they’re very proud of me. Materialistically, maybe before the age of 10, but I recall being grateful because I wasn’t yet at the age where material goods mattered. That didn’t happen until I was in 7th or 8th grade, and by then we lived pretty modestly.

I grew up in a double-wide mobile home in the mountains that my dad had built a foundation for and converted into a home. My parents did every addition to the house themselves: my dad built us a garage, a huge front deck, and a back deck. He redid the floors and installed the carpet, and my mom redid the kitchen splash tiles, paint, and  trim, all themselves and with minimal budget. My parents, especially my dad, were the epitome of hard work, and I was taught that I had to work to get the things I wanted, and that I had to pick which things I wanted most because of limited resources. As a child, I was told “no” and didn’t put up a hissy fit so every parent in WalMart could shamefully judge my parental influence.

I got my first job when I was 18, just after high school, working at Jamba Juice for $9/hour, and after a few months I started my tattoo apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are not paid jobs, so I used money that I had saved up (some of which was given to me, but some of which I had earned at my job) for gas money to the 40-mile away destination so that I could do that full-time and not have to work. Eventually I did some receptionist work at the tattoo shop for $40-$80/week because the price of gas was going up, and I was spending $40/week to get down there.

During the end of my 2-year apprenticeship, my dad had been struggling for almost a year to find steady work, and my mom had taken a part-time job at the liquor store and was making about $120/week. It was just enough for food and utilities, so my parents fell 3 months behind on their mortgage and unfortunately lost the property to bankruptcy. It was really hard for me to lose the house that I had grown up in and move to an apartment with my parents (albeit a really nice one) when my dad found work doing maintenance at an apartment complex. I vowed at that time that I would never let myself be financially irresponsible because I was terrified of being homeless or having to lose a house of my own.

Eventually, my parents moved to Arizona, and I was forced to figure out how to be a grown up. I had been tattooing for about a year at this point, but I had just moved to a new tattoo shop and had no clientele. My boyfriend and I had been together at this point for almost a year, and he was struggling to find steady work as well. I moved in with him and his mom (and our dog that my boyfriend had begged his mom to let him adopt from the shelter), storing away most of my stuff in her shed. During that time, we were on food stamps for 3 months, and I was paying $100 for rent until I made more. But within 6 months, I was on a roll at my new job and we were finally able to move into our first dinky, hideous, 600-sq foot apartment. Woo!

Fast forward to 2 years later, and we live in a 2-story duplex with a basement, and the addition of a kitty to our family. I carried both my boyfriend and I financially for over half of this time while he sifted through different jobs that told him full-time and only delivered 10 hours of work a week, and yet we still had money to go out to eat, go to the movies, the zoo, a casino resort overnight, and a bunch of other fun things, because I’m financially responsible. I don’t make a ton of money, but we don’t struggle…but if I’d given up like the girl in this article sounds like she has, you can bet we’d be back at my boyfriend’s mom’s house, and I’d be miserable.

I COULD have taken up smoking to deal with the fact that I felt like a prisoner living with my boyfriend’s mom, in his 12×12 room with limited access to the living room and kitchen because she hated that we lived there, but was too nice to not offer for us to stay. I COULD have stayed on food stamps for longer, but I felt bad enough having to use them anyway that it was the first thing to go when I could afford it. I COULD have pretended that credit wasn’t necessary to rent an apartment, but instead I applied for my first credit card while I was still living with my parents, because I knew I’d have to play the credit game eventually. I knew I’d have to be a grown up someday.

Lots and Lots of Excuses

I get that there are a lot of poor people in this country, a lot of whom have families and are struggling. I get that. I know it’s not their fault a lot of the time. But at some point, you have to take responsibility for your own actions and see if they MIGHT have something to do with where you are in life, and if you’re saying that your situation is MAKING you make decisions that keep you in that situation…you’re playing the victim, simple as that. The victim doesn’t take responsibility, or problem solve, or change their perspective. The victim is entitled to feel wounded by their situation, and everyone else plays a role, but not them.

