Relative Terms

Poor is a relative word.  It all depends on what you put it up against. I have a few oddities from most Americans because of my upbringing.

- I have no issues with sharing toothbrushes.  My brother always hides his whenever he stays with me.

- I like to cuddle with pillows, but I have a hard time sleeping with one under my head and end up sleeping on my arm.

-I didn't drink pop as a child or have access to drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol.  These things all cost money.  I still don't drink pop and neither do my brothers.

-I had never had a fillet of fish until I left for college.

-I made my furniture out of cardboard boxes and collaged them with magazine pictures.

-I have not a single memory of eating at a table with my parents that wasn't some kind of holiday.  We didn't have a table with chairs for many years and just never did it after we did have one.

-When i see movies where the characters are supposed to be poor and they live in a house instead of an apartment I feel it is fake.  I still prefer to live in communal settings.  A house feels too seperated from others and I get paranoid that no one could hear me scream.

-I have no personal space issues.  I may have about an inch I need from my face and that is about it.

-I have a work ethic most people can't understand.  I have called in sick once in 8 years and I can't remember ever being late to a job.

-I paid for my own piano lessons in high school and practiced on a piece of cardboard with painted keys

-I have worked since I was 15.  I used the money to buy things I felt my brothers needed and I have helped my parents make rent.

You know what really annoyed me about growing up poor. The education system expects the children to ask their parents for the money to do activities.  Even doing debate club costs money.  Then when I would say I had no desire, they would hound.  You are so good, this would be really good for you. UHUH, sometimes there is more to things than simply having a desire to do them.  The other issue of course was the ability to go to college.  That is a whole other issue and relates to my desire to make education free in this country. I got scholarships and was able to attend, but not everyone is so lucky.  Not everyone has the time to study when they are busy caring for siblings or working to help support the family.

Other than that there isn't really a huge draw back to being raised poor.  It gave me some interesting oddities and a deep awareness of what earning money means.  Being poor as an adult would suck quite a bit more.  You get to feel the guilt of not being able to provide things for your children, stress about bills and where you can live, and going out or having hobbies is out of the question. 

With regards to my parents, they did the best they possibly could.  They always worked and I never remember them calling in sick.   


Krypton Krypton
31-35, F
14 Responses Mar 26, 2009

Your post is so inspiring.I have been forced into poverty, too, but it is because of poor health.<br />
I struggle with the term 'work ethic' because I have never in my life been lazy, but have been forced, these past few years, to learn how to pace myself.<br />
Like you, I was never one to call in sick; worked up to seventy hours a week. In school, I studied 20 hours a day.<br />
Then, I lost my health, and now I routinely get fired from jobs for 'poor work performance' and insubordination.<br />
I blame my workplaces somewhat. I even feel a little exploited. They expect so much, yet pay so little. There is no way to make it work, for a person like me.

I can respond to much of what you're saying here. We never thought of ourselves as poor-- we were no different from most of the folks around us, and we were on a farm and raised all our own food, so we never went hungry. But what I considered normal, most kids (or social workers!) today would regard as extreme deprivation.

I was born in poor - third-world-kind of poor- country and moved to the US in my late teens. Yes, "poor" is a very relative term: if you can afford buying meat 2-3 times a week, you are pretty affluent by those standards. What is worse is that growing up poor means having to stay poor for the rest of one's life because education is absolutely out of reach. There is anything but lack of opportunity to make your life what you want it to be, and I don't see how, with so much financial aid, scholarships and loans getting money for education can be an issue. FAFSA alone will cover tuition and about 2/3 of your living expenses - and that's just the most basic, guaranteed aid you get. Takes up to an hour to file if you are new to this and don't know what you are doing, and up to 3 days to be processed and be sent out the school. Done. Aside from FAFSA... Try to look into what's available out there -scholarships, grants, loans etc etc - gigantic amounts of opportunities limited only by your desire to search. And no matter the circumstances if you want to study you will find time.

i used the plastic milk crates- perfect for shelves, a dresser a table.

I was poor too and have no issues with poverty. the only thing is think lack of education of some of us. Poverty does mean some of us cannot get educated enough. Then we get manipulated by the rich. of us who are poor and uneducated are bought by the politicians. In india, the poor think what they are taught to think by the rich people.

I thought Goodwill just opened and assembled the things for you when I was growing up. Mom would take me to Goodwill and Salvation army all the time. Most of my toys came from there as well. I still have fond memories of riffling through the toys ;)<br />
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Mom worked her butt off to keep us off the streets and keep food on the table. I knew our finances as well as my Mom did when I was growing up, we both decided what to spend our money on. <br />
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I can't imaginemy step son making those choices, but I fear having parents with good jobs won't prepare him for his financial future.

I thought I was the only one who had glued on cardboard furniture!!!It didn't really bother me, except the "shelves" would sag a lot. <br />
Now I don't feel so alone....<br />
You are an inspiration!

I do. I bought a casio and keep it in my art room. :) I love real pianos, but alas those things take up space. :D

I love your piano, Krypton.<br />
Do you still play?

Thanks for sharing this story with us and giving us a peek at your past.

I had a cardboard box play kitchen :-) <br />
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I appreciated this story, it puts my childhood into perspective. We were poor, but my parents worked round the clock, and as i was becoming aware of money most of the siblings moved out.. so i didn't have to live with it too long..<br />
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i do remember being terrified to ask for money for field trips and school stuff because i was sure we wouldn't have it.

Lmao! Nah, I was past the cardboard box thing by the time I found men! :) My furniture was up to brick-and-plank level by then!<br />
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I remember getting some great Jordache tops at Goodwill. They were brand-new seconds, and ended up in a big bargain bin. I got like five tops for $2.<br />
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I also got my first bike at Goodwill. It was an old Western Flyer with purple glitter paint and a banana seat... :) Damn, I miss that bike.

Why am I not surprised you did the cardboard box thing too. ;) Let me guess, yours had cut outs of a certain blond professional singer?<br />
There is something very fun about shopping at Goodwill. I remember that ours had these baskets of trinkets once. They had one with "Grease" movie cards in it and my father got it for me. Happy Memory.

I did the cardboard box thing too. :)<br />
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I agree - poor is relative. I never thought we were poor, but we shopped at Goodwill, and I still remember coming home from school at the age of 9 to find a linesman cutting off our power. We were better off than the kids up the street (who didn't have power at all), so I never considered us "poor".