Poor. It isn’t a status or a fun fact that you include in your social media bio for all to celebrate. It is the aching feeling deep in your soul that says your day to day existence, the existence of the children you never would have brought into this world had it not been for a different life, different circumstances, a different bank account, is a struggle. It is familiarity with pawn shops, pay day loans, cheap fast food bargains, and even cheaper grocery stores because you can’t indulge in fancy places like Whole Foods. Whole Foods. It’s a laughable concept. The country adds an affordable care act that just reminds you that yes you are poor because you can’t even afford to qualify to pay for a health care plan that the government calls affordable. They’re sure that if they insure you it changes anything- that your lack of paid sick time won’t be discouragement enough from taking time off from that job that you live in fear of losing. That free health care solves the problem of struggling to put dinner on the table. You don’t work hard every day- you work harder than anyone else because to lose this job would mean to lose your only life line to an existence that currently includes electricity and clean running water.
Starving. It isn’t just the ache in your belly from how hungry you are after that long 12 hour shift slaving away at the job you hate. It is the deeper desire to do something better for your family. It is the dreams the social media communities tell you to dream bigger. Dream so big that you can imagine yourself out of these circumstances, this set of what, where, when, how that has you waking up each morning lacking optimism, lacking opportunity, lacking any ability to make those big dreams happen. You over hear the ambitious entrepreneur in the lobby talk about VC and you’re not sure, but maybe it’s a disease of rich kids from fancy schools who don’t know what it feels like to be truly starving. Starvation isn’t just what happens to your body. It is what happens to your entire soul when you are deprived of inspiration. When you are deprived of intellectual interaction.
Alone. You see poverty isn’t fun. You try to hide it, but eventually everyone knows. They can tell because you can’t join them at the bar for a beer or the coffee shop for a fancy gourmet thing with foam. Family stops taking your calls because they are sick of hearing about your reality and they aren’t offering up solutions. You don’t call them for solutions. You call for support or a kind word, but they aren’t offering up that either. You’re on your own out here and it’s every working poor man or woman for themselves. For fun you surf the internet. It’s internet you’re stealing from your neighbor and you keep seeing the suggestion that you dream big again and again.
Dream big. Are you supposed to dream big enough to dream away the empty kitchen cabinet or the electric bill that you’re behind on? Can you dream big enough to dream of circumstances that don’t have you working 100 hour weeks just to buy some bananas? Dreams seem so indulgent, so luxurious, so completely decadent when you are struggling with the day to day. Dreams are the things of second and third generations- the stuff of hit rap songs and best selling books about single motherhood. For today I am left falling asleep dreaming of winning the lottery. That must be what it feels like to wake up one day and have those big dreams come true.