The Time I Couldn't Afford an In-N-Out Burger
This was a very significant time in my life and I was very well aware of it while it was happening. Sure, there are plenty of rock bottoms we may hit in our lives but this one... this one was the rockiest of rock bottoms that I've ever sunken into and that's because it took place right after I was on cloud nine.
At the beginning of 2015, I was extremely busy. I was the top news reporter of my schools newspaper making front page headlines, I was having fun hosting my own radio show, I was extremely involved in my community making great connections, I was hosting my very own first big Hip Hop charity event, I was living in a lovely home with my best friend, I was a few months away from receiving a Bachelor's Degree (and was also going to be receiving another prestigious award), and on top of all that... the kindest man was falling in love with me unexpectedly. Life was dope. I honestly was the happiest I had ever been in my whole entire life.
Then, my life shifted in what felt like the blink of an eye.
Falling in love at the time was something that was too foreign for me to grasp and it affected this relationship that was unfolding right in front of me, which created an extremely toxic bubble. The pressures and anxiety of thinking about what life after college looked like (with no job on the line) kicked in before I had even graduated. To make things worse, right after I graduated I was diagnosed once again (after I had thought it was a one and done kind of thing) with kidney stones. Not only that but my lease was ending that summer, thus I also had no idea where I was going to live.
So there I was... graduated with a B.A. degree (which I honestly couldn't really enjoy or celebrate because of everything else that was going on around me), jobless, broke, in debt, about to be homeless, and extremely physically/mentally sick.
By the way, if you aren't that aware about kidney stones (I mean... I wasn't before I had them), most doctors describe the pain to be worse than natural childbirth and worse than surgery without anesthesia. Hopefully, that gives you some idea about the seemingly vegetative state I was in all summer.
Because of the kidney stones, I couldn't look for a job. Because of the kidney stones, I basically couldn't focus on anything else other than just passing them and getting better. Since I found myself only being able to digest saltine crackers and sips of water, you could imagine how my health plummeted. In the process of all this, I at some point joined the dark side without even noticing because I honestly became the meanest, ugliest person in the chaos of my own life. The darkest parts of me really surfaced and unfortunately was released unto the person helping me out the most, which was my boyfriend at the time.
He pretty much became my stay-at-home nurse. He so graciously, selflessly gave up so much of his own precious time to help me heal and provide me with physical/mental support. I will be forever grateful for that because I can't imagine sticking by a Darth Vader who has kidney stones and is extremely dependent. Also because I couldn't imagine enduring that episode on my own. It obviously negatively affected him because the selfish mistakes I made at the time were so hurtful. To this day, I'm still working on self-forgiveness.
Fast forward to the end of summer, the kidney stones are gone but that was only half the battle.
I still had no stable roof over my head, no money to afford one, and had to find a job. Living with my mother was an option but after living on my own for four years, going back under her roof wasn't something I wanted to do. Aside from my pride, my relationship with my mom is much healthier when we're not living together. For the next six months, I was either sleeping on my friends couch, my moms couch, or on a mattress in my boyfriends warehouse. He, ironically, also had his lease end at the same time as mine, so both of us really had no place to call home and we each found ourselves in our own dark place, sharing it.
I had no safe space. I was always uncomfortable. All I wanted in this whole entire world was my own bed and money to afford groceries.
I'll never forget texting my friend one night about how badly I was craving In-N-Out but couldn't afford it. I didn't even have the gasoline in my car to get there. At that moment I thought to myself, "Damn. I can't even afford a $2.15 burger and $1.65 fries..." That's crazy! To this day when I look back to that very moment, forever imprinted in my brain, I am in disbelief at how rough things were. Like... if you can't afford the some of the cheapest fast food, you know you're really on the struggle bus.
Slowly but surely I gained my independence back. My first job after graduating college was becoming a substitute teacher and if you were to ask me if I have ever in my life thought I'd become one growing up, the answer would be, "Definitely not." It didn't give me the most stable paycheck but it was enough to get me back on my own two feet.
Regaining my good health - physically, mentally, spiritually - was really difficult. I honestly would say that it took a whole year to do so. The start of this year is really where I would stamp the turn over of a happy, new leaf.
That experience, though... that unexpected, intense, dark rock bottom that I hit really has made me such a grateful person and really shifted my whole mindset. I'm really happy it's over and I'm at a point where I could look back and reflect but I'm also really happy that it happened.
At the time, I felt so stuck. I couldn't envision my reality today. I couldn't really envision my way out of that sunken place.
People always say it gets better eventually but when you're depressed and feel helpless, those simple "words of wisdom" do nothing to enlighten you.
I couldn't tell you exactly what the solution is to getting out of rock bottom but I can tell you that eventually it got to the point where I'd do anything that'd help. Your survival instincts kick in and you'll do anything to be in a better place in your life. I got to the point where I was so dependent on others for my own basic needs that it was embarrassing. Sometimes in life, nobody can truly help you but yourself. That was a hard lesson I learned. I really had to prove to myself that I could overcome this on my own.
In two years, I went from extremely dependent on others to the most independent I’ve ever been. I definitely do not have all my sh** together now but I have all I need. And when you go from rock bottom to this… damn do you feel successful.
This was one of the most eye-opening experiences I've ever had in my life and probably will ever have. As cliché or corny as this may read, I am literally filled with immense joy every night that I crawl into my own bed and every time I buy groceries. The relationship obviously didn't work out. A relationship with a foundation built with broken bricks can't survive. But I am here. I overcame. And I'm so, so happy I'm in a position where writing about this is a thing of the past.
I, also, currently have enough money to get In-N-Out (and the gasoline to get there).