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Being Poor Sucks!

Steve here! I am a product of situational poverty. Being Poor Sucks! My father was a foreman for a large road construction company and my family lived a very comfortable lifestyle. At least that is what I was told. I was too young to remember those times. Unfortunately, my father died from cancer when I was eight years old. Left behind was my mother, who was a stay at home mom, my two older brothers and I.

In her book A Framework for Understanding Poverty, Ruby Payne discusses the idea of generational vs. situational poverty. If you are into the social sciences, I highly encourage you to read this book!

What Is The Difference Between Generational Poverty And Situational Poverty?

Generational Poverty

The basic idea of generational poverty is that a family may come from generations of poverty. Poverty is the norm for these individuals. They know no different. Poverty often impacts extended family members as well.

Situational Poverty

For an individual who lives in situational poverty, it may come down to a specific event or circumstance that causes them to live in poverty. It may be that they were just dealt a bad hand. Individuals who live in situational poverty often have a greater support network as members of their extended family may not live in poverty. Most argue that those in situational poverty can more easily break the cycle of poverty.

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My father’s medical bills wiped us out financially. My mom, to her credit, worked multiple jobs. With the money she was able to earn, paired with a small amount of social security benefit, we were able to scrape out a meager existence. By meager, I mean we often were not able to buy meat or milk, our power was shut off more than once, and I was the kid with the high water pants and the sole of my shoe held on with duct tape. Being poor sucks.

In life, you can control your destiny. You can change the trajectory of your life. It boils down to making choices. When unfortunate circumstances visit your doorstep, you cannot let those circumstances define who you are. You have to choose to stay positive and find ways to defeat those circumstances that are trying to defeat you. I made that choice in high school.

By the time I was in high school, my mom had turned to alcohol. She was a full blown drunk, complete with her live-in alcoholic boyfriend. I will spare you the gory details, but I will tell you it sucked.

I was dirt poor and pissed off! Being poor SUCKS!

The Lord blessed me with a good amount of football talent. I knew after my sophomore season that if I stayed healthy and took care of business on the field, I may be able to go to college. Without a scholarship, there is no way I could have gone. I poured myself into everything football. That included my academics. I knew no grades, no scholarship. It worked out and I was able to earn a scholarship.

Signing For A Football Scholarship
Signing for Football Scholarship

Now, I am not saying everyone can simply choose to earn an athletics scholarship but I am saying that you can choose to better your circumstances. I knew that education was the key to breaking the cycle of poverty for me. If it weren’t football, I would have found another avenue to get to college. I was dirt poor and I was pissed. Sometimes I was pissed that my father left us, other times I was pissed at my mom for drinking so much. I was pissed that my friends had things that I could never afford, that my clothes were too small, and that I could not afford basic medical care.

What my anger gave me was a laser focus on my goal to not live a life of poverty.

Guy in football gear.

This isn’t a pity party. Don’t need that. Never did or never will! I now have a master’s degree, a professional certificate, and make six figures. I have an awesome life.

If you are in a bad situation, financially, do not let it define you. Make the choice to get out of the situation. Get a little pissed off and do something about it!

Let’s be clear, I am not proposing that you get the physically aggressive form of pissed off. I am proposing that you find that internal, I am not going to take this any more type of pissed off. I am talking about a laser focus on the goals you set for yourself. Whether that goal is to get out of debt, go back to school, or find a new job. Get a little pissed off and go for it.

Start small. If your goal is to get out of debt, find something that you can do right now to get started. Maybe it is giving up your morning mocha. If the goal is to find a new job, find a mentor to help guide you in the process. Whatever it is, take the first step.

To use a sports analogy, you don’t wake up one morning and go run a marathon. You start by running your first lap. Then your first mile. If you keep at it, one day you will be running marathons.

Whatever the goal, keep that laser focus. Do not let anyone or anything break that focus. Life is unpredictable! Life happens! Even if life throws you a curve ball and your goals change, keep the same routine.

Set the goal, get yourself a nasty little attitude going, take the first step, and focus.

I am living proof that you can overcome a crappy situation. I also know that if I can do it, anyone can.

If you are currently living in poverty, what is your plan to improve your situation?

Learn more about Ruby Payne or find her book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, here.

Bridget here. Yep! I married myself a football stud! He entered this relationship with nothing more than a duffle bag and a few thousand in debt. I knew he had potential though! He still has that laser focus and goes after what he wants. Always learning, always growing.

Doing a little home maintenance, power washing.
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Abigail @ipickuppennies

Friday 27th of March 2015

Okay, I know you mean well. And your story is very impressive. But could we all *please* stop saying, "If I can do it, anyone can"?

