No shit? We’ve really been doing this for 105 days now. It feels so much shorter and so much longer at the same time. To those of you who have been here since the beginning I don’t know how you can even begin to put up with me but I appreciate you doing so more than I could ever say.
A lot has happened in the past 105 days. It’s easy to forget those first few days that were so tumultuous. I don’t know what the heck I was thinking trying to go through the women’s shelter originally. That place was dirty and terrifying. It was so hard that first day when I thought I was going to be stuck sleeping outside by myself. I was so thankful to find a somewhat more stable organization in the youth program. Though sometimes I forget how bad that first shelter was.
I forget how hard this was on me at first; how tired and sore I was. Having to carry a heavy backpack all day, having to be on my feet twelve hours a day; it was almost traumatizing to my body and my spirit. Eventually both became conditioned to this lifestyle though, and now I think little of it.
I really wanted to keep Spencer with me but I see now that it would have never worked. It would have made it impossible to do a lot of things that I need to do, especially now that he’s gotten so big. Spencer never would have been able to tolerate being a “street cat”. He’s been much too spoiled his whole life.
I do miss having him with me. I miss having him sleep on my side and watch Disney movies with me. I know this was the best decision though because sometimes you have to make difficult decisions for what’s best. Spencer is in an excellent foster home now. I get to see him any time I want and he’s happy and healthy. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I am so lucky I have such awesome friends like I do that were able to just take him in. I would have slept outside before I gave Spencer away.
I feel like I’ve changed a lot in the past hundred days. At first I was ashamed of being homeless. I wouldn’t sit on the side walk and I tried to pretend I carried my backpack for school purposes. This didn’t last long at all. I never realized how absolutely exhausting being homeless is. You’re on your feet twelve hours a day. It doesn’t matter if you’re sick or tired or about to drop dead. If you have to throw up you have to throw up on the side of the road. If you need to rest all you can do is sit on the ground. You have to carry everything you own on you. After awhile you just give up on not appearing homeless.
At first I wouldn’t tell my friends I was homeless. I was afraid of being pitied. I didn’t want to lose these friendships. More and more I’ve been telling people and it has helped me realize who my real friends and family are. I worried for a long time that my friends that read this blog might be ashamed of me and the things I have done since being homeless. If they have felt that way they’ve never showed it.
Instead when I was arrested my friend responded by showing me a picture of what she was wearing when she was arrested. They didn’t comment when I made questionable decisions for the sake of friendships with street kids. When I ran out of money I was afraid they’d judge me for frivolous spending but instead they sent money. Never once have I been asked to justify a single decision I’ve made, even when I put myself at great risk.
I think the worst decision I’ve made so far was to hold needles and buy drugs for my friend. I ended up getting pricked by one of her needles and will need to be tested for Hep C and HIV again in three and six months. At the time I don’t think I realized that I could be stopped and searched by the police at any time. If this had happened the consequences for doing such a thing could have been much more serve than I could imagine. On top of that I was enabling the drug use. At the time I thought I was being a good friend when in fact I was quite the opposite.
I think the most tangible change in me has been the issue of theft. In the earlier entries of the blog I refused to allow people to steal with me present. I would get to my stomach at the very idea and insist they let me buy whatever they wanted rather than them stealing it. The theft started out of necessity. We ran out of food stamps. I needed to eat. The food at the day programs isn’t always edible and they require going there to eat at the precise hours they are serving, which isn’t always doable when you’re out doing whatever it is you do during the day.
At that time the day program refused to give us food gift cards under the assumption that they would be sold. This left us with little option besides stealing. Once I learned I could get stuff for free it spiraled along from there. It’s addicting. Sometimes if I walk in a store I want to steal something just for the hell of it, or to get back at Republicans. At the same time I hate it because I sincerely fear being arrested again. When I steal I get sick to my stomach. I hate it.
I talked to my case manager about this and I really think if they would have helped me when I ran out of food stamps I wouldn’t have developed this problem. He told me they wouldn’t help me because I was with Kitten Lady so much they thought I’d sell them. “She has a history of that after all,” he told me.
