On being poor

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I thought about postponing this post but it's been on my mind a lot today, so I'll go ahead and post it.

There have been 2 times in my life when I have been dirt nasty poor. One I remember, and the other I don't remember but oddly enough still live with some of my habits created during that time.

The first time I was poor was when my family first moved after my parents divorced. My mom, sister and I moved back to where her family was the day after my 4th birthday. My mom was a high school teacher and didn't have a job lined up for after the move. We lived with my grandparents and uncle during the following summer, and we moved into our own house after the school year started and my mom started working again. The neighborhood was adjacent to the good part of town, and could have seen a revival, but didn't. This is the time that I do not remember being poor. C'mon, I was only four.

When I was in college, I brought a couple of friends home with me during a break. We went out to the clubs and had a pretty good time. When we got back to the house, I offered to make everyone some cheese sandwiches. They had no clue what that was. I said, it was two pieces of bread and a slice of cheese. My mom hard us come back, so she came down to the kitchen and saw I was making cheese sandwiches. She was amazed, and told me that was what my sister and I ate when money was extremely tight. She wanted to save money, so she didn't have one. I had no clue that I had gotten my taste for cheese sandwiches during this time, but I still eat them to this day.

The other time that I was dirt nasty poor was when I was in grad school. I had decided to go to grad school without initially being accepted into any research group, so I had no sponsership, no stipend, and no job. I had a very little amount of savings, that I used to buy a bike to get further than my fat butt would walk, and to get into an apartment that was just above Section 8 housing. In fact, the building was owned by people who also owned Section 8 housing, and their government assisted housing was even on the same block. It was the cheapest apartment in town, and it showed.

I eventually got a job waiting tables, but that barely met my bills. There was a week before payeday I ate peanut butter and jelly off of a spoon because I could not afford to buy bread, and I happened to still have some PB&J left over from a previous grocery shopping trip. But it was all I had left, and payday was 2 days away. This was not fun.

I suppose there are 2 ways that these life experiences can shape a person. They could either get extremely OCD about saving money, and still never spend it in the fear that they would be in that situation again, or they could buy things and become the ultimate consumer to show off that they are not in that situation. The latter is what I became. I am still amazed that these experiences would not scare the living bejeezus out of me to where I would always have the money to cover any expenses. Instead, it was the start of my depth into ruining my credit history.