In this story, the woman mentions talks about the first time she was pregnant and about her kids. She says that Planned Parenthood is 3 hours away, and that sliding-scale clinics can’t help you anyway, which implies that she never took measures to have safe sex. I’ve been taking birth control pills ever since I was 16 years old, and I’ve NEVER been to a Planned Parenthood. Ever. My state offers county-based, sliding scale planned parenthood services, and I had free birth control pills all the way through my apprenticeship and up until my first tattoo job. Rich people don’t get sliding scale services, by the way. It was an hour drive, but you only have to go every 6 months, and it’s worth it because I realize, as an ADULT, that I’m not yet ready for kids. I’m sure that her child is a blessing to her, but I just don’t get why, even with children, you would think things are hopeless. I mean, she’s going to college for God’s sake, THAT’s something! Doesn’t she realize that with whatever degree she’s getting that she won’t have to work 2 jobs, and she won’t be so tired that she resorts to 20 cent frozen burritos? She can spend more time with her kids!

Which, by the way: you have a HUGE “large pleasure to hold on to,” and that’s being a mother. If materialistic wealth if your idea of a “large pleasure,” then no wonder you’re playing the victim; you have no grasp on what’s really important, and your perception revolves around what you’ll ‘never have’ instead of what you do. Some people can’t even have children. They’re probably a financial burden, but they’re YOURS. If you didn’t want them and you couldn’t travel to planned parenthood, then don’t have sex. In fact, were you and your husband in this financial slump before you got married? Why are you picking him up, and from where? What are his excuses?

As far as the Patriot Act making it harder to get a bank account…I don’t even have a clue what that means, unless it’s some liberal brainwashing that tells her that the government knows how much she makes. THEY DO THAT ANYWAY. It’s called taxes. You know, that thing where your WIC comes from that everyone pays into? That thing that WOULD fund food stamps for you if you didn’t have an excuse for why that wouldn’t work out for you too?

My favorite is the author’s justification for smoking. If you can afford cigarettes, but not food, then I can’t find any sympathy within myself to give you. Seriously? I’ve done the math on this before because everyone I know smokes, but let’s do it again. Let’s say you’re a mild smoker, and you smoke half a pack a day. If you average 3 packs a week of the shittiest cigarettes known to man, you’re looking at $10/week, or $30/month that could be used towards groceries, or whatever else you need. But it’s a stimulant? No, it’s a habit. If you want to be stimulated, stop eating crappy frozen burritos and buy some foods with real nutrition via your cigarette money, or with food stamps. I assure you, you won’t get roaches from cooking–I’ve left dishes in the sink for a week and left the trash unattended for two (because I get busy sometimes too), and the most we got were some flies. My bad.

I’m sorry, I’m ranting…

The point I’m getting at it this: there are some people who are truly in need of assistance. Some of them are humbled and grateful by any act of kindness, because they still have hope that things will turn around. They know that they don’t live in a 3rd world country with no running water, and if they can still walk and run, then they understand that it’s kind of a big deal to have that going for them.

Some of them are entitled to more, and because of this attitude, they won’t be grateful, and they’ll never be inspired to rise above what they are and make a difference to themselves. The author says that her point of view is “self-defeating, but it’s safer.” Safer than what exactly? If you’ve really hit rock bottom, what do you have to lose? It’s not safer, it’s more convenient. What if you were to put in the effort required…and you fail? It would be heartbreaking, as she says. But do people become successful because they never failed? No. They become successful because they continued to try, learning from their mistakes along the way, and because they refused to be a victim.

I AM SORRY that that was so long. I really, really want to hear your thoughts on this, people! This perception is becoming very pervasive in America, what is your opinion?

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The Baby Smith Egg

I was reading a strange and hilarious story that reminded me of my childhood and one of my own strange experiences, and I thought to myself…I will tell others about this, so that they may judge me. xD I wanted to write something a bit more light-hearted.

 

I would include a picture of what I’m talking about, but it’s apparently so weird and out of character for humans that not even GOOGLE could find a picture. It shamed me a little. So instead I’ll just tell you the story.

Once upon a time, when I was 10 years old, I had a brilliant idea. My family and I were celebrating Easter, and of course an Easter egg hunt was involved! To be honest, it was never much fun because I’m an only child, and hunting for eggs by yourself in your own yard without any competition just feels kind of silly. The pro was that since we lived in the mountains, crows would pick up the eggs that I couldn’t find the next day, and watching them take off with this huge, brightly colored object–acting INCONSPICUOUS about the fact that it was hot pink or orange or blue–was amusing.

