I’ve been thinking a lot about how my life has changed since the Great Recession. I’ve been putting a lot of thought into things like wealth, money, poverty and class. And make no mistake, regardless of how much money you have (or don’t have) it impacts your lifestyle and your options. But when you’re broke, those options feel really limited.
I remember being effectively homeless (I lived in a 1979 RV that didn’t run, and had to shit in a bucket, but that’s a story for another time). There were entire stores and experiences that I just didn’t even think about. Jamba Juice and Trader Joe’s might as well have been on the moon for how accessible they were to me.
There is a lot of isolation when you’re broke. Stores you don’t go to, movies you don’t see, restaurants you don’t frequent. I missed a decade of culture and commerce by being ridiculously broke. The last fruitful flourishing days of THE MALL came and went while I was too poor to step foot in one. Now with the great CoronaCrash there will be even less choice, less options, more mass manufactured Chinese crap.
I’ve been watching a lot of old ’80s movies just to bask in the aesthetic of a by-gone era. All the shops, displays, advertisements and mannequins were all so vibrant and alive. It seems like everything had chrome trim and a neon glow. Now we just have flat screen TV’s and online ordering kiosks.
It’s cliche that we look backwards in time and think “Man, things were better then”. People in the ’70s and ’80s thought the stuff they had was garbage compared to the stuff from the ’40s and ’50s. One day we might feel that way about the 2000’s. The problem is what does 2040 have to look back on? Apps? Graphic design trends? Haircuts? Not even our clothes will last until then.
Often times we create emotional attachments to things. I struggle with this, as I find it hard to throw broken things away sometimes. Sometimes I see an old stuffed animal I haven’t thought about since I was 4 and all these emotions and memories come flooding back to me. These items become talisman to unlock old dormant memories, and if I throw these things away, I lose access to parts of my life.
But when you’re broke, you don’t have things. You just scrape by. I hate that I can’t show you pictures of me from 2008. Or 2006. I hate that I don’t have any shirts or things from 2011 because I wore everything until it fell apart. And because of this, my entire 20’s feels like it was lived by a ghost. Half remembered and barely there. Entire empires were built and fell apart without me noticing.
I think the hardest part of being on the wrong side of the poverty line isn’t the day-to-day struggle for survival, but the crushing isolation of extremely limited options. It costs money to make memories, and it costs money to buy things with which to remember those memories.
Honestly? It just feels so small. It feels like one strong gust of wind can scatter you. And there won’t be anything left behind for anyone to remember you. It’ll be like you were never there at all. And that just really bums me out.
Hope you’re having a good week.