the last embassy
enjelani's journal archives

[ cast of characters ]

[ go to the archives ] [ return to the present ]

[ previous: "shaky foundations" ] [ return to the present ] [ next: "getting ahead of myself" ]

13 September 2003 (Saturday): bootstraps

Being poor sucks.

Up until now, I've been in what's best described as pseudo-poverty: small apartment, cheap eats, no new toys, but with a large sum in the bank and the peace of mind that comes with it. The spartan lifestyle was largely self-imposed. But entrepreneurism requires investment, and I have been pouring my funds into a project that won't see revenues for several months at least. And now I am barely scraping by. Each new bill arrives with a lump in the throat -- where is the money to pay for this? After a few phone calls and bank visits it's always there, but I do my arithmetic three, four, five times over to make sure. Every time: it's gonna be tight. I'm realizing now just how much mental energy being poor requires. It takes a lot of focus to enjoy anything; my mind always wants to snap back to the calculator.

But of course this is still, ultimately, a simulation. It's still pseudo-poverty. I have an engineering degree, so I could go back to a salaried job if I fished around long enough. Even barring that, there are my parents in their suburban home, the spare bedroom, the free meals in exchange for a share of the household chores. "You can always turn to us, E," my father said on my last visit home. "Don't be too proud to ask." He knows me well. I am too proud to ask.

Someday I'll have a home with a spare bedroom, and grown children to whom I'll say the same thing: whenever things get rough, you can always come back here. But I want to have gained that kind of security myself. I want to have earned every dollar of it. And probably, deep down, I'll want my children to refuse my help, too.

posted by enjelani @ 05:32 PM PST

Replies: 10 comments

I'll have to laugh if you start accepting paypal donations on this site just to scrape by ;)

But if you do fall flat on your ass, you have a LARGE network of people to fall back on. Basically, you just need to pick a spot in the world and i'm sure you'll have friends willing to help you out there :)

"Sometimes the risks can be great to follow ones dreams. But often the risks are greater to ignore them."

Miss ya :)

posted by syndromes @ 13 09 2003 11:52 PM PST

Not to mention friends with a spare bed and the desire to have you around. Don't be too proud to ask. :P

posted by Moonpuddle @ 14 09 2003 09:02 AM PST

Sit tight - we'll all be here for ya. Even if some of us don't seem have much to spare, here's one of those curious and confusing little things that warms and tickles the heart: the poor seem, generally speaking, more eager and willing to share what they have than do the rich.

*waiting to share*

posted by m. mellow @ 14 09 2003 10:11 AM PST

and not to mention the sister who's driving herself crazy because you haven't been in that spare bed and you haven't been around to bother...
don't worry, that project will pay off!
m. mellow, i think you're right. the poor can relate well to almost any situation. but it's not just the poor, keep an open heart to those who are struggling just like you. (and you are struggling, no matter what you try to think)
a hug for everybody!

posted by Liz @ 14 09 2003 12:53 PM PST

What strange creatures human beings are. We don't just want to survive. We don't just want physical comfort. No, that's not enough: We also want to have created it all by ourselves, to owe nothing to nobody.

Maybe every man is an island after all. Otherwise, why would help be so awkward to offer and to accept?

posted by beefeater @ 15 09 2003 12:21 AM PST

it doesn't seem to be difficult to offer around here. :) and seeing as i've already taken Moonie up on her offer a couple times along the way, i can hardly claim to have done it all alone.

it's a matter of degree, maybe. staying with a friend on a road trip is just fun; moving back in with the parents, though, is failure. i'll have to think about this.

posted by enjelani @ 15 09 2003 08:39 AM PST

Moving back in with the parents simply means letting go of unnecessary adult pride. But frankly, I would rather release said pride and attain pure humility of spirit in my own place. :-)

I've been at this (entrepreneurial income avoidance) for over two years now and it does make you keenly aware of CASH. Your point about poor people requiring mental energy to make it through the day is right on the money. I doubt that anyone reading your site actually worries about having to live in a cardboard box any time soon, so we're not even getting the full effect. We suffer from the desire to do things the way we want to do them; the truly poor don't even have those options.

posted by bill @ 15 09 2003 10:11 AM PST

I don't know about it being failure...we generally think that way in this country, but we might be the exception. Some families I know value being close to each other and love to live under the same roof well into adulthood. It can be a beautiful thing.
I think it makes great sense since you must rarely be in town anyway...

posted by Melissa @ 15 09 2003 02:08 PM PST

i got faith you! you'll do fine..

posted by tae @ 16 09 2003 10:40 AM PST

Staying with a friend while on the road doesn't count. You do it not out of need but by choice. The relationship does not become unequal.

That last bit is key, I think. We're bid now and again to conceive of ourselves as "part of the world", but we don't. At least, I don't. I think of myself as separate from the world, and I want to deal with the world as an equal on an equal basis. "Adult pride" is a good term for it, and I wouldn't call it "unnecessary". Unnecessary for mere survival, perhaps. But we aim higher than that.

Only, it's so sad that you must waste mental energy on being poor... Your energy could be so much better spent.

posted by beefeater @ 16 09 2003 12:26 PM PST