It never seems like life stays stable for very long. We left off on my story with my parents crying over my pregnancy and telling me I had ruined my life (find that delightful story here in case you missed it). Well, I ended up marrying my baby daddy, giving birth a month later and spent the next two years in a daze. The days blurred into each other, one miserable day after the other as I muddled my way through parenting while my husband went out drinking all night, smoking methamphetamines and then crashing wherever he dropped; only to head straight into work the next day. Not exactly the dream I imagined… so I decided to start over.
When you start to think that starting over is easier than staying put
At some point I realized that I was basically a single parent… so I might as well BE a single parent. My marriage was controlling and emotionally devastating. Not to mention the drunk and drug-addled environment it placed my child in. The real clincher was when my two-year-old waddled up to my husband with his drug pipe and a lighter. I knew I had to leave.
And I realized that starting over, even if it was starting from scratch again would be better than staying put. It was super hard because while we had started out in severe poverty we had worked hard to get a car, an apartment, furniture, regular meals, etc. I didn’t want to go back to being hungry. And I didn’t want to ask my parents for help.
When you take a shot in the dark and just start over
Now, I want to take a moment and make a disclaimer here. This is NOT a recommended course of action. The fact that it worked out for me at all is sheer luck.
When I left my husband at the ripe age of 20, I fled with just my baby, a bag of clothes, a pack-n-play and our car. I went and stayed with someone I had met less than 24-hours before through a friend who graciously offered to let me and my child stay with them. This could have gone horribly, horribly wrong. I didn’t know this person. My friend who introduced us had only met them that day. As it turned out, it was a life raft and I clung to it with all my might.
I had about $100 and I went into survival mode immediately. What I had learned from my previous hunger experience was that there was something called “food stamps” and I set out the next day in search of them. And I was able to secure assistance so that at least my child and I would have a consistent food source. I got a job and I stayed with this random stranger for almost a year and a half.
Starting over never turns out like you plan
I want to go on record here and say that there is nothing wrong with using federal assistance (aka food stamps, welfare) when you are in need. I really needed it. It really helped me. I used the assistance for 6 months and by that point I was stable enough to not need it.
I see a lot of judgement about these things and it makes me sad. I’m not naïve. Some people abuse the system. But that doesn’t mean everyone does. Life throws you curveballs sometimes and using the assistance as you need it so you can get back on your feet is the whole point of the system. I didn’t have others to rely on at that point in my life, just myself and whatever resources I could avail myself of.
We like to pretend that we plan out our lives and that things will always go to plan. Yet it rarely happens. It’s more practical to plan that things will go sideways (or at least be flexible enough to change course when it happens). I didn’t plan to go on public assistance and restart my life at 20 just after I had spent the last two years rebuilding it. I didn’t plan on getting divorced at 21 and being a single mother either, but it occurred.
What’s your start over journey?
Have you ever had to start over? Left everything behind and started from scratch? I think it teaches you that you are capable of more than you know. You have the ability to create something from nothing and to design your life to be how you want. It may not always take the direct path there, but you can create something beautiful with a fresh start that can make everything worth it.