When you stick out like a sore thumb, everyone becomes a hammer... I know that is a horrible mixed metaphor, but that is how I feel.
As my story got out there, I received more than PayPal Donations and kind words of encouragement. I've been getting lots of annoyed responses followed by advice that usually starts out like this:
'Why don't you just...'
Some of them tell me their own experiences where everything worked out fine in the end, and I get the sense from their stories that there is a little revisionist history going on.
I get a lot of what I call, 'Bootstrappers'. These are people who start at self sufficiency and work backwards from there. If you try, you will get a job... If you just make the effort, you will get hired... You just need to get off your ass and pound the pavement... Just take any job that comes along! Go flip burgers!
A lot of the hasty responses followed a tough love approach, as if the only reason I am not currently working is because I don't want to and this guy is going to get real with me and they're the one that's going to step up and tell me the hard truths that these other pussies are too afraid to tell me.
First off, no job is easy to get right now, even though the labor market is slowly improving, it's still multiple applicants per job. Another thing that people don't consider is that it is possible for a job to pay too little to except. Sure, $7 or $8 an hour is $7 or $8 an hour more than what I currently make, but if the hours max out at 28, then I'll barely have enough to make rent, let alone food and utilities and fuel. If the schedule changes every week then I can't hope to get a 2nd job to add up to enough money for just my basic bills. Sure, $170 a week after taxes is $170 more than I make now, but it's still less than what I need to live on. The utilities still get shutoff, even if I have a little money. I would still get evicted, eventually, even if I had only some of the money.
I'm not exactly living high on the hog, either... except this week where I literally slow cooked a pork shoulder to eat on all week... a weeks worth of food that would not have been possible had it not been for my friends getting me Kroger Gift Cards for Christmas. Thanks, guys.
I have internet, which despite what some bootstrappers say, I really do need for applying to and following up on jobs. Obviously, I have electricity, and my heat/water is paid with the rent.
The only thing extra that I have is an $8 per month Netflix subscription and wow, have I got some fierce blowback for that. Most negative comments go right at the Netflix first.
That's how it is when you're poor though. Bootstrappers have to believe that you are only poor because of your own personal failings, otherwise, their worldview kind of falls apart. If you buy anything other than flour, eggs, milk, and maybe a chuck roast and potatoes at the store, you are living it up in the bootstrapper's eyes.
Your life is not permitted joy if you are poor. Poverty, according to the bootstrappers, is a punishment. Poverty is for the losers of capitalism and social darwinism. Not being homeless and a bowl of gruel is all the poor deserve in the eyes of the bootstrapper.
So people pile on and it wears heavily on me. My back strains from the weight of a world that owes me nothing and sees no reason to help someone who obviously can't help themself.
But I'm lower than my own self dug shovelfuls should account for. The world fines poverty with exponentially worse poverty. I pay what I can on utilities and I don't just fall behind on what I owe, I have fees added. I don't compete with people who were just out of work, they get the interview first. My poverty isn't merely the sum of my misfortunes, there's an added multiplier that makes things exponentially worse.
My misfortunes gain steam and attract other misfortunes. Car trouble get's patched by friend-of-the-family mechanics who do just enough to keep it running while my family tries to pay the bill. Family members try to help out, which puts a strain on them. If they have the misfortune of being short on their own meager funds, then they can't help. Some friends get tired of your complaining and unload on you for a simple facebook status that didn't warrant the response you got.
It just all piles on.
The month is almost half over. No February rent. No car insurance that is due in a week. Getting pretty low on food. What am I going to do, have another Twitter-Thon to raise PayPal donations? How many times can I reasonably expect others to help? I'm in a pretty low place right now and I really don't know if I can climb out.