Over the past few months, there has been an explosion of conversations about inclusion-exclusion over such topics as diversity, color, gender, sexuality, size, etc. I have chosen to sit back and listen to all that was being said before sharing my two cents, so here it is I am a 62-year-old black woman working at in a job I am over qualified and grossly underpaid for, and a completely undervalued maker of all things. So to say I check all the boxes in this conversation is putting it mildly. I titled this post "Life Unexpected" because by most standards I am just that poor I have never been anything but poor, I am part of the society that is living paycheck to paycheck. When I first moved to Virginia I sustained my family of 4 which included my elderly mother myself and my two boys who were 11 and 1 on $900 a month. I took the job because it had the benefits of health care for my children. I also continued to make things, going from craft show, after craft show, hoping to make ends meet ,or at least be close enough to wave, all with children in tow, driving from town to town in an old station wagon I managed to buy for $500 in change I had brought with me by way of an old glass water cooler jug. Bootstrapping at it's finest wouldn't you say, isn't that how the saying goes "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" only what is not said that the rules are different when you are a black woman, a single parent with two children, there is a societal boot that is always on your neck, making it very difficult to pull yourself up.
When I first moved here I was told over and over that my education " ain't gonna help me here"! Except, it kinda did, only not in a conventional sense, I used what I knew to open a little shop in town where I could care for my youngest son while working at the shop. Then when my oldest came from school he took care of the shop while I went home cooked dinner. then I went back to the shop to close up. Our evenings consisted of dinner and care for everyone, then once they were all in bed I would make things for the shop. Life, like this, continued for two years until I was rewarded with the above-mentioned job. Now I know what you are thinking I could have done something else gotten a different job etc... but I had wanted to be more involved in my children's lives. I am pretty sure my oldest is scarred for life after going from wearing and shopping at Neiman Marcus, to shopping at outlets. Yes, I know how ridiculous was I to be shopping for a child one of the worlds most expensive stores, but BV (before Virginia) I could and I did. Sorry, back to the topic even back then I was not what most would call even Middle Class, I was just a higher class of poor, but man what I would do with that income now it sure shit wouldn't be shopping. I was able to get this job making $900 per month with a bachelor's degree, so in order to feed my family, I would make things at night to sell. My days would look something like this I would go to my day job, come home cook, check in on my mom who was looking after the youngest, check in with my oldest about school and such, then when everyone was asleep I would stay up making breakfast stuff for the next day like breakfast biscuits that everyone could heat and just grab and go. Prepping meals in the crockpot for quick dinners. That was my life for 10 years then it was brought to a grinding halt with the loss of my day job. By then the children no longer babies, oldest is out on his own and the youngest is in high school. I have never been one to panic, so I looked for a job closer to home, but I couldn't find one so I travel to where the oldest is, which happens to be three a three-hour drive and I find a great job while staying with him during the week. I was working 4-10-hour days so that I could drive 3 hours home on the weekends to take care of my aging mother and teenage son, all of which was done for a whole year leading up to my mother's passing. I stay home to take care of my son who is a junior in high school. I get a low paying job, quit, cause I can barely put food on the table, I was really skinny though, starvation can do that for you! I persevered I get a really terrible job, but the pay is better, but I leave after a year. I find a better job stay for about 5 years then a change in administration makes it impossible for me to stay, prejudice rearing its ugly head. I decide moving out of town is the answer only to return a few months later, some lessons are hard learned, Luckily I was able to the come back to the house I now owned and go back to school to get my Master's all the while my youngest is attending college too. I have no idea what I was thinking except I had always wanted to do it, so I did.
Each move I reinvent myself I would leave behind something I thought I needed only to discover It was a want, not a need, each time becoming a simpler version of myself. When I decided to move I got rid of everything, put the house up for sale and drove away from that life only to then boomerang back a few months later, with 3 pieces of furniture, one of which was my bed. So as some of you look at my Instagram stories and comment on its loveliness keep in mind that everything came to me as a foundling that I reused and remade, and that it took two years before I was able to remake the first piece of furniture. I have come to think of my life not in terms of dollars and cents, but in the quality of my life. I love that every piece in my home has been made, or remade, given or stitched by those I call a friend.
The children are out living lives with families of their own and have become very fine men. As I listen to all the stories shared on Instagram I begin to wonder, with all that I have am I poor, yes, by some standards, but I have a roof over my head and food to eat, versus really poor with neither of those fundamental tenets. So much is being said about zero waste life, I think I have that covered.
So I guess the takeaway here is, don't compare your life to those around you, because that is a sure way to feel dissatisfied in your own life. My life has not been "easy" but then I wouldn't be who I am now if it had. embrace who you are not who others think you should be.