Three hundred and seventeen

When I’m wrong, I admit I’m wrong.  And when I’ve hit a sore spot because of something I’ve written, I think it’s good to talk and write about it.  The more we discuss, the more we all learn, and that has always been the purpose of this blog and journey.

I hope I never have to know what it’s like to not be able to afford fruit and vegetables or have to choose between food and rent.  I was born into a situation where my family had money, I got a good education, and I live in a wealthy country where there are jobs available for me (and I have a job, which I need to continue to go to during this month).  It was luck and nuture (and a little nature) that allow me the things I have now.  I could just as easily have ended up in poor country with no food at all.  I am thankful every day that I have the things I do, and I try not to take any of them for granted.  I also can’t change change the circumstances that I grew up in and what I have now.

I realize now that I sounded like a spoiled girl when I wrote some of my posts.  I only wanted to be as honest as possible about what I was feeling.  I chose the $21.40 a day (which I realize is not that low, but is the low-income line of Canada for a single-income one-person family) because I wanted it to be a representation of someone who is working and still has some income, but has to make choices about what they are spending money on.  I know that if I had no money at all, was unemployed, in debt, or had children, my priorities would be different.  I also know that if I didn’t have a strong support system and family who has money and can help me out if I need it, my life would be completely different.

I’m sorry if this is coming across as an insensitive girl with money pretending to be poor for the sake of the story.  That is not my intent, but only to bring up the issues of how hard it is to live off of $20 a day, so therefore how much harder it would be to have no income, or to have a situation outside of my control make it impossible for me to get out of a hole of depression and poverty.  It’s also a forum for me to discuss greater global issues about poverty.  I am trying to have everyone think about what it would be like for them to only spend $21.40 a day, and how much harder it would be with even less.  I’m not doing a good job of that, so I’m going to rethink my strategy for the month.  I apologize to anyone I’ve offended.

I’d like to share the comments made by two people I respect greatly and who both went through really tough times.  Thank you both for sharing.

“Miss Schwietz when you are living at the poverty line there is no money to save for fun things! If there was money to save you would not be poor. As for free activities try volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter perhaps then you would get a better grasp of what living life at the poverty line is really like. When we experienced bad times a walk in the park was an outing, just spending time with loved ones made the best memories, we have learnt as a family that it does not take money to be rich in life!!!!!!!!
ps Starbucks is not in the vocabulary of the below poverty line” – Suzanne

“I have to agree with Suzanne. When you have to “live” with nothing but coins you appreciate the little things in life like food, hot water, heat, a bicycle (no matter how broken down it is), clean clothes, feeling safe at night, sleep. There are so many things that can’t be understood unless you really are without money.

Our society bases success on the amount of money you make and people naturally take pride in being successful. It is good to be proud of the hard work that brings success – and to understand the values it takes to be successful. But imagine, through circumstances beyond your control, not being successful even with all the hard work. There is no pride but only the feeling of failure. And it is not only the feeling of failure but that “you” are a failure. This is when depression sets in. When there is no light at the end of the tunnel there is only darkness. Imagine, in todays world, how many people are facing this very real and scary state of being. However, there is no shame in failure, only shame in giving up.
Here is a fun, free thing to do in the city: Climb to the top of the tallest building you have, look down and think about jumping because you are worthless and the world would be better without you.

I commend your efforts Lindsay on living below the poverty level for the purpose of the blog but mention having to pack a lunch let alone walking around with $20 A DAY (!!!!!) or “saving up” for a birthday party again and, and… You touched a hot button for those of us who have been there and have experienced real poverty. Good for you. That is what writing is all about.” – Geary

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5 thoughts on “Three hundred and seventeen

  1. There was no offense taken on my part Lindsay. I survived and have done well for myself. You know the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. When I went bust for the second time in my life I handled it much better simply because I had gone through it before and knew I would survive. I wouldn’t change a thing. My failures enriched my life beyond measure just as my successes have. It is life. The lessons I took away from my two major experiences were that you can’t measure yourself against anyone else, and the person you are does not depend on your financial state. I also learned to appreciate what I did have rather than what I did not.

    I hope I did not intrude on your project (which I think is pretty awesome) and hope you just keep on writing what you are experiencing. It is all good. You did sound a bit spoiled though 😀

    Keep up the good work!!

    • Thanks Geary for sharing. You did not intrude in the project at all – you enhanced it. It’s good to hear other personal stories and lessons learned. And good for people to call me out on things!

  2. Pingback: Three hundred and thirty-seven | threehundredsixtysixdays

  3. Hi Linsay,
    I came across your blog as I recently went back to school and have to make ends meet by living on $1000 per month, which I guess is considered below the poverty line. I wanted to get some insight into what the next year would look like for me, so thanks for trying it out and blogging about this topic.

    I wouldn’t feel bad about having Starbucks in your vocabulary or coming from a middle class family. Clearly, there will always be someone that is living with less than you, but it’s apparent that the point of your project isn’t to reduce yourself to a certain level to say in the end “look how well I did”. It’s about gaining understanding about poverty and increasing your appreciation for what you do have. I find that people like to say “you don’t know what it’s like to be me” or “I have it way worse than you” in order to set themselves apart from others. Though this may be true, this type of attitude doesn’t really foster an inclusive environment or a learning opportunity. So don’t worry about it.

    I feel that just like you, I myself will never know what it’s truly like to be financially desprate, marginalized, homeless or ill without being able to get help. But that’s OK. Many people who live on a very limited income aren’t in that situation either, and extreme circumstances are not necessary to live a life that fosters gratitude. And living on a few bucks per day doesn’t automatically lead to you jumping off a building. There are more reasons than money that make people do that and you living on $20 vs. $4 a day will not change that. I think your approached the project with a lot of caution and respect, so please don’t feel bad.

    Anyways, I hope you continue doing your one month challeges. Perhaps a “live for one month without creating garbage” could be a good one, if you’re taking suggestions.

    All the best,

    Jolanta

    • Thanks Jolanta. First of all, thank you for your support. It got to be a bit difficult for me there in the middle of the month feeling bad about the project, but I came out of it with a lot of understanding and gratitude (like you said). Secondly, I’m glad I can help. Part of the reason I did the monthly challenges was to learn myself, but the other was to hopefully share what I learned with others. I always feel great when someone stumbles across my blog and finds some use for it. Right now I’m writing the book about my year and blogging about random things every Wednesday, but soon I’ll be back to taking suggestions for new challenges. I love the “without creating garbage” idea, although I can imagine that would be very difficult! I guess that’s the point, though, for it to be a challenge 🙂 Anyways, thanks again and all the best with your living at $1000 per month!

      Lindsay

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