Editor: This rant by Sunshine is in response to Scott’s Reader Rant that was posted yesterday, “I was living the American dream…. Now I’m angry.”
I’m disillusioned too, Scott. American Dream, my ass. I owned a 3 bd/2bath house with all the room my young son & I needed and then some for 14 years. 14 years of fixing broken items, repairing near worn out parts, cutting the grass, and complying with ridiculous Homeowner Association rules and regulations. A dream?…more like a nightmare.
When, in 2000, a less-than-integral boyfriend stole $27,000 from me (off my credit cards that I had in ample supply back then), we were reduced to bankruptcy and living on a meager $700 per month until I could get back on my feet. To add insult to injury, my mom was dying of brain/breast cancer that same year and I was a bit distracted by that to focus on my finances.
Then, out of the blue, came a crippling disability that landed me in the hospital several times and rendered me unable to work. By the end of 2000 I was bankrupt financially, devastated by the death of my mom, on my own again with 7 year old son in tow, fully disabled, and recovering from a lamonectomy (low back surgery).
And the advise I got from my family? “Just pick yourself up by your bootstraps and get a job.” “Stop being so lazy.”
So, after working for 35 years, paying taxes from each check, saving a little here and there where I could, I was unable to work for the first time in my life due to health concerns. I ended up cashing in all my savings, stocks, IRA’s, and my son’s college fund to survive. Yeah, some dream.
In 2001, I returned t0 college to carve out a new career as a counselor. (again, my families cries of “get a job” echoed every conversation. Three years later with Certification in hand along with $14,000 in student loans, and several more hospital visits (with their bills ~ no insurance here) under my belt, I was once again equipped to return to the work force part-time only per doctors orders. After searching for work for more than a year, I landed a wonderful career working with the Co-Occurring population (addiction/mental illness recovery) and accepted their pay rate of $9.26 per hour (much less than the $25 per hour I used to make, but it was good solid rewarding work.)
Yet, even with a solid new career under my belt, a good j0b that provided enough for us to get by, and a fantastic network of friends, sleepless nights filled with worry were frequent. Food and toilet paper were still luxuries. Only the bills that came in color were opened and paid (ah, those lovely shut off notices). Loans from family & friends saved our mortgage from foreclosure more than once. The struggle to survive continued.
Fast forward to 2009. I visited OB once again that February. My son & I came to OB for the past 6-7 years as we could afford day trips/short overnight stays at the Point Loma Youth Hostel and always enjoyed it here. That fateful February day, I was walking along the sand, thinking of everything and nothing and trying to figure out what to do with our lives, when I noticed some writing in the sand.
“Smile, this is it” was all it said. I took that message to heart. It was all I needed to go home, put my less-than-new house on the market, and give up the American Dream of homeownership and pushing the rock uphill. Our house sold the same day I listed it, and for more than what I was asking for! 2 months later, house still in escrow, we were living in OB, renting a cottage that was more than 2x’s our mortgage payment, yet now out from under the burden of the American Nightmare.
My family still thinks me crazy for giving up a house for a rented 1 bedroom cottage that is so small you need to go outside to change your mind. Yet, we’re happy.
We’re happy that we live so close to the ocean. We’re happy that we can walk/bicycle/bus anywhere we need to go (and thank goodness, as our 1970 VW Van crapped out a month ago). We’re happy that there are still towns like OB in this country where those who simply want to live a peaceful, playful existence can call home.
Now, if our landlady isn’t foreclosed on, we have a place to call home. See, it never truly ends.
Hard times are upon us all ~ yes, even those in the top 2% who will never experience day to day month after month of poverty as we have. I feel fortunate to be able to provide a home for my son and myself. Food and toilet paper are still low on the priority list as medical bills now consume a good portion of our income. But, hell, it could be worse.
Now, as for those nasty little politicians…..vote em all outta office. Someone’s got to take a stand and tell the truth in Washington, D.C. Where is Mr. Smith when you need him?