We were dying eggs, as per the norm, and then I had found in the pot of one of the fake plants in our house, an Easter egg! From like two years ago. The boiled egg was so old that the yolk was rattling violently against the inside of the shell. I remember that I had wanted to keep it because it looked like the planet Earth by complete accident. Can you believe it…two years old, and this egg was in great shape, AND didn’t stink!

It was from this realization that I decided I would make more of them. I would keep my hard-boiled eggs as pets. The first would be called Baby Smith.

(I feel like an idiot writing this, please don’t judge me.) The ‘Smith Eggs’ became so involved that they had their own hierarchy history, from the Princess Egg, who was the smallest and brightest shade of pink, brighter than any of the other Easter eggs, that was maliciously murdered by my cat when I left the room for 5 minutes, to the foreigner named Pepito and his wife’s tragic hot tub accident during their honeymoon, and all the eggs in between.

My favorite was Eggis Presley. I had glued a black feather to his head that looked like a pompadour, at least to me (and was SUPER enticing to said murderous cat). He was a rock legend; all the other eggs loved him.

And then…it happened.

The cat struck again in the dead of the afternoon, batting Eggis around violently a few times and then leaving. Eggis was broken and scarred, but THERE WAS HOPE. I did what only seemed like a good idea at the time and pasted white-out over his wounds to keep him alive. I put him in a tiny music box (egg-sized) and hooked him up to a drawing of a heart monitor with a piece of yarn. 

My cat struck again…while Eggis was recovering in the hospital. It was very tragic, and we knew that it was his time. My mom erased the line I had drawn on his heart monitor and replaced it with a flat line. “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”

The next day, we had a lovely service for him and buried him betwixt two pines in the front yard, with a cross over his grave. Those damn crows dug him up only a few hours after and carried him away.

 

I mean really, you can’t make this kind of thing up. xD There were a few others that followed, including sports/eggball legend Baby Jumbo, who was…uh…allergic to the ‘flu immunization’ my best friend and I gave him with a sewing needle, and he exploded. Pepito got ran over by a Legos bus after he fell out of it (possibly drunk) on his way home from college. His wife, who had died in the aforementioned hot tub incident, was tragically misaligned with a freak knee accident (my best friend got out of the hot tub, I held her out and asked ‘Can you hold this a minute?’ and she accidentally flung the egg into the air with her knee). I wrote all of this history down in a tiny, one-inch tall book, in size 2 font, for the ‘other eggs to read.’ 

Eventually, my best friend and I got over this and moved on to our next weird thing (hamster parties), but uh…yeah.

So…I’ve been avoiding my blog.

As I was procrastinating today on the Internet after a particularly long tattoo session on my boyfriend’s sister before she goes to be stationed in Japan for two years, I once again found myself drawn to the ever-amazing Hyperbole and a Half. It fills me with joy. xD I was there looking for a particular picture to help my friend visualize me crawling on the floor towards my laundry in a bout of laziness (which I found), and then I began reading one of my favorite posts, entitled ‘This is Why I’ll Never Be an Adult’.

When I first read it a couple years ago, I found the concept hilarious, and I loved her illustrations! Going back to it now, as an adult, with my own place, pets, and responsibilities…it all became clear.

I get it. AND I AM THAT. Her post was accurate down to the nachos, which I found myself eating for breakfast alongside a piece of pumpkin pie, because, as I mentioned above, I was feeling so lazy that I couldn’t even put clothes away, let alone cook myself food. Plus, I didn’t want to mess up the kitchen counters that I had cleaned about 5 days ago…also I didn’t want to add another saucepan or skillet to the growing pile of non-dishwasher-safe dishes in the sink that I choose to not remember when I think about the nice clean counters.

 

Now to the point of this post. I read about a part that struck a particular chord with me:  the guilt that comes with shirking one’s responsibilities for so long that it feels worse to do them because you’ve waited so long than it does to continue shirking.

This is how I’ve felt about my blog! When I started it, I was all excited and felt responsible, knowledgeable, and hip! I was adding content daily, trying to adhere to the specific topic of art and imagination. Yeah well, HAVING IMAGINATION ALL THE TIME IS HARD. I bitch about it constantly at work, because I have to draw for other people day in and day out, and I rarely have time to be creative for myself. So who am I to preach to you guys about creativity?

