Strange Things Poverty Does To You

Packing up my house and moving it into a much smaller house has driven home to me just how poor I am. It’s not that I’m poor in this way that says I didn’t have anything – because we’re capitalists, in a capitalist society, and that kind of poverty is very, very hard to hit if you’re partaking in the systems that keep the wheels turning. I’m poor in a way that has warped and distended my mind.

I’m poor in that when we have four wardrobes, one of which is full of nothing but empty bags, I do not think let’s get rid of two of them, because you can’t be sure when you’ll need it, or the bags. I’m poor in that I kept back-ups of back-ups, and every nice thing I had I hung onto until it was threadbare and broken. I have shirts that are torn and shirts that I hate because giving away or throwing out a functional shirt, even when it doesn’t really fit is a waste. I’m poor in a very specific way, a way that becomes burrowed-under and permanent.

When the ferrets were gone, we didn’t send away their cage. We kept it there, in the corner of our laundry, full of ferret toys and piping and blankets and their favourite bedding, like a little grief-shroud that reminded us every time we had to do some laundry. We didn’t move it because what if we needed it. There are packets of non-spoiling food I’ve had in the cupboard since 2008. When the milk is a bit skunky, I don’t throw it out until I’m absolutely sure I can’t cook with it. And the fingerprints of this madness were all over my house. Eating old and spoiled food in an overstuffed house full of broken and dilapidated things that weren’t treated preciously enough because they had to do their job every single day.

I owned four wardrobes and one pair of shoes.

I don’t mind being poor. I’m just trying to grapple with the silly things that that poverty makes me do. Silly things like refusing to buy myself a fifty dollar piece of hardware that will make my life easier for months, because fifty dollars is a lot to buy, buy spending two dollars every single day to buy a soft drink while I’m out, because somehow that cost, that little trickle of money, is different to the bigger, smarter choices. Silly things like never cleaning up my computer and hard drive because if I don’t notice the thing that’s about to go wrong, it might not happen.

Being poor is actually part of why I think my ambitions are what they are. I don’t mind if I’m never a great author. I don’t want to be JK Rowling. If it was up to me I’d be someone more like KA Applegate – an author that produced steady, consistent work that was enjoyable. That, though, is its own wellspring of sadness right now.

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