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Growing up in poverty has made it difficult

Growing up in poverty has made it difficult for me to relate to other college students my age. I’m blessed to have the life I do now; I only look back hoping to feel less alone.
My dad’s house had no light. He’d yell at us if we touched the heavy curtains, and never replace the light bulbs, so that in the middle of the day we’d enter a cave-like shambled house. When I remember my days there it’s always the darkness that comes first.
My father was a very complicated man who’d suffered many losses during his life. By the time I was born he’d lost both his parents, his job, and a wife who’d been having an affair. In short he’d given up. In entering the house my brother and I would find dirt and clutter spread out over the floors, flies buzzing everywhere, and flies lying dead in left out glasses of wine. He proved unable to take care of a very old dog, leaving her outside in the cold until she disappeared. Much less could he take care of his children. (Though I must say the loss of the dog improved my life- I was afraid of dogs at the time, and we, we had fleas from the dog. All the time, hopping in our socks. On our arm.)
Our internet was in a shack out back. At any given time there were about twenty spiders visible on its walls, and a nest of black widows nested beside the door. And I, mortally afraid of spiders, would brave these blood-bloated creatures every time I needed a computer for homework.
Worst of all was the fridge; upon opening it the smell of spoiled food would waft out, and you’d sift, through all the bugs and moldy bread, and the spoiled meat, looking for something to eat. The cereal on top was the first to succumb to the moths and were filled with their larvae. There was always some type of infestation. At that time I averaged one meal a day.
Let me just say this–I learned later that hunger comes from eating regularly. If, conversely, your habit is to eat a little or not at all for days and weeks, you can stop feeling hunger at all. When I first went to college I had trouble reminding myself to eat. I once went five days without eating and found that I was too weak to get down my bunk ladder, after which I sought help and learned that hunger comes from being in the habit of eating.
And there was my dad of course. A great, red-faced, man shouting about the honor we should be showing our father at all times. I remember him pulling over the car one day and screaming at me when I mentioned that cell phones were illegal while driving (the law having just been passed). He knew that if he kept us he’d have to give less money to our mother. And so came scenes of my father shouting that he wanted us there at 5:30, and us opening the door, and him not looking up at us from his dark corner where he watched TV. Never even giving us a glance. It’s easy to forget that it’s to my parents that I searched for love, comfort, and security. Like all the movies. And while logically knowing that the reality might not be your fault, emotionally feeling that it must be.
Then my mom would come. Sometimes while he was away she’d open the curtains, replace the light bulbs, and even buy me fresh milk! I cannot say with what genuine joy I drank that milk. It was better than Christmas- And he’d come back, and yell and close the curtains, but I’d still have the milk.
My life improved much when my brother could drive and we moved to my mom’s house. She was no saint- when I tried to tell her that a guy at school was harassing me sexually she shouted at me. She stopped paying for heating and some days I’d spend all day cold and go to sleep shivering. Other times we’d fight and she’d disappear for a couple days, or leave me out on the streets. But for the most part my life improved and by this point, in high school, I’d made some pretty incredible lifelong friends who’d take me in. Feed me. Love me, which is perhaps what I was most hungry for. And always, whether in my mom’s house or my friends’, there was light.
So now I’m in college and I’m very different from post people. I don’t understand why people care about Twitter, and Facebook friends, celebrities, clothes, and so many parties! They toss off $60 on boots and call it cheap–enough for two weeks of groceries, and expect vacations and concerts. So I try not to talk my past situation because I’m not sure they’d understand this inexpressible fear that I have that someday I might be forced again to live without all the things I’ve come to cherish. And I try to keep money from my thoughts by I think so much about how I always want to live in a place with heating, light, 3 meals a day, curtains drawn back and fresh milk! Glory, glory, fresh milk. Even the occasional shopping trip for clothes.
I’m not always brave enough to spend money even when I have it. It’s difficult to tell myself that groceries should cover three meals a day, and that sometimes they can even have strawberries. But I hope to be. Anyway if anyone out there has read this (I’m sorry it’s so long! And that although I’ve had so many wonderfully uplifting experiences, they have not been included, because of my desire to address money!) I’d love to hear about any way you might be able to relate to this. Or offer advice, criticism, methods to move forward. Thanks for reading my story.

One Comment

  1. All I can say is you are an amazing soul. Your story is inspiring

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