"But I don’t."
"I know, but you guys were so intertwined the association was there."
"You guys should have had more faith in me than that."
Regardless, the damage is done. So that I could eat I learned how to steal. Because I learned how to steal I started stealing more. Because I started stealing more I got cocky. Because I got cocky I got arrested.
In all honesty it doesn’t really matter how I ended up started on stealing. I need to be responsible for my own actions. It’s not something I feel guilty about nor do I feel I’m doing something immoral. I don’t understand why I should pay billion dollar corporations what little money I have for something with a 500% mark up. I think the whole idea of having to pay them so they can get their next mansion is immoral. However, stealing is not worth risking being arrested. It’s going to be my first habit on a long list to be broken when it no longer is a necessity.
Being homeless I picked up a lot of bad habits I never had before. Of course there is the stealing. However, I also do things like litter, smoke, talk in slang terms I never used before, use improper grammar (oh my!), go out without putting effort in my appearance, losing things…the list goes on. Sure, not all of these are serious. God forbid, I stop having nightmares about comma slices! Yet, these were things that are so unlike who I was before. I hardly if ever littered and I would have died if I heard how I talk now. Grammar was important to me. So was being organized and timely.
Picking up smoking again was just a matter of being around such a stressful environment all the time. I picked it back up when I was in Alabama dealing with my father’s drama. I always say, something will kill me before the cigarettes do, but now that a friend I grew up with is fighting lung cancer I don’t feel that way anymore. And the horrible eating habits. God. Being homeless and only being fed carbs has killed my jean size!
The past 105 days have been really hard. It hasn’t been “rock bottom”. It hasn’t been the absolute worse phase of my life. It hasn’t been the end of the world but it has been hard. There have been times where I’ve worried I’m losing myself in all of this. I don’t think I have though. Maybe some things about myself have changed and I’ve picked up some bad habits but I think overall the changes in my life have been good.
I’m a lot less focused on physical appearances now. I’ve spent a large part of my time with someone who walks around in public wearing a face mask for Christ sake! I find it a lot easier to look past someone’s outside appearances and get to know them based on things much more important. I’m not talking just about pretty faces. I’m talking about sitting down and hearing someone’s story and not judging them by their struggles. I thought I did this previous to my current situation but I didn’t really. I judged people who dropped out of high school. I wouldn’t touch a drug addict with a ten foot pole. If you didn’t value your education you were wasting your life. I’m glad I’ve been able to see past these preconceived notations now.
I think I’ve also developed slightly more confidence in the past 100 days. I no longer care what people think about me. I haven’t been afraid of speaking my mind because what do I have to lose? I also have had NO privacy. I never have my own space. To top it off, I have even less privacy than most homeless kids because I have this blog.
My mission was to give an honest representation of what it was like to be homeless. This meant no omitting details, ever. I spared myself no shame. Trust me, I was not excited about writing my shitting on the side of the road experience. I’ve tried to tell you the things I’ve been thinking even when I didn’t want to share them. Trust me, that isn’t always easy. It’s not just strangers that read this. My friends read this religiously and you better believe they aren’t afraid to tell me what they think of my adventures!
Still, this blog has helped to keep me sane. I don’t think I could have survived the last 105 days without it. It has given me an outlet. Knowing that people have been reading has kept me going when I have wanted to give up. I couldn’t just give in to everything around me because then what would I have told you?
I’ve changed a lot. I’ve grown a lot. I’ve learned a lot. Now I have a lot of big news for you.
I think at this point my homeless phase is almost finished. While I was working on this very post I received a call from my aunt. She is going to loan me the $735 to get back into school. This means I now meet the qualifications to get into housing. This means in exactly a week instead of sitting in Whole Foods I’ll be sitting in my dearly missed classrooms. This means I’ll have financial aid again. This is almost over. I get to go back to my home, my school, my family. I have never been more thankful for anything in my life.