A twenty something vegan blogger posted a video called Food Stamps to Six Figures in One Year. If YouTube had been a thing when I was 15 I would’ve grabbed a notebook and watched it with high hopes. As a grown woman who found her way out organically I pressed play with objective curiosity and jumped to the comments; a stream of yeah but nu-ugh. Two minutes in she talks about selling all her possessions and moving to Hawaii. She had valuable things to begin with. First clue. Four minutes in she’s talking about wisdom collected from her chiropractor in high school. Second clue. Pumpkin, you’re privileged. Real poverty doesn’t come with spinal alignments, the choice to abandon reality and live on a fruit farm in a tropical paradise, unless you were born there, in which case I’m left to wonder why picking fruit doesn’t lead to YouTube success for the average laborer. Softbox kits are only $167 and an Apple, they basically grow on trees.
Privileged culture love writing books and making inspirational videos about how to sprout wings and take flight into self-actualization #bebrave; we will and thanks for the encouragement but well intended advice from up there perpetually fails to recognize the landlord is a dealer, rent is due yesterday, the car has a hole in the passenger floor, it’s the dead of winter and we can’t afford to fill the oil tank again.
According to fancy research I’m in the 3% club, meaning I’m one of 3% of ‘wicked poor people’ (they call it deep poverty) to finish graduate school. I’m smart but I’ll be in debt till I’m 90. So I emailed Pew Research to confirm the data and find similar studies. I’ve wanted proof or a how-to guide since grade school. How far can someone like us really go? I say that mostly to advertise. I’m looking for my tribe. Raise your hand if that’s you. Stand on a chair if that’s you and you’re still good vibes only despite a decade of sexual abuse, witnessing a fatality, having a bi-polar, alcoholic parent, a workaholic parent, a step-parent and got kicked out. I was only homeless for three weeks, maybe a month but hitch-hiking to no where in nothing but a sundress had an impact. Now I say it ‘gave me character’.
Without further ado, here are my real-world tips for breaking out of poverty:
- Forgive all the people; even that one rich guy with the yacht who tried to buy your for his son. True story. Love wins so decide to do all things with love from go from there.
- Look up. Ask yourself about the spirit in the sky. Decide on an answer or at least investigate the questions. It’s a rough road without friends in high places.
- Use the energy in your twenties to work at least four jobs and go to school full time. Keep going to school even though you’re exhausted, don’t feel like you fit in and want to quit every day. You’ve got massive catching up to do and a social life is overrated.
- Try not to marry a jerk who accidentally burns down the apartment. But if you do, it’s ok. Just leave everything, get out quick and fix your picker. There a friendlier fish in the sea and despite what you might think, you’re unconditionally lovable.
- Don’t have babies…yet anyway. Each one costs between $200,000.00 and $500,000.00. Let’s think about that. Do we have the time, money or energy to grow another human? Nope. Still figuring out how dress myself. Lugging kids up the ladder sounded awful; a recipe for repeating disaster. Lots of people do have babies and things work out beautifully so don’t despair my opinion. For me, babysitting was great birth control.
- Don’t expect anyone to do anything for you but do express sincere thanks when the Scarecrow, Tinman, Lion and Fairy Godmother show up. Friendship bracelets never go out of style.
- Go to therapy. Read all the books. Question the world. Do codependent recovery. Write in journals. Deal with the feelings. There’s a great life waiting on the other side of self help.
- Overcome all the bad habits you developed which helped you not rip out your hair or gnaw off your arm while you were surviving childhood. For instance I traded in full time starvation for part time starvation. Healthy compromise is what enlightened bloggers call mindful self-compassion.
- Learn to meditate. You don’t have to buy incense and robes or anything, just become the Zen master of your own mind. Only let the good thought-tenants stay. Kick out the low life. Filter everything through an invisible, mental fence. Zap all the drama before it enters your force field.
- Laugh. Out loud and often. It’s only life.
- Stay in one place and save all your work money for five years to buy a bed, a car and a couch. Don’t shop, eat or go on vacation. Ok, I did eat cool whip and corn meal but looking back maybe that was a bad choice.
- See a doctor. I know they cost money but we can’t work if we’re dead. Ask the doctor how much it will cost to fix all the broken parts on a super tight budget. Cry in your car (Yay! We have a car!) when he tells you. Since the alternative is dying, set up a payment plan and try to not feel sad about having to wear fast fashion for at least 5 more years. Not to mention I.V’s suck. Ugh.
- Research, prepare and apply for the one big job that will equal four jobs. Interview at eight places. Decline all the offers until you get the salary you calculated will be enough to not just pay bills but also to do cartwheels on Lovers Beach in Cabo.
About 17 years after getting kicked out you have a bed, car, couch, nice clothes, more than one pair of shoes, food, the good body lotion and you take vacations. High five. Next: write a book about how you did it.
What the world can do to make it easier for people to get out of poverty:
Don’t wait for the giants to play nice. There’s hope. You’re it.
p.s This article about the new aristocracy by Matthew Stewart, not to be confused with Martha, is fascinating.