I pride myself on having more empathy than I know what to do with. Relating to people, and feeling what they feel, is basically my saving grace. Being friendly and extroverted on top of it helps, but it's the main reason I make friends so easily. It's also what makes me a decent journalist - in that I can easily get people to "open up" to me. I rarely find a topic that I cannot empathize with, no matter who the person. I finally realized the one thing I can't though, and that's genuine fear of the future.
Obviously, this will take some explaining.
I've been spending a lot of time (as I'm sure all of you have) following KillerMartinis' post and everything surrounding it. Aside from a few recommendations on her posts and various comments, I haven't commented myself. I haven't commented myself because I don't really enjoy talking about my childhood and the chaos it entailed. I know I've touched on my history with my father on here, and I've made the joke that "growing up poor sucked," but I've never gone into detail about much of it.
Now, before I go any further, let me be clear - I am not living in poverty. I'm a privileged person to a degree. So as far as certain things go, I can't say "I've been there." I've always had a bank account, and I've always had a home.
But I've never had stability. I don't think I ever will.
My mom was married four times. Her first husband was my sister's father. He became a drug addict, and the marriage failed. I wasn't even a thought yet. I've heard my mom's stories of this. Her parents, my grandparents, disowned her at the time because she married a Catholic man (we're Jewish). She was divorced with a baby. She was living in poverty. She was working 2 jobs and on government assistance, including food stamps. She was in her 20s at the time. The only thought she had for the future was "I can save enough money to put myself through college at some point, or my daughter." She chose her daughter. My sister now has about 4 degrees.
Her second husband...well he was fine from what I gathered. The marriage just didn't work out. No big story there.
Her third was my father. My father comes from a wealthy family. My aunt and uncle's house is in the "rich" part of Orangeburg, NY. It has 2 Lincolns and a Cadillac in the driveway. My cousin got a BMW for her 16th birthday. They have money. They're old money. This is, essentially, where I come from. This is how I grew up. Most people don't know that about me.
When my parents divorced, I was fine with it. I hated my father even back then. My aunt and uncle, however, are amazing people. They helped my mother take care of me as much as possible. When I got older, they put out the offer for me to live with them. That would mean a stable home, a car, and a full ride to college. I declined.
Sometime after my mom kicked my father out, we sank back into working class. That was fine. We had enough money. We weren't rich, but we were comfortable. My grandparents were back in the picture by now as well and helped us out, too. Things were good.
I had lived in three different houses/apartments by this point. We were living at my grandparents' house now. I was around 10 at this time.
When I was 11, my mom met a man. When I was 12 she married him. We moved again.
He had a great income, somewhere in the 6 digits (or at least very close). In the beginning, he tried to woo me as well. Men seemingly have this mindset with me, that "if I throw money at her, everything will be fine." My dad did it. My uncles did it. My stepfather did it. Many boyfriends did it as well. It never worked, and they didn't like it when it didn't work.
So for a few years, I was living rich again. The newest clothes and accessories. I had a nice cell phone. I had money to spare. But I still didn't like my stepfather, and he didn't like me. So around 16, he stopped throwing money at me. I didn't mind. I minded when he changed his mind about helping me with college. I minded because I knew with his income, I wouldn't get financial aid. It's why I'm not $30k in debt in student loans.
At 18, I was working four jobs and going to school. I needed to pay for transportation, books, food, clothing, laundry and my cell phone bill. One job was unpaid, two I got paid monthly. He didn't only stop buying me things (which, like I said, I didn't mind), but he stopped taking care of his wife's teenage daughter living in his home. He wouldn't let me eat his food or use his laundry card (we had a laundry room in which the machines required you using a prepaid card to use). I was 16 when it started.
At 19, he kicked me out. I fled to my wealthy family again for a summer. They, once again, offered to take me in. I came back to Brooklyn and told my mom that if this didn't get resolved, I was leaving. She took money from their shared bank account, and stuck me in the apartment I'm in now. She paid the rent while she hid me here for four months while she tried to save her marriage. Soon enough, she realized that I wasn't the issue in her marriage, and she moved in with me.
