It’s Okay to Be Poor

“It’s not a life choice; being poor is just a life circumstance.”

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Transcript for It’s Okay to Be Poor

Sure, I was mad when I was a kid and when I didn’t get what I wanted. When I didn’t understand that we didn’t have any money. But as times went on and as I’ve gotten older and I’ve understood that sometimes the bills go unpaid, sometimes this can’t just happen. Like I’ve really appreciated what my family has done.

My mom and dad made sure everybody was fed, even though they didn’t help put groceries in the house, they made sure every single kid was fed. Even if there wasn’t enough left for them afterward. Or like when our electricity or, no, it was our gas bill didn’t go paid, they boiled pots of water on the stove so that we could take baths still.

They’ve worked so hard in their lives to make sure that we’ve had exactly what we needed to the point that we had go to pack a backpack one year, or like my mom will ask for help from other families just so we have what we needed and I know that that really hurts them. I can’t be mad at them, I can’t be mad at them for not having money.

But my first impression when I moved onto campus–and I was seeing everybody’s stuff and I was seeing how these people were interacting–was that a lot of these people are really pretentious and rude and snobby. Like there are quite a few nice ones but like a lot of people are just really rude. Like I had to start a job immediately when I came here, and the more hours I worked, the more I noticed that people would stray away because I worked at Founders. And like the more I worked and the more people saw me there, I saw the more people that would just be like, “Oh, well, we’re not going to invite her to play with us because she’s going to have to work.” And they would say it really condescendingly, and I had this entire friend group when I first got here that, because I couldn’t go out with them, I couldn’t play basketball with them, or I couldn’t go wherever they wanted to go because I had to have a job and none of them did. They just stopped talking to me; they stopped being my friend.

Last year second semester I had six jobs. I was never not working. And that really intimidated people. It was just–it just seems really rude because we’re a campus of diversity and equality, and I may not be a different race, I may not be of a different ethnic background, but I’m from a different socioeconomic background. And that seems to be what makes me different because I don’t have new clothes still; this is like high school all over again. Like I don’t have the new clothes, I can’t go out, I can’t participate in extracurriculars because I’m always at work.

No, I don’t feel like I fit in here. I don’t feel like I belong. There’d have to be a community. Like because there are other communities on campus like we have our LIVE community, our LGBTQ community, there’d have to be, like, a lower socioeconomic community, but a lot of people don’t want to say that’s that where they’re from. Everyone’s really ashamed of it, basically. It’s not something that you want everyone to know because it’s not something to be proud of.

I’m not ashamed of it because it made me a better person. It made me a better person in a lot of ways because without money, you’re not focused on what you can have, but it’s what you do have, like family, trust, honesty, relationships, friendships. Because if you’re just hanging out watching a movie because you can’t do anything else, like you can better communicate with your friends, you’re better at relationships because they know you’re going through hard times. And not only that it made my family stronger, it made me know better, like I’m a lot better with money. I’m really good with credit, I’m really good with not spending money when I don’t have to. But other people might not see it that way. Because you hear, “Oh, it’s the poverty class… they just didn’t work hard enough, they’re just not doing enough.” But if you started off at the bottom you’re most likely… there’s a 73% chance you’re going to stay at the bottom.

It’s okay. It’s okay to be poor. It’s okay to have lived your life on welfare. It’s okay to not feel welcome. It’s perfectly okay. You don’t have to ashamed of it. You don’t have to be ashamed of your friends thinking that being poor is bad–cause it’s not. It’s not a life choice; being poor is just a life circumstance.