This is something that has been very difficult for me to open up about, but something I’ve wanted to write about for a very long time. And not because I’m embarrassed. Not at all. But because I don’t like receiving sympathy.
I hate it.
I’m not sure I could tell you exactly why. I think it has something to do with pity that I dislike. I don’t want the events in my life to be made a big deal.
But opening up about them reveal why I am the person I am today.
I’d love for you to understand me better as a person (like I said, I’m terrible at talking about my feelings), but without feeling bad. This isn’t a cry for sympathy!
Anyhow, this is my story I don’t think many people know.
After I left home, at 17, I moved to Boston to play soccer in University (football, for you tea drinking Brits). I struggled living on my own as a minor, because I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even go to the doctor on my own and my parents were thousands of miles away.
I attended some classes, played some matches, but when it came to financing my education, I had hit a wall. A brick-stone-concrete wall.
My mother had just filed bankruptcy, and the next time she came to visit me, she sat me down and told me she and my dad were getting a divorce. She was just on her way to Norway, where my dad was, when she told me this. With no home or job, she went back to the west coast.
Later that week, I got in a heated argument with the coach and athletic director at school about my roommate at the time, who was also on the team. I locked myself in my broiling car and called my mom in a fit of tears. This is when she told me to consider taking a gap year which made me flip out. But the idea of it was enticing.
So that afternoon, I went home and packed everything I owned into my beat up car in 2 hours. I checked into a motel that evening, and my mom would arrive the next morning. And suddenly, in that one day, I had decided I would withdraw from university.
The next day, after I picked up Mom from the airport and devoured countless Dunkin’ Donuts to soothe my soul, we discussed what was next for us. And not much later, we were driving across the country in an old Ford Focus with duct tape across the bottom to cover the rust. We couldn’t decide whether to call it Rusty or Ducky.
We pit-stopped in Cleveland and stayed with friends for a month. At this point, I held the notion that my life was falling apart. It was the first time I was constantly aware of how much money we had. Because it wasn’t a lot.
When we took off for the west coast, there were endless meals at Sonic’s (like all the freaking time… because milkshakes). Daily life meant finding the cheapest shops, products, gas station, etc. And the Dollar Store became life. But after a while it was normal. I got used to hunting for deals, or living off bread for a week while we waited for the next pay check to come in.
We lived in a hotel for a few weeks in Seattle before getting help to rent a one-bedroom apartment. Even though it was empty and bare, it was the best day ever. I spent countless hours playing solitaire by myself because there was literally nothing else.
To wrap it up, we lived like this for a long time. And to an extent, we still do (although I’m not homeless anymore hallelujah).
This is what this experience has taught me …
That some people are just unlucky.
Being so close to homelessness myself, a whole new world was brought to light. I noticed the people on the streets, and I noticed that some of them were kids. Teens, looking for food in trash cans. The biggest cliché broken: they’re not all drug addicts—it’s not their fault. I feel so strongly about this now. I feel I have to press it into people that they’re just unlucky. Shit happens! And once you hit rock bottom, it’s almost impossible to climb back up. It’s not that I think they don’t deserve to be where they are; it’s that they don’t.
The real things that matter to me.
Worrying about ‘making it’ made me forget about things like social media and the drama that follows it. I wasn’t surrounded my friends and family and didn’t have the luxuries I had growing up in a house with electronics, games and an endless amount a food. So I was—in a sense—forced to do things for myself that were satisfying or invigorating. Which is how I discovered my passion for film and writing. And I realized how crucial it is to have people around that truly care about you.
I don’t need what I thought I needed.
I needed a new phone. I had to have scented candles to make my evenings nicer. New boots, but not the knock-offs. And I really just had to have tacos on Tuesdays (not really but cravings make us crazy). Everything I thought was necessary had suddenly vanished from my life. Not only that, but from my mind (I know, that sounds dramatic). It wasn’t something that crossed my mind. I got used to going into the grocery store and deciding what dinner would be based off how expensive things were. And the nights we had expensive fish or steak dinner were fabulous because we hardly ever had them. Or going out for special desserts. And I must break it to ya: you don’t actually need a couch, guys. I slept on a blow-up mattress and watched TV from the floor for a year. By then I forgot what a couch even was.
I don’t have to be practical.
Well, this may be a given, considering I uh… moved to the other side of the world and go to drama school. My family always asks me why I don’t just go to university on the west coast and I say BECAUSE I’M BORED! No, I don’t usually say that, but I do get bored quite easily. I guess I realized during this time was that money wasn’t that important to me. Of course we need it, but it wasn’t my goal in life (though a winning lottery ticket wouldn’t hurt). And the reason I thought getting my degree in civil engineering was such a good idea was because it would give me some stability. (But good lord I would have been so bored…) I could spend my time focusing on what I was passionate about, and that going to drama school wasn’t “stupid” because I’m not trying to be and entrepreneur have bought a house before I’m 30 years old. It’s okay to do something that isn’t for the money. And I absolutely love it. Take a risk.