Those Who Aren't So Lucky

Something I think it’s always important to point out:  Compared to many, I have been and continue to be damn lucky.

I was fortunate enough to garner some media attention that has brought me opportunities.  True, I’m not in a house/apartment of my own just yet, but I’ve taken tremendous strides forward from the Walmart parking lot, and new possibilities continue to pop up here and there.  I am light years ahead of where I was, and the vast majority of it is due to sheer, dumb luck.

Not everyone is so lucky.  Most don’t get this kind of media attention, they go unnoticed.  And many are in very dire circumstances, much worse than my own.

It’s a double-edged sword, this good fortune I’ve had.  On the one hand, I’m very woohoo, perhaps my ship is finally coming in! On the other hand, I’m just one person.  It makes it all the more depressing to read about or even receive emails from hundreds more homeless people, many in far more horrible situations than mine ever has been, who need help.  I want to save all of them, and since I clearly can’t, perhaps the best I feel I can do is continue to try to make others aware of their plight, add their voices to my own.

EDD Hatred Level Escalates; Awesome Book; Religious Past

Today was a day that was mainly frustrating and exhausting, for personal reasons.

In addition, yesterday I gasped with joy as I opened my P.O. box.  A beaming, glowing ray of light fell upon the envelope from California EDD.  The angelic chorus sounded.  For a brief moment, the world was so very lovely.  Finally, finally after hours of fruitless phone calls trying to get through, several e-mails begging for a response, with only maddeningly robotic (and clearly deceptive) “we will get back to you within 48 hours” automatons to appease me…  FINALLY!!!!!!!  My claim forms for my extended benefits had arrived (in case you haven’t yet read my previous post on this subject, I am now owed several months’ worth of retroactive extended unemployment benefits, prior to my getting a job.  Sat down recently and tallied up the amount owed from the day that I filed.  Turns out I’m owed in the vicinity of a little over $5K at this point, which would take me 1/4 of the way towards accummulating the $20K I recently found out I need to pull out of my bum to get this house so that I can then start the whole fun part of seeing what’s involved to use it for transitional housing purposes to take in other homeless women/children (that’s a story for another post, but soon, I promise).

Ripped open the envelope to find… a (second) “approval” notice letting me know that yes, I am eligible for extended unemployment benefits (well, duh, same exact notice I already received waaaaaaaay back when this crap saga started)…

There were no claims forms included.

None.

Zilch.

Aaaaaaaaaand………… yeah.

Seriously.  I know they’re backed up because CA is now like the poster child mascot of insanely skyrocketing unemployment rate states (OK, besides Michigan), but what the eff?!?!?!?!?!

WHERE are my UI benefits?  With those I could at least start the process, combine those with the money I have on me now and I’d be $6K down, only $14K to go.

* * * * *

In other news, stumbled upon this book called I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed, by Kyria Abrahams.  She was raised in the same religion/cult/whateveryouwannacallit as I was (won’t reference it here, you’re welcome to look it up if you like, but if you’re a reader and a devoted member of this religion, I’d really appreciate you skipping the part where you leave me comments telling me how wrong I am about the organization, wrong for leaving, assuming you know everything about me, assuming you know everything about your own religion/cult/whatever, assuming you know everything period, etc.)

I read the first couple of pages and identified so strongly with it (plus it’s hysterically funny – the chick has mad sarcasm skills, which is kind of my M.O. too, so I liked her right off the bat) that I had to stay up all night reading it.

It really brought back waves of memories for me – I left the organization at 18 when I moved out of my parents’ house, although while staying with them they insisted on dragging me back, which I put up with to the best of my ability… zoning out, which I’ve perfected the art of.

Kyria really got the language and syntax and feel of what it’s like growing up as a member spot on.  Many of our experiences were alike – particularly the one where she swallowed a bottle full of pills in a failed suicide attempt and her parents ignored it, didn’t drive her to the hospital, nothing.  Left her to either get over it or else face the consequences of her actions and die.  That struck me so because I had such an eerily similar experience – at 14, in a fit of hopelessness, I impulsively swallowed a jumbo bottle of Tylenol (yeah, go ahead and laugh – but ODing on Tylenol causes liver failure, it turns out!)  My family’s tenant found me in the bathroom and called my mother, who blithely told him “have her stick her finger down her throat”, hung up and drove to Palm Springs with my sister for the week, leaving me to be sick and/or die while said tenant, also a member of this religion, shrugged his shoulders and went back to bed (turned out I was just in agony all night and the next morning.  Nothing major.  I was lucky.)

