Sunday, August 13, 2006

When it Rains...

Have you ever noticed how when it rains, it pours? Being a struggling graduate student, I knew my life with money wouldn't be easy, and I've been living a rather meagre but do-able existence this past few months to try and get my account sums back in the black. I finally managed to get almost all my bills paid up and was looking forward to this coming Friday when I would have basically finished paying my last big bill and have a little bit of extra cash to buy some groceries... ...when my last pair of contact lenses ripped. I know you're not supposed to wear your contacts past a few weeks at the most before disposing for the next pair, but I had run out of disposables a few months ago and didn't have the money to order more. So I was wearing my last pair and hoping they would survive long enough for me to get some disposable income and buy another set. And I had done the math; I was going to have a little extra to pad my pockets by mid-September, and I just needed them to hold out that long. But of course, God has a cruel sense of humour. Thankfully, I do have my old glasses from high school to fall back on. I rarely wear them because they are woefully out of fashion and give me a headache because they don't correct for my current level of astigmatism, but at least I'll be able to function for the next few weeks until I can save up for the whopping $100 it costs to order more. It just puts everything into perspective. I know I'm privileged because at least I'm getting my education as I'm broke, but this past year has taught me some valuable lessons on the difficulty of financial stability. Being poor in America isn't the sort of cut and dry "I need foodstamps or I'm eating out of a trashcan" sort of deal -- too often, being poor in America is praying that the other shoe never drops (though it invariably does). Frequently, you can find a job that pays most of your bills, and if that were it, you could survive (albeit a rather miserable, boring existence because the first thing you have to cut out of your life in order to save money is your entertainment budget) -- but there is nothing in the system to help you when something unexpectedly goes wrong. And because something unexpected always does go wrong when you're forced to buy the lowest quality because you can only afford the lowest price, you always find yourself a lap or two behind everyone else, budgeting paycheques you haven't received yet just to stay afloat and pay for the contact lens that ripped or the tire that went flat or the gas that has shot up more than a dollar a gallon due to a rusted pipeline. Then again, I'm lucky. I at least have family members willing to help me out of a bind even if I'm usually too prideful to ask, so if there's no way for me to pay for my contacts and everything else that needs to get paid for with this coming paycheque, I can ask my parents for an early birthday present (I turn 24 in less than two weeks). Not everyone else is that fortunate. I can only imagine what life must be like always holding your breath that the flat you just fixed with a $6 can of aerosal goop you sold an old videogame to buy can hold itself together for six months until income tax time. Anyone who suggests that poor people are just lazy needs to spend a few years living on minimum wage.


Anonymous P.Moore said...

My mother told me yesterday, "Son, things will work out. They always do." I've learned to embrace that phrase, even if I'd rather think about how my next paycheck is already gone.

I've always wondered which I would rather have, my current life of educated poverty (because that is, after all, where I am at) and the lessons and responsibility that come with it; or a life of 'Mommy & Daddy bought me this' and the security that comes with it. I'm not much for second guessing destiny, but I dare say that being broke as all hell has made me appreciate so much in life.

Stay up.

8/13/2006 06:17:00 PM  
Anonymous gatamala said...

jenn- Amen

I feel your pain. Do you have health insurance?? When you get a chance, get some new glasses (I'm low on contacts too :) ). Take care of your health. Get physicals and go to the dentist. Those can be heavy expenses, but cheaper than getting a crown or some other medical treatment.

Medicals bills are a killer for the uninsured EVEN if you are not considered poor. They deplete savings and/or force you to rely on credit to take care of them.

I'm a NOT highly paid attorney with enough loans to buy a Porsche. I would love to have $ saved up but I just can't do it now.

Thankfully, when I get in a jam, my folks are able to help me out. I don't know what I'd do without them. Even so, it hurts that I'm still dependent on them and am interfering with what they may want to do.

I have medical bills, bar dues, client protection fund dues, ABA dues and car maintenance coming up. ARRRGHH!

8/14/2006 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger KC said...

Hi, I've been reading your blog for a while but I don't think I ever commented. I'm in grad school too, and I totally understand what you're talking about. It seems like grad students all need glasses, but if we have health insurance at all it still doesn't make things like that affordable.

I really want to see universal health care happen here in the US. Really, really. Money can buy a lot of things, but it shouldn't be able to buy health & long life.

8/18/2006 11:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


9/02/2006 04:04:00 PM  

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