Inspired by the Man Behind the Mason Jar
Yesterday, I never would've ordered a grilled cheese and ginger ale from here or anywhere.
Its crowded. The only available seat was next to a man who has fallen asleep in the middle of writing, "Homeless, kindly asking anyone for anything they can spa..." on a rectangular cardboard box top. His head nods closer to the table but his marker stands straight in place. He wakes up to write another letter, gently scratches the matted blonde hair under his yellow paint-stained beanie, then, begins to nod again. I wonder: is he high or dead-tired.
His head finally rests upon the tabletop. He's gone into dream land. A woman carelessly hits his chair while walking by us. He sits up and scratches his beard. Never opening his eyes or parting his tightened lips. The whites of his nails are filthy. He caresses his beard a few times after scratching it, as if he was checking to see if it was still there...
He's gone again. Forehead on the table. Wood for pillows doesn't bother him at all. Erykah Badu is blaring from the speakers. Other patrons are carrying on rather loudly with their conversations. And the expresso man is yelling the names of random orders every 15 seconds. But my seat mate sleeps. Snoozing through the alarming noises. Nodding like molasses. I can see him breathing. His upper body heaves to a slow swing.
I ate PBJ sandwiches everyday this week for lunch. Stretched the spaghetti I made last week for dinner, until last night. This morning, I knew I had to go to NYC. I knew my account wouldn't have enough to cover my student loans if I purchased a bus ticket online. But I found $25 in my purse 3 days ago and I saved it for today. I figured, once I got into New York, I would get money from a friend to get me back to Bmore. Begrudgingly, this morning, I swallowed my pride and asked one of my friends for some bread. He said he would give me whatever I needed. I went to check my account before telling him what I would need and was surprised to see some zeros in there. I had no idea today would be my first payday. Right on time.
I've worked full-time jobs since I was 18, never knew a day of not having income streaming in from one place or another. Living off of my savings for the last two months was something I once described as a challenge but actually, it was a blessing.
Despite being unemployed I now have two places I can call my homes (NYC/Bmore). Have everything I need to survive from day to day. Found support in the form of food and money from loved ones along the way. And today, the day I finally fixed my mouth to ask for help, I didn't even need it. That's wild!
Of course, now that I see where I am, I truly wish I would've saved more when I was making more money just two months ago.... After hitting my savings goal in June, I let off of my tight budget and was becoming more free with my spending.... but honestly, I'm a single woman "living my best life" as Carissa says.. I should always be able to live my life the way I was living, and I can never be upset with myself about it because the reality is: I was able to take care of myself. I survived my lowest financial season, that is something to celebrate.
Statistically, a child of the foster care system, who was abandoned by both parents should be in jail or on welfare. I am neither. Watching this man hover over his help-me sign is a reminder that I have never hit the bottom. Truth be told, my bottom is someone else's highest height. That's why monetary success doesn't count as a measurable success at all.
It's not about how much we make or how much we have in our savings, it's about how well we want to live our lives. None of us needs big bucks to live, we need to figure out the things that allow us to live simply and live well. After going-without for these last two months, I don't need 75% of things I thought I did... And now that I am back on my feet, I will continue moving, financially, in same way that I did when I had nothing to spare.
I didn't find joy in things that I could buy during this time, I found joy in bonding with my people, reading, sleeping, and forcing myself to create even though I felt uninspired.... I found joy in pushing through.
So today, I bought that grilled cheese because I could afford it but as I ate it, I thought about how much better my grilled cheeses are and how funny it is to actually buy something I can make myself. I guess one other joy I have taken up is CIYs- cook it yourself!