He wiped out their bank account.
Months later, things got somewhat resolved regarding that. Mom and I lived her for a while as working class again. Things were comfortable.
Then Grandpa died the day after Hurricane Sandy. We spent thousands repairing my grandparents' house. Grandma came to live with us in our two bedroom. I have to share my bed with my mom.
We've been in limbo with selling their house for over a year. We have a couple who wants to buy it. Their mortgage got approved. Their grant got approved. We're waiting for the bank to give them the loan.
We've been waiting since June.
We have no money right now. But, it's still ok. We're still eating. We still have a home. It's hard, but it's ok.
Originally, the plan was as follows. We would go to closing and get about $275k for the house. My stepdad is moving to Jersey and wants to sell the co-op he's in (the one we all lived in originally). He offered it to my mom. She was going to take it. This was back in the summer. We'd pay about $160k for the co-op, and have money leftover to wipe out all credit card debt and some of my loans. We had a plan.
We should have known better than to have a plan.
We didn't go to closing yet, like I said. We've been late on several bill payments over the past few months. My mom's credit is dropping. She's now going to have to tap into some kind of account she has through her job - something she can take loans out of. Forgive me, I don't know the semantics of it. She would be able to pull out about $15k from it, which would hold us over for a bit. For it to be paid back, her job will take a set amount from each paycheck until they get their total. Her checks would be lower.
For anyone who hasn't bought (or tried to buy) a co-op, it's a process. You must get approved by a "board" who checks your credit history, income, etc. Originally, my mom's income and history was perfectly fine. Now it's not. Her checks will be lower and she hasn't been able to pay bills in a few months. We may not get approved for this co-op.
So, once again, I have no clue where I will be living in a couple of months.
When I move again, which I will, it will have been the 5th time I moved in 22 years.
I've never decorated my room. I don't have posters on my walls and never have. I still have unpacked boxes in my closet from the last move. I don't say I have a "home," because I don't feel like I do. I call it my "apartment" or "house." I don't call it my home.
So when people tell me they're afraid of moving, I don't understand. My ex lived in the same house he was born in. He used to tell me about how upset he was when he went away to college because he had never lived anywhere else. My boyfriend now also lives in the same home he moved to when he was 1 year old. Most of my friends do, actually.
And many of them are afraid of the future. They're afraid of change. They're afraid to live somewhere else. They're afraid of not knowing what tomorrow will be like. They're afraid when they checking account is a little lower than it was last month. They're afraid when they have to clip coupons. They're afraid when the job they interviewed for rejects them. They're afraid whenever their plan doesn't go...as planned.
I cannot empathize with that. I try, god do I try. But I can't be afraid of my plan failing because I never had the luxury of having a plan in the first place. Any time I tried to, it went up in flames. I planned on moving into the old co-op. That didn't happen. I planned on marrying my ex. He left me over the phone on some random Saturday night. I planned on graduating college by now. I had two seizures which derailed me. I still need another semester.
I don't like to plan. I don't like to plan because there's no point. So when someone, even someone I love dearly, tells me that they are, in some sense, afraid of their plan failing, I become cold. I lose the empathy I'm known for. And I look at them and say "at least you had the chance to create a plan." They don't get it. They don't understand how I don't understand. So then I explain. See my above post for the explanation I give.
Then I hear "I didn't know all that." "I would have never guessed you went through that." "It must have been so hard, never having a stable home." "Why didn't you want to live with your rich family?" "I'm so sorry." "But you must know how it feels to be afraid of change."
If I spent my life afraid of change, I wouldn't survive. Change is all I know. It's all I'm used to. It's why I run back to my rich family whenever I get stressed. It's why I move my furniture when I get bored. It's why I change my "chosen career path" at least once a month.
I'm afraid of stability. How many people can empathize with that?