Now, clearly I got over the whole idea of death after that… agony like that made me decide it really wasn’t in the cards for me.  Nope, never trying that again *shudder*.  But still, it was scary.  And finding out that there was someone with a childhood so similar to mine – let alone her writing a book that is breaking into mainstream literature! – was kind of an eye-opener for me.

The last part of the book is the darkest.  This is where our life experiences varied more (and Kyria admits she has some medical/mental issues such as OCD, etc. that didn’t help with some of the more naive/destructive choices she made in her desperation).  She married super-young to someone she had nothing in common with, as children with our upbringing are wont to do (no premarital sex, and no secular “dating”.  “Dating” = “Marriage”).  She was, unsurprisingly, miserable, and started cutting, using drugs, and sleeping around to escape her marriage (adultery is the only valid and accepted reason to divorce, in this religion).

OK, slightly different from me – I never dated boys from my congregation.  I didn’t want to.  Was never interested.  There were, as she points out in the book, very few prospects, and I never felt like settling for a pale shadow of the real thing, just so that I could have sex or play house.  I knew even then that I wasn’t wholly and completely invested in my religion.  I think to some degree, I was always looking for the time when I could bolt.  I was attracted to men and dating and life outside of my super-narrow, controlled little world.  I saw hypocrisy and abuse everywhere I turned; not only in my own family, but in others in the congregation.  To have admitted so would certainly have meant trouble for me – even complete shunning from all I knew, including my own family.  So, when I turned 18, I simply disappeared.  I didn’t take any of the complicated channels that the heads of the congregation, or “elders” pretend are mandatory.  I refused to be labeled, refused to be shunned, I simply up and left and nobody ever questioned it.  Nobody ever really wondered where I’d gone or why, or what I was doing.  Nobody cared to investigate, they just made their assumptions and moved on with their lives, zealously preaching to anybody who would listen.  One more fallen angel.  Oh, well.

On the few occasions my family dragged me back this year, I was generally regarded with unease and suspicion, which amused me more than anything else.  You could tell it was in everybody’s mind that I must have turned into some little Satanic whore (paranoia and fear are big there).  Nobody knew anything for sure, and I didn’t volunteer any information on that score, neither confirmation nor denial, even when prodded, but some form of “sexual misconduct” was widely assumed, it was quite obvious.  After spending several years away, I had come more to grips with the knowledge that these people didn’t truly have any claim to me or sway over my life (in stark contrast to the certainty I had held in my childhood, that they could ruin me – or rather, that they could have God ruin me).  Now, to a degree, I enjoyed being the boogeyman, responding cheerfully yet bluntly when I spoke at all and seeing the awkward shifting and furtive glances at my outspokenness, my complete and utter lack of “spiritual” thoughts and goals, at least as far as they define such.  I had always been something of an oddball, even when a child.  I was disarmingly perceptive and never quite took things at face value as much as I “should” have.  I had opinions and ideas of my own, questions even about things in the Bible that made me uncomfortable or curious.  I was mildly bothered by the idea of “proving” a scripture by reading another scripture.  To some degree, I wanted to look at and hear all points of view before coming to my own conclusions.  This was highly frowned upon in the organization – looking at outside points of view was considered falling prey to Satan.  We were only to accept what we were told at face value by the heads of the organization, all mere men who were supposedly being “inspired” by God.  Chastised often for this moral failing, I did what I could to sublimate it, bury it, bend my will and conform.  It was embarrassing to be scrutinized and looked down upon.  It was embarrassing to be different within the organization, and also to be different outside of it – in school, and at work.  But, when it comes down to it, I was never the conforming type.  Now, I can find humor in my role as fallen, sinful, devious skank-ho; even relish it a little.

It wasn’t always like this.  It took a lot of struggling and therapy.  And reading Kyria’s book brought a lot of it back in a flood; despite the barbed humor which had me laughing my arse off, the feelings and pain beneath it were refreshed.  I don’t think anybody who breaks free from that kind of past ever fully gets over it.

Anyway, it was just kind of crazy and surreal seeing that there was someone else like me; someone who fought back (although sometimes in different ways) and got up the courage to leave.  We both had to learn to live in the real world – you’re not prepared for it at all when you come from that background.  You’re taught to fear the world, flee from it, dangers lurk everywhere ready to pounce on you.  In an interview, Kyria made a point that struck me as all too true – you are told by your family, your friends, your fellow congregation members that life isn’t worth living outside the organization.  That if you leave, everything will go horribly for you because you’re defying God, slapping him in the face, and being punished for it.  The irony, of course, is that initially that does often happen, your life does go sort of wonky – but not for those reasons.  It’s not difficult so much because the real world makes it difficult and you are being punished.  It is difficult because, never having lived in the real world, you have no idea to go about it, and have to start from scratch, teaching yourself and painstakingly learning through trial and error.

