I think what I learned from my mother is not to have kids until I am sure that I want to settle down, and I am able to support them decently. I know she gave up some of her dreams for me, and I wish it could have been different. It makes me sad to see her- a smart and capable woman- working a boring faceless job that she took pretty much to support me. She’s gotten so used to doing it that I think she will stay there until she retires- but at one time she was being courted by prestigious overseas academic programs and stuff I know she would have loved. I’d like to maybe have a kid one day, but not until I am ready to live a 9-5 life if that is what it takes to support them.
I am usually able to budget for the bigger items that I really need, and I don’t have that much trouble dropping a dollar here and there on small stuff. It’s mostly stuff in the ten dollar range that really get me. I’ll covet a CD or book for weeks before I decide not to get it or break down and buy it. Books are pretty hard. I realized yesterday that I was looking in the discount rack at the used book store because I didn’t want to spend the amount of money that regular used books cost. It’s things that most people pick up without thinking too much about- a box of hair dye, a scarf, a new umbrella- that give me the most trouble.
Documentry isn’t my strongest point, but I shot a few short films based on my experiences growing up. I’ve got a lot of stories about how resourceful we were, and the lenths we’d go to have fun without spending money. Like one time in high school we wanted a pinata, so we got a cardboard box from behind the supermarket, filled it with old stuff from our rooms, taped it shut with masking tape and wrote “pinata” on the side with a marker. We hung it from a shoestring beind an abandon building and beat it with our umbrellas- with all the street people looking on in utter confusion. The stories are all pretty funny, but also a little sad. I’d like to do more work along those lines.
I lived in a townhouse-type project. It was kind of like a normal rundown suburban apartment complex, but I think it was all low-income people and you had to have kids to get in. The apartments themselves were terrible- we had leaky roofs every rainy season, problems with the house wouldn’t get fixed, and insect infestations were only taken care of on a unit-by-unit basis, so the bugs would just move over to the next apartment.
But culturally it was a great place. There were some drug dealers and prostitutes and stuff, but the apartments were mostly immigrants. I grew up playing soccer with the Vietnamese kids and eating pickle soup at my Polish friend’s house and learning Tagalog from my neighbor. It was an extremely diverse and culturally rich place to live. The place was swarming with kids and we’d have epic water balloon fights (and when we couldn’t afford water baloons we’d just pour buckets of water on each other from the upper story windows) and it was pretty idylic, even if we did have to stop playing when the police helicopters flew over.
I didn’t get picked on for being poor in school, because everyone was poor. Because I didn’t have brothers and sisters, I counted as one of the richer ones. I was picked on for being geeky. In high school, very few people got picked on because we were all so used to such diversity and we were all in the same dirt-poor boat that it just didn’t make sense to pick on people for being different.
My extended family helped out a lot. My great-grandma always made sure I had enough clothes, my grandmother would let us eat dinner at her house when we ran out of food at the end of the month, my uncle would help me have computers, and they’d all work together to make sure I got books and science classes and stuff.
In college most the people I know never knew poverty. It was wierd. I never knew that there were all kinds of people who had never ridden a bus before. It was really wierd at first because there are so many little things about college that are geared towards people with money that you’d never notice. Like the shuttle that took us to the supermarket only gave us half an hour there- plenty long if you are just throwing stuff in your cart, but not long enough to compare prices and look for deals. Or there were a lot of services that would be tacked on to your college bill as a favor- under the assumption that your parents would pay the bill without really looking at it.
It was a little hard to fit in. I couldn’t take the exotic spring break trips or go drinking at expensive bars with people. I had a lot of habits ingrained in me that must have seemed pretty odd- it was second nature for me to say the price of something if someone commented on it. That makes sense when you live around poeple for whom price is the most important thing about an object, but it just seems strange to others. There are times that being poor hurts me in school- I don’t have the tens of thousands of dollars that people pour into their film projects. But for the most part, it’s just a bunch of little things that end up making me feel different.
I’ve heard so much about the bargain barn, but I’ve never been able to figure out exactly where it is. Where is it? I do get to most the other thrift stores quite often. A fantasy of mine is to buy thrift store furniture, fix it up and paint it funny, and then sell it for some ungodly price. But for now I mostly buy clothes.