I suppose at first, I had hoped it would inspire me to be more creative, posting things that inspired me, and that in doing so, I might inspire others so that they didn’t feel the same funk as I did when it came to having an imagination. Instead, I felt guilty when I had nothing to post. I felt guilty for not feeling in a creative mood. That’s stupid. I would get an urge to post…but then it would be off-topic, and I wanted my blog to have a purpose! A narrow, specific purpose that I could focus on. Yeah well, BEING FOCUSED IS STUPID. xD

…it’s not, it’s a good thing, but it’s really tough for me. You get what I mean.

Last time I kept a blog, I had a Livejournal. I posted on it every day because I was just speaking my thoughts, or I’d do one of those quiz things where it tells you what flavor of tea you’d be, or what element, or which bodily organ. I wasn’t restricted, and it felt great.

SO, I was thinking about taking this blog into a more natural direction, because I do want to keep doing it…and maybe THAT will keep my creativity up, and I won’t feel so pressed for time to write something prolific and meaningful any time I post. Maybe I’m not ready for a super adult, focused blog yet.

What do you guys think? What kind of blog do you have, and how do you maintain yours? Is it stressful or relaxing, time-consuming?

September 27: Random Acts of Kindness

Well, I kind of disappeared for a bit while I tried to find some creative motivation. xD You know how it goes, especially if you work in a creative profession like I do…creating “brilliant works of art” on the fly, while simultaneously pretending to be a mindreader so you can get your finished product to be exactly what someone ELSE wants, can be very taxing on the creative juices.

Anywho, today I wanted to write about random acts of kindness. Two posts ago, I wrote about how I’ve lost a lot of faith in humanity…but every now and then, a few people restore my belief that people can in fact be kind, moral creatures. The phrase “random acts of kindness” is very significant for me, however, in more than just the simple way which I’ve just described.

Yesterday marks the seventh anniversary of the shooting at my high school, Platte Canyon High School, where seven girls were taken hostage in their English classroom by a random gunman, and one of those girls, Emily Keyes, was killed. Her parents, Ellen and John-Michael, are wonderfully strong and inspiring people: instead of allowing the horrible event surrounding the death of their child to cause them to live in fear or despair, they retaliated with kindness and love. Not long after, they created the “I Love U Guys Foundation”. The name was inspired by a text that they received from their daughter earlier that day, and was the last thing she had said to them. Their goal was to combat the random acts of violence that occur every single day by creating random acts of kindness.

The day and its subsequent message were very profound for me, in more ways than I will say here…but it changed my life. I had just turned 17 when it happened and was a senior in high school. I was like most teenagers: entitled, annoying, and whiny. My life had the WORST problems, and no one else understood. You know. September 27, 2006 was the first day since my grandpa had died when I was 11 that I saw my mom cry, and the first time EVER that I had seen my dad afraid. Ever. My boyfriend at the time was bawling with relief that I was okay, my friends were so thankful and supportive…and I realized that I had a lot of people who really cared about me. And I was thankful. I was guilty. I felt horrible that I had not shown these people in my life that I cared about them as well. I mean, it’s REALLY tough for me to say “I love you,” especially to my parents…I’m not sure why. I’ve just never been that kind of person. But what if it were me that day? I wanted to make sure that my support group knew I loved them too.

That day, my perspective changed from “Ugh, I hate my life” to “It could always be worse, and I should be happy that I have so much, a lot more than many other people have.” I wanted to commit random acts of kindness too, and even just thinking about it made me a better person!

The event was traumatizing, scary, sad, and never should have happened. But it did, and I was blessed to have people around me that could take this tragedy and turn it into something beautiful that united the entire community. I’m thankful that Emily’s spirit can live on through the strength of those that knew her, and in turn, through the rest of us as the strength and love spreads.

So next time you want to make a snide comment about someone’s weight, what they’re wearing, their attitude, or their lifestyle…remember instead to create kindness, not violence or isolation. Even if it’s just for one day, give it a try! You might make a person’s day, or save a life. Your words could be the thing to pull someone off the path to suicide, or you could inspire someone to take that leap in their life that they weren’t sure about. Bring back some of my faith in humanity!

I Love U Guys Foundation: www.iloveuguys.org