Five years ago, I was deeply unhappy, traumatized, lost, unemployed and unable to find a job, an overwhelmed mother to a difficult one-year-old, one half of an emotionally abusive party of two, and stuck.
Sometimes, you want to leave.
Sometimes, you want to make your life better.
Sometimes, you don't know how.
It took all the courage I had to go into the county services office and apply for help.
It is a horrible and degrading experience. I was spoken to like I didn't know how to read, treated like a child, begrudgingly pushed forward in the endless line of perceived fuck-ups.
Because I took a deep breath and started sleeping on a friend's couch instead of my own bed, I was able to qualify for the services that allowed me to leave.
Four years and ten months ago, I got my first welfare check. I worked. I worked and I worked and when I didn't work I looked for work but where I lived work was hard to come by, and it was even harder for me. I was overqualified for the jobs I could get and underexperienced for the jobs I could qualify for.
The state paid my childcare bill.
Foodstamps fed me and my son.
Medi-Cal covered our healthcare costs.
We didn't go to the dentist.
I had a graduate degree.
I had always worked.
I had never been poor.
This couldn't be my life.
This was my life.
Ask me if there's pride in that.
Ask me if that's where I wanted to be.
I did everything I was supposed to and everything I could.
I moved to be closer to my family, to shift the burden of my needs. Of my son's needs.
I worked and worked and worked.
And to an extent, it worked.
I worked myself off cash aid and food stamps and healthcare and (almost) everything.
Until December of 2010, I was still a CalWorks Stage 3 recipient. My childcare remained subsidized. I made $15/hour and childcare? Childcare is expensive.
Ask me if that's what I wanted.
In the Fall of 2010, in the midst of a(nother) California budget crisis, my childcare subsidies were cut.
I was one of the named parties in a class action lawsuit against the state of California.
Without that help, I couldn't pay my childcare bills.
Without childcare, I couldn't work.
Without work, I was back to the beginning.
You know what?
The government pays for the beginning.
Trapped in a circle and always swimming and never winning.
I asked the lawyer for the case, "Am I the right person? I don't feel like I'm the right person. I have a steady job. I'm employed by the government! I have a graduate degree."
"Everyone on this program is the right person. People need to understand that this can just happen and it can happen to anyone and bad things happen to good people and you jump through all the hoops and sometimes you still need help."
Five years ago, I got my first welfare check.
This year, I sit for the CPA exam.
I'm not the exception.
I'm not the rule.
No one WANTS to need that safety net.
But god, what if it wasn't there?
I'm not an exception.
But I've been there, and there sucks.
I'm so grateful for the help I had.