Life, Loss, Love – Quite the Journey thus Far
I grew up financially poor living in one of the wealthiest counties in America in one of the lower income neighborhoods of that county. I actually heard people refer to my neighborhood as “bad” on numerous occasions. It wasn’t bad. Maybe the apartment complex down the street had some rough edges, but that was down the street. I’ve been in bad neighborhoods before – this wasn’t bad.
My father worked at a printing press for a major yearbook manufacturer handling paper and operating large machinery all day. My mother met him working for the same company in a different department but later became a self-employed house cleaner. They separated when I was fifteen, divorcing a year later. I lived with my mother in our two and a half bedroom, one bath home that she remodeled over many years, due to her financial situation.
My older brother got the full second bedroom. It wasn’t until he moved away to college that I migrated to that nicer bedroom. Originally, my sleeping quarters were a screened in porch that someone poorly enclosed and called a half bedroom. The floors were concrete, there was no insulation, and my dad had to paint over the wooden walls because someone had etched a swastika into one of the panels.
I would often sneak into my parent’s bedroom at night after everyone had fallen asleep and continue my slumber on the hardwood floors at the foot of their bed. In my mind, anything was better than that “half bedroom.” Prior to the remodeling my mother did over the years, I recall being embarrassed to have friends over.
Work, Work, Work, Work, Work
I began working at the age of fourteen at a pizza joint located within walking distance of said home. Fourteen year olds had a curfew of seven o’ clock (some Kansas state employment legality bullshit), but I managed to convince my employer that I was eager to learn, sometimes working until midnight, bringing in them tips.
I worked throughout high school while cheerleading, dancing, and maintaining decent grades. Senior year, I quit cheerleading and dance. My family’s income status was apparently widely known because my varsity coach assumed I was quitting cheer due to an inability to afford the uniform fees, offering to waive them if I would reconsider my resignation. However, I was quitting to take on three part-time jobs in preparation for my big move to Los Angeles to attend college at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.
From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work. I watched them struggle to make ends meet on many an occasion noticing the difference between what we had and what my peers had. The dissimilarity, also evident among extended family. I tried hard not to use this against them ever because I knew they were working hard. Also, they taught me that a large closet full of name brand clothing and a fancy car were all disposable. Aside from monetary value that would depreciate over time, they weren’t worth a thing. What wasn’t disposable was love, food, a roof over our heads, a place to sleep at night, and family.
We had our fair share of issues and problems, but we never went hungry. I always had a pillow to lay my head on at night, and my mother’s love was the most unconditional and consuming love I have ever experienced to date. She is the reason and the motivation behind all that I am and all that I do today.
Grief and Loss
Both of my parents passed away in 2011 from lung cancer. I was living in Brooklyn, New York, at the time of each of their deaths. There is really no way to explain such loss in words except for that it changes you. It bends you, breaks you, puts you back together, and then breaks you again.
Since their passing, I have gone through my own personal financial struggles and hardships. I won’t get into the details but my point in sharing all of this with you is so that my lifestyle is understood.
Before beginning this project, The Road Linds Travels, I would scroll through the Instagrams of world travelers, envious, and I would wonder how the twenty-somethings I read about in various articles quit their jobs to live out of their minivans. I want you all to know where I came from, how I got here, and to be able to relate. I know that on the surface it must appear that I have a multitude of resources at my leisure, an unlimited supply of wealth at my whim. This is not the case. I’ve never been handed anything.
I do not travel 24/7. I must budget and plan, plan, plan. As I stated before, I must have been a travel planner in a past life because I’m very savvy when it comes to a deal. I also attribute this to my mother teaching me that expensive doesn’t always mean better. I have a full time salaried job and overtime is sometimes necessary. I do not get paid for said overtime. Also, I have quite a bit of debt.
My mother whom I lovingly referred to as, “mama,” was my best friend. I will draw parallels to her often and share personal stories like this one often in my blogs. This is who I am – whom she created. She always iterated that a woman should be self-sufficient, never rely on anyone else, especially a man, for anything. I have gone to bed hungry, been late on bills, had my car impounded, been unemployed, worried how I’m going to pay this or that, but I always take care of my business.
When I come home at night to my humble one bedroom, one bath apartment, my furbabies anxiously awaiting my arrival, I am filled with a sense of pride and joy. I did this. I made this. Thank You, Universe. Thank You, mama, for showing me how it’s done.
If there is one thing my parents’ death taught me, it is that life is short. Life is too short to always say, “no,” to the road trip. And it’s too short to say, “later,” to the dream of walking amongst alpaca at Machu Picchu. There isn’t always a later and money comes and goes.
“Where there’s a will there’s a way,” my mama repeatedly said for the twenty-six years I gratefully knew her.
“Where there’s a will there’s a way”
There’s always been a will – a will to support myself, a will to share my art, a will to make the most of what I have, and a will to see the world and to immerse myself in all of its wonders. And though, she isn’t here to share in such wonders, I carry my mama in my heart everywhere I go. She is always on my mind, and I continue placing one foot in front of the other knowing she is proud of the woman I have become and continue to grow into.