When I think of my journey into poverty, a pit in the middle of the desert comes to mind. This pit has a steep hill leading up to the lip of it. The inside of the pit is like a funnel, with the sides made of quicksand. A gaping hole in the middle is lined with deadly spikes. Those of you who are Star Wars fans will recognize this picture of a Scarlacc from Tatooine, the very same one in which the bounty hunter Boba Fett was tortured.
During my descent into poverty, I did feel like I was making progress and that’s what the steep hill leading up to the rim of the pit represented to me. I remember asking for help then and getting answers like “we can’t help you until you’re making less than x amount of dollars” or “you’re not qualified because you’re self-employed” or “are you a minority, do you have a disability, are you fleeing an abusive relationship or do you need addiction recovery support?”
The simple fact of “I’m struggling to make ends meet” didn’t seem to be an acceptable answer. Even as I started to slide down the funnel and into the pit, I was still given suggestions like “get a second job” or “demand that your ex give you more child support” or simply “I’m sorry, but we can’t help you because you’re not eligible for anything”.
Which was kind of the problem, was it not? Perhaps if I didn’t struggle daily with the ins and outs of depression, I would’ve been able to quickly bounce back from my ever-increasing ‘bad luck’.
At the beginning (about a year-and-a-half ago), I did start cutting back; not eating out as much, cancelling all but basic services for my phone, disconnecting cable and driving my car as little as possible. But when you don’t have a budget in place on how the money coming in is going to be spent, it’s hard to be cognisant of where and what the real problem was.
I think that’s the single biggest error myself and others in similar situations make in that we don’t have a back-up plan. Having been self-employed for over a decade, I’ve basically been living paycheck to paycheck. Which becomes a huge problem when the paychecks stop coming. Now that I’m on disability, I feel like I have a foundation on which to build and grow from. Being on disability is my backup plan now. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.
What would you do to avoid being tortured like Boba Fett?