What started with a 3-day notice back in October, and ended with my eviction in mid-November, has now morphed into a beautiful combination of blessings, revelations that I am far from the only one that I know personally that has had to go through this, and a new resolve to help those that will go through this situation in the future. If a well lived life is about a life spent helping others (or simply keeping one's head out of one's own ass), then what I learned that week was that admitting to mistakes and failure was not the same as BEING a failure, and that people will genuinely want to help you, and sometimes in a way that inspires you (or in my case, strengthens your resolve) to help others.
This story picks up in a courtroom, where I am trying to plead with the owner of my former apartment for some sort of deal to work things out, and failing miserably. To the the point where even the judge noted that I had made extraordinary efforts to make some sort of deal to stay in my apartment. No such deal was to be had on that day, and I had to leave. ASAP. I sat in the courtroom after everyone had left except the court clerk, and cried my eyes out. The court clerk listened to my pathetic sobs as I told my story, and related to me in that she sat in the court everyday, day after day, and heard story after story of people's slow descent from the middle class. She also became the first of three people to tell me to forget my pride, and figure out where my kids and I were going to live.
Later on that evening, I found myself posting about the whole humiliating ordeal with some long time online friends, and I heard again that dropping the pride might be the best thing to do, and admitting that I needed help. I realized then that Pride, that old friend that I would wrap around me like a warm quilt that magically warded off hurt and anger, would be my undoing if I didn't put it away and talk about what happened to the kids and myself, and what would happen if I didn't get any assistance. I had to ask myself if it was more important to find and finance a place to live, or to maintain the "everything is okay" image I had been cultivating for so long.
After a day of stalling and trepidation, I finally set up a GoFundMe page, and told my story to a wider world. If there is anything more damaging to one's pride than admitting that you royally screwed up, and now need help to right your ship, I am not sure what it is. What I feared most by admitting that I had an issue and needed help was the judgement of others. What would people think of me, that I had failed so obviously at so elementary a task? I reviewed and edited my page, said a fervent prayer, then released my request to the internet.
I never expected the overwhelmingly positive response I got. After publishing my story in a few places, I found out that my story is so common, especially right now, as to almost be passe. The court steps are populated by those that were living on the financial edge, and only needed one unexpected incident to push them over. We are a brotherhood: those who were once financially okay, now just barely getting by, and sometimes, not even that.
Because I had no idea how any of this would work out, I formed two plans. The first was to hurriedly find a place, and, if I could raise the money, pay the deposit, and move in as soon as possible. Barring that, I would just put everything into storage, and move the children and myself back into the residential motel that we had lived in before. But more than anything else, I absolutely had to vacate the apartment before the first of December.
Everything I am about to tell you happened in the space of roughly 10 days.
Tuesday, I lost my court battle to stay in my apartment.
Wednesday, I posted the GoFundMe page.
On Thursday I got a call from a dear friend, asking what on Earth had happened. I stood in an empty-ish hallway at work, telling the Reader's Digest condensed version of the events of the past several months. This phone call would turn out to be a Godsend, but I will get to that later.
I got off work on a Friday, and decided to ride up and down three city blocks, collecting phone numbers on For Rent signs. My goal was to collect between 5 and 10 numbers, call all of them, and seriously hope one of them worked out. After leaving several messages, I finally got a live person on the 4th call, and arranged to look at an apartment the next day. I tell the kids that we are going to look at a place tomorrow, and if the person likes us, we are applying, and we are going to take it if approved. We have to go, and this is no time to be picky. They agree.
Saturday, we look at a place. It's smaller than the place we currently live, but there is a garage where we can store the extra stuff, the kids are happy to not be going to a motel if we get it. We meet the manager, who seems to really like us, even after my son makes a Romanian gymnast joke (and I cringe!), and I fill out an application. We have to wait until Monday for an answer.
My campaign has actually brought in some money, for which I am insanely happy, and by Sunday word has gotten around my small church community that all is not necessarily well in my world. Here was another place I was afraid to admit I had an issue, as, being both an introvert, and socially awkward, sometimes people take that as being snobby or standoffish. Definitely NOT a good impression. I figured most people didn't realize I didn't talk much for fear of accidentally inserting my foot in my mouth. I figured I didn't have many friends here, but I was offered very discreet help, and left church with enough to put a serious dent in covering my moving expenses.
Monday, I got the call I had been waiting for. I had been approved for the apartment. The dear friend I spoke with the prior Thursday, had offered to be my Angel investor, and completely covered the deposit on the new apartment, and made an extraordinary effort to make sure I had it in a timely fashion. I immediately make arrangements to pay the deposit, sign the lease, and get the keys. I also begin to transfer utilities and mail, reserve a truck, and have my son begin soliciting what of his college aged friends can help us with the move, which, out of necessity, is going to have to happen the day after Thanksgiving. I purchase the first set of boxes today.
Tuesday, I meet with the manager and pay the deposit, Wednesday, I get the keys, and begin moving small items into the apartment. We also continue packing, with my 10-year-old daughter proving herself to be the MVP of packing boxes. I have never seen a more organized effort to fill, tape, and mark boxes, as the effort put forth by my daughter during her first major move.
Thursday, Thanksgiving day, is spent packing, eating, then packing until we run out of boxes.
Friday morning is a whirlwind of activity that sees me running to get more boxes (and donuts to feed my "crew"), running to replace a suddenly destroyed tire, running to finish packing before my son's friends arrive, running to pick up a U-Haul truck, running home, trying to get all of the heavy furniture out of the house and onto the truck before my college-aged crew has to leave, especially considering the limited amount of time I had the truck, getting the first load done and unloaded, running back to the old place to try to hurry and get the boxes loaded onto the truck, realizing that two ten year olds and a twelve year old with dollies do an EXCELLENT job of neatly loading boxes onto a truck, running back to unload the truck and return it to U-Haul, then running home to clean up, and run to my sister's place for Thanksgiving leftovers.
Saturday and Sunday were spent retrieving what we had left in the old place (my clothes dryer was the largest item) and doing what cleaning we could, as I had re-aggravated a hand injury, and my son and I were both extremely sore. My knees have yet to forgive me for the move into a second floor apartment.
And yet by the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we were done. There were still cries of "What box/bag is that in?", and beds still needed to be assembled, but by the Grace of God, we had landed safely in a new place. We are exactly where we need to be, as we are close to my daycare, and my daughter is now in the district she needed to be in in order to go to the middle school she wanted to go to. Yes there are some things that were lost in the move, and some things we will have to purchase to complete the adaption to this new space, but we made it, we are safe, at home.
It is after midnight here, and all is...quiet.
And I realize in this quiet that it is now my job to continue to bring attention to the plight of those whose lives are entangled in a system that routinely turns people out on to the street, at what is perhaps the worst financial moment in their lives. For me, for this moment, my fight is over, assisted along the way by many wonderful people. But my fight for others in the same and similar situations is just beginning.
But on that Sunday night, after Thanksgiving, it was time to relax, and rejoice in my many blessings. A glass of wine, a slice of leftover pie, and the knowledge that, so long as you reach out, honestly and humbly, you are never really alone.