Dear Captain Awkward,
Hello! I hope all is well with you and things. I have a long rambling question that is either summed up as “money: how do I get it” or “life: how do I fix it,” so, yeah.
Relevant life history: Recovering alcoholic dry drunk unintentionally emotionally abusive father, unintentionally emotionally abuse mother, batshit crazy running in both sides of the family no matter how hard my mum tries to deny it, income wildly varying between working poor and lower middle class. I’m the middle kid and either “the scapegoat” or the only good one. I mean, the story my parents had about me was that I was their success because I was wicked wicked smart, well-behaved (unlike my younger sister), wasn’t going to drop out of college when I got there (unlike my much older brother), was going to make lots of money etc etc etc.
This story fell the fuck apart when I hit college for a variety of reasons: one of my roommates freshman year finally managed to do what all of the people I knew had been trying to do since I was little, and convinced me that my home life Wasn’t Normal and that was not in fact how all families were and seriously that shit is fucked up yo. And also that I was crazy in the head, not normal, because apparently it is not normal for people to lay in bed and cry for days and barf whenever they had to go to places and shit? Because I always thought I just sucked because I couldn’t suck it up because everyone was like that, you know? Everyone else just had willpower! And shit! And mental illness was a sign of weakness and you just needed to suck it up and get over yourself!
Regardless, I got on meds that worked to varying degrees of well, and therapy that worked to vary degrees of okay, and basically managed to slow my exceedingly fast downward spiral into a slow downward spiral that ended with me dropping out of my five year university program (we did internships and shit, so.) in the fourth year and getting an internship based almost solely on how the manager felt kind of sorry for me I am pretty sure.
I had moved out of the dorms sophomore year and into an apartment because, uh, it seemed like a better idea than getting someone to switch suites with me so that I didn’t murder my shitty, shitty roommates, and managed to keep myself pretty well afloat on student loan money (terrible idea, I know, but moving back home seemed like an even more terrible idea at the time, as I was trying to stop contact with my family for a time so that I could get my head screwed on straight which they were, uh, not. helping.) then panicked at the end of the internship and went back to school at a state school because if you don’t have a college degree you will die homeless and alone or something. And also I had been kicked off my parents’ health insurance and really needed health insurance because my meds at the time were over $900 a month so I had gone off them cold turkey and eurgh.
After almost a year of searching (because I had been searching the whole while I was at the internship, because I would have been totally okay walking away from that for a permanent position) I finally found a job that had my gut going after the interview THIS IS A BAD IDEA DO NOT TAKE THIS JOB IF IT IS OFFERED THIS IS A BAD IDEA YOU WOULD BE BETTER OFF HOMELESS I SWEAR DO NOT DO THIS.
I did it.
And it turns out my gut was right and it was almost a year of complete and total misery with an abusive bully of a boss, a hostile workplace, harassment that I was too fucking stupid to document and it was just terrible and I was looking for jobs and crying and puking every morning that I had work and trying to do school in between and being paid well but not getting enough hours to actually pay all of my bills/rent never mind groceries and stuff!
So clearly stealing things from work that I could hawk for rent money and shit is the logical solution, right? No, no it is not, but that did not stop me because it seemed to be the best solution at the time until I got caught and that was okay even because hey I’ll pay it back and whatever I get fined and shit except now I am being accused of stealing shit I didn’t which I really, really should have seen coming.
So now I am waiting for a court summons, and have ramped up my job search from the constant searching for almost two and a half years at this point to frantic desperate searching. And I do not mean like searching for jobs I feel I deserve. I mean doing that and then going to McDonalds’ and Walmart and etc etc and metaphorically begging them to hire me. Which is not working and my parents do not understand why it is not working and are of the opinion that I am just not actually trying hard enough!
Meanwhile, my sister has graduated with a BS, got a masters, and in her very first job is making almost as much as my mother makes after a forty year career. She is also living with my parents until she finds a job in Ireland (and has been living with them for all this time) so that she can move in with her boyfriend (which will actually be really good for her and I am really happy for her and her boyfriend does not suck which is great!) So my sister is doing great and living with my parents and her only bills are gas, credit cards, and student loans.