You had the benefit of good health, what I'm assuming was a decent education and plenty of advantages. That's not to discount your disadvantages. You definitely had it tough.

But you weren't sick. You apparently weren't in an area where there were a dearth of jobs or educational opportunities. And you had a skill that you could sell to colleges.

Positive thinking is great, but if you live in an area without jobs and without a nearby college, it's pretty tough. The area most of my family lives in, there are no jobs. By which I mean that the baggers at the grocery store are middle aged men.

And if you can't get a job, how do you afford to move somewhere else? Let alone the question of leaving your entire support system behind for a huge amount of uncertainty.

And if you're sick? I ended up being disabled at 19. I tried to work through, which set me back for a lot of my 20s. I ended up going on disability, which took two years (and that's considered quick!). In those two years, the state gave me $300 a month to live on.

Even when I was approved, my checks were $700, which is what a one-bedroom apartment cost at the time. Due to some of my health issues, roommates weren't really viable long term.

I was lucky enough to have a support system that helped me financially. And then lucky again because a family member had contacts that got me a part-time job I could do from home. Then, later, the same family member found me a full-time job I can do from home.

But, and I cannot stress this enough, the kind of job I have -- working at home and making a livable wage -- is one in a million. And that may actually be an understatement.

People with health problems can have problems getting and keeping jobs. My husband has his own, and he had bounced around from job to job for years. Every time things looked okay, his condition would flare. He'd miss a bunch of work and get fired.

So no, you are not proof that anyone can do it. You're proof that, against the odds, you did a damn fine job of raising yourself from crappy circumstances.

Again, I know you didn't mean to sound so dismissive. Healthy people and/or people in areas that actually have jobs... well, they never do.

But we as humans aren't great at thinking beyond our own situations to see the inherent obstacles that others may encounter/deal with consistently.

So we make generalizations that then, whether intentionally or not, marginalizes subsets of the population that really are trying.

By making statements like "If I can do it, anyone can" you're implying that if people aren't able to change their situation, it must be their fault on some level. They don't want it enough, or they're just not really trying. Instead of the fact that they're simply mired in an entirely different kind of crappy situation, from which they'll only rise if they get incredibly lucky. And maybe not then either.

Sunshine and Rainy Days

Friday 27th of March 2015

Wow Abigail! Where do I start? First, while I was blessed to earn a football scholarship, I lost it in my fourth year due to an injury. I was unable to earn my degree. I had zero financial support, so I joined the Army. I was not going to be a burden to anyone. I am currently a disabled veteran. I have had seven joint surgeries. I have had my left shoulder partially replaced. When I turn 50, I will have my left hip replaced. Before I leave this earth, I will probably also have my right knee and hip replaced. At one point, I was told I had M.S. Thankfully, I do not. I live in chronic pain. I haven't had a pain free day in over a decade. And, Jayleen has Hashimoto's disease. I busted my backside to finish my degree and go to grad school. I worked hard to get where I am.

Abigail, I am not trying to be rude, but I feel pretty good about saying "if I can do it, anyone can". I still get up every morning and drag my self to work. I still workout and even manage to train in Karate. I am a shadow of what I used to be physically, but I will not let these challenges define who I am. I am really glad you have overcome your challenges! Good luck in the future!- Blake


Friday 27th of March 2015

I enjoyed your story. I am in that situational poverty place of the stay at home mom- who is now a divorced mother aged 53. Not a good time or a place for someone my age in need of work. Once my son graduates, I can job search further away, in the hopes that I can get back on my feet financially. Thankfully, I own my home and vehicle outright. Unfortunately, since multiple rules of Michigan law were repeatedly violated in my divorce case...I did not get any support after 22 years of marrige. There are more pitfalls from the corruption that occured, but we are safe now, far from Michigan, and in a good place for a fresh start. It is my hope that my son will develop that same ethic you describe, he has lived through too many bad things and has a negative feeling about his future at this point. That being said, schools are so sadly negligent in teaching financial survival after high school (or even college), that this would be an excellent course to help them. Best wishes to us all! Mom with Hope.

Sunshine and Rainy Days

Friday 27th of March 2015

Wow Kelly, it sounds like you have been through it! I will be sending lots of positive thoughts your way! I pray your son does not turn jaded or give up hope. I know when you are in the midst of it all, it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My advice would be to just stay positive and keep plugging away. Things have a nice way of working themselves out. -Blake

kay ~ lifestylevoices.com

Friday 27th of March 2015

That was an inspiring story. You went from underdog to TOP DOG! Thanks for sharing. Your points were spot on. :)

Sunshine and Rainy Days

Friday 27th of March 2015

Thank you Kay! Not sure I'm a Top Dog

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