Six years later, and I’m still nowhere near done learning to adjust.  I don’t think I completely ever will be.  But… it’s a start.

I'm HIRED!!!!!!!!!

Fantastically and completely unexpectedly, I have (as of today) joined the working homeless. My interview today panned out great and they hired me on the spot – I start Wednesday!!!

The company does internet marketing and search engine optimization, with a focus on clients who are mortgage lenders. I interviewed with the CEO and his Lead Developer. I got great vibes on the company, the people, work environment, and the general atmosphere of the place. After interviewing, I expected to at least have to wait a couple of days to find out (I was feeling pretty confident, but these days you never know) – but they asked me if I could start immediately! They said that they don’t usually make a job offer right off the bat like that, but I seemed like the perfect fit for the company and their culture, and they saw no reason to see anyone else before making the decision!

Wow. Just… wow. I’ve never been so flabbergasted (or flattered) in my entire life. 8 MONTHS of searching and dead ends and sending out applications into cyberspace that may as well have been dead air because no one ever even called, and then… boom!

The position is really a catch-all, which is great because I will be able to build up my strength in all aspects of a business. It’s a 31% cut in pay for me from my last position, but who cares – I’m being paid what the market will bear for my skills at this precise moment in time, and it’s a HUGE increase over making nothing! The CEO made sure to mention to me that as the company grows, I will be offered pay raises and bonuses often, as he would really like to get me back up to my usual pay scale. It seems like they really try to take care of their employees there – I met the other workers, and they seemed cheerful and content with work and life in general, so how nice is that? What a change from the last guy who interviewed me last week. My official title is Executive Assistant, but the position will cover everything from Office Management to Human Resources to Payroll to Article Editor… There are 5 employees in the business, as well as a few freelance workers they’ve outsourced (company is growing and expanding, so adding some more) and I will be overseeing them all! How insane is all of this!? I’m terrified and thrilled, what a challenge!

Of course, I have to go to extra lengths to make sure that they never find out that I’m homeless, for however long that may be, but I’m pretty positive I can pull it off. As long as I arrive on time, work hard, and always appear polished and tidy, I don’t foresee any major problems with it. I’ve tried to draw up an estimate of how long it will take me to get myself out of this and into a house. As near as I can tell, I should probably expect about 4-6 months, if all goes well and I budget very tightly, save as much as possible from each and every paycheck, and avoid emergencies and/or complications. I will, of course, still be updating tGGtH daily; new posts will probably arrive in the evenings, though, rather than mornings/afternoons as I have been doing.

Oh, my god. I’m exhausted. Happy, but exhausted. It’s still all sinking in.

Thank you guys for your support, I don’t know that I’d have felt or projected nearly as much confidence if I didn’t feel like I had an invisible band of cyber-homeless-activists cheering me on as a support network. Unbelievable.

Shameless plug: don’t forget to send in your letters to Colbert and Jon Stewart, kids! Homeless Tales links to just about every major (and about a jillion minor) homeless activist/volunteer/shelter out there, in all areas of the world. If Homeless Tales gets a boost, we all get a boost, and the issue gets some major face time on TV in front of millions of viewers – I’m willing to bet more of the younger generation get their news from “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show” than from actual newspapers or news networks. And, the younger generation is the one that’s going to take over and inherit the earth next, so earning their awareness is a pretty big deal.

Happy Birthday To Me.

Well, I’m 24 today. Just one more year until my quarter-century crisis. Eh, maybe I can have it a year early. I’m not one to stand on ceremony.

Heading to Disneyland this afternoon. They have this new policy where you get free admission on your birthday.

Later, I’d like to look into posting a blog about free/dirt-cheap entertainment options that are out there. Besides the daily worries, I occasionally have trouble with the mind-numbing boredom; although I am surrounded by a trailer full of books, sometimes you just need a change of scenery and pace. I think putting some fun into the experience is important, homeless individuals are just as deserving as anyone else to enjoy life a little.

My two best friends took me to the local college’s production of “Guys and Dolls” last night, so that was a bit of a distraction from life. Musical theatre. Escapism at its finest. Nothing like a mob of sexy, sweaty, singing men doing arabesques in zoot suits to take your mind off your troubles (yay!)

By the way, suddenly I seem to have all of these readers sending me encouraging comments on Twitter. Thanks so much to you guys for your support! If you write on similar topics (homelessness, unemployment, etc.), know that I am reading each and every one of your blogs, and linking to them under my “Related Content” section! It’s great to have people out there to reach out to.