This is super relevant because I literally have no money. My bank account is a couple pennies away from being overdrawn. Rent has been an increasing scramble to come up with and I’ve tapped out all my resources for that in my support network, because we are all living either just above or well below the poverty line. My parents have been chucking money at me which really, really helped for a while and I’ve been able to keep up with rent and bills, but. That has ended. Hard.
And I have been trying for months to get them to let me move the hell back in because I literally have no money and no job and it is not like they are actually well off enough that they can afford to throw money at me without giving up a shitload of things themselves. Because lord knows they won’t charge my sister rent! But the answer has always been no no no and according to my mum, it is because she can not handle dealing with my sister (who has learned how to treat people from my parents so, you know, it is not a picnic living with her and she and my dad team up against my mum and etc) with another person in the house. My sister says it is because my mum does not want to add more animals to the house (they have three cats, I have three cats and a dog that my dad loves and a friend who will take two of the cats for the duration which my mother knows so it is one cat and one dog, both of whom stick to me like glue (point being, except for when I was out on job interviews, they would be chilling in the basement with me and not bothering anyone else))
It was looking like it was going to be okay for a while, because I had a friend I was going to move halfway across the country to live with her and her family and it was literally going to be perfect, we had a trial period with me + all my animals a bit back to make sure everything would work and I could spend some time looking for jobs out there and it was great and they fucking loved my animals and me and then I had to drop all of the money I had set aside for moving on car repairs and cancel the moving truck and unpack my things and it was terrible.
And then I just had a really good job interview that I got through a staffing company and I was positive I was going to get the job because it was entry level but I have some experience and they seemed to really like me and it was totally awesome! And then my contact at the staffing agency called and was like “Soooooo they talked a lot about how much they liked you and seriously they really fucking liked you a lot holy shit, but they decided to go with someone with a bit more experience instead.”
That is kind of how all my job interviews go!! They really like me, I am really fucking good at job interviews according to people who do not actually have to say anything about whether I am good or bad so that the fact that they are all WE LOVE YOU LOTS has to be true right? and I do extra curricular activities in my field and they just end up going with people with more experience. Or I have too much experience which I thought was a fucking myth but apparently not and I have tried every freaking combination of experience and education on applications to service industry and retail places and jack. fucking. shit. I do not know what I am doing wrong! And it is really fucking frustrating because I can not pay my rent tomorrow and it is not like I am refusing to apply for jobs that are ~beneath me~ or what the fuck ever because jesus christ no job is beneath me as long as it gives me money.
And then I am going to have a criminal record because I make terrible life choices and jesus fuck it is going to be even fucking harder to get a job then which, I don’t know, it is seeming pretty impossible right now! And I have six figures worth of student loans coming due because I, again, make terrible life choices and am graduating and already used up my grace period on medical leave! My friends are being really supportive and are great and all but we’ve all reached the end of our ability to help each other out monetarily. My girlfriend is… very middle class America and does not really understand what it means to Not Have Money no matter how much I try to explain it to her, and it’s hit a point where it is just too frustrating of a conversation to have so I don’t. At least it is long distance, right? :D? :D? :(
So, my life is falling apart, it feels like, and a lot of it is due to me making really fucking shitty decisions. I have no idea what I’m going to do on the first and I am really, really angry that I can’t move back in with my parents but my sister is welcome to live there even though she doesn’t need to. I mean, I would understand it if they were all GOD WE ARE SO GLAD YOU CHILDREN ARE OUT OF OUR NEST AND IT IS OURS AGAIN GO DEAL WITH YOUR OWN DAMN PROBLEMS YOUR OWN DAMN SELF NOW >:( Except… they aren’t. Because my sister is living with them with no firm plans to move out (or, rather, plans that are constantly changing, because first she was moving in September, then November, then January, now April) and it feels especially unfair because my concrete plan would be, as soon as I have a damn job, move the hell out. Living there makes me crazy in a very literal way. But hey as long as I can keep paying the copay, I am on meds and have an appointment with a new therapist in January.
I… don’t really know what sort of advice I am looking for or what advice you could even give me. I am just like, Captain Awkward, you are a cool lady and you give really good advice to other people and sometimes it is about things that are sort of similar to what is going on with me I think PLEASE TELL ME HOW TO FIX MY LIFE ;_____;
So Far Beyond the End of My Rope Not Even Warp 10 Could Get Me Back to It
I don’t know how to fix your life.
This is one of those times where you have to ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and then ask yourself, “Ok, if that happens, what will I do then?”
For instance, if you run out of money and your parents remain firm in not letting you move back in, what happens when you run out of money? Will you become homeless? What will you do, specifically, if you become homeless? What shelter would you move into? What are its hours and rules? What can you keep with you? What things should you acquire for that eventuality? What would you do with your stuff and your pets? Could you visit the shelter now and take a look at it, and figure out transportation?
Your parents may be letting yours sister stay there because she does have the resources and an end date (even if it’s a changing one) to move out and they know it is a temporary situation, while they may worry that if you move back in it will not be a temporary situation. And I’m sorry, it IS a big deal to accept more animals into a household. Do they know about the theft and the court case at work, by the way?
So first step: Admit that it IS that bad. Figure out what immediate steps you will have to take to get shelter, food, a place to shower, where you will put your stuff, how you will keep yourself safe.
I have a few other immediate suggestions for you:
1. Find new homes for your pets. Your life is too unstable to have them right now. They are going to be a barrier for you in finding any new housing situation, and a financial drain in terms of food, veterinary care. I’m sure it’s heartbreaking to think of losing them, but you are responsible for them and to take care of them you have to take care of yourself. A lot of people who might take you in will not take your pets, no matter how awesome/cute/well-behaved/beloved/attached to you they are. That is reality.
2. Look into a 12-step program. Debtors Anonymous, maybe? I don’t know if they are the right fit for you – maybe there is one that is better? I don’t have direct experience with them and I’m not much of a Higher Power person, but when I read your story I think “Hey, that’s a group of people who have hit bottom and banded together to make their way back. They have had to face up to some serious bad life choices about money and learn how to forgive themselves. You could use some people like that around.” Find a meeting of some kind. Go, see what happens. Go back more than once. You could do worse than have an anchor like that, I think.
3. Level with your parents completely about your situation. Have the difficult conversation, or put it in a letter. Tell them about crime, imminent homelessness, and your mental health. They may still say you can’t live with them, and that’s their right to decide. Maybe they’ll stake you to move in with your friend, if that option is available. Give them the opportunity to know fully what’s going on and to help if they can. Be prepared for what you’ll do if they won’t. Negotiate any assistance you can from them. Would they allow you to list their address on job applications if you do become homeless, for example? Could you store things, take showers, and eat some meals there?
4. Take an inventory of your material possessions and your skills. What can you sell? What can you trade? Do you need your car (to live in, for example?)
5. Go the fuck to the library. You are going to become an expert in job-searching resources for hard-to-employ people. You are going to become an expert on finding medical studies and assistance programs that might help with your mental illness and paying for some of your meds. You are going to file for every form of government and charitable assistance you can. You are going to become an expert on student loans and how to defer them or file for forbearance. You are going to know about every shelter, halfway house, food bank, public park with a shower facility in the city.
You’ve made some terrible decisions, sure. Guess what? Rich people are not smarter than we are, and they are not perfect at decisionmaking. They just have a safety net that protects them when they fuck up. That doesn’t mean you aren’t answerable for your decisions. It means that you don’t have that margin of safety, so you cannot afford to be ignorant or to just let things happen to you. The cavalry is maybe not coming this time, so you must investigate every resource that might be available to you, and try every door that might open. As a college-educated person with some work experience, access/knowledge of the web, able to read and write well, etc. you have a level of privilege in tackling this that others do not. Use every advantage you have to save yourself.
6. Maybe you did this already, but there is a lawyer handling your theft stuff, right? If not, get one through Legal Aid or a local university’s legal clinic. There may be a way to salvage the situation, or at least make it have fewer future consequences for you.
Finally, I don’t know what you are doing wrong in your job search. If you haven’t noticed, there aren’t enough jobs for job seekers, especially new college grads. Maybe get rid of the idea that there is a level of job you “deserve?” Keep looking? Volunteer to keep your skills and network fresh? Be prepared to relocate anywhere (one more reason to re-home your pets)? It’s the same tired advice, I’m sorry. Employers can smell desperation and we’re all at great pains to remain positive, even though no one is feeling all that positive and we are especially not feeling positive when this job could mean the difference between food and not food, between home and not home.
That’s what I can think of right now. I wish you luck.