When you have no money to invest in yourself, it can feel really helpless and lonely. When you are barely getting by and need help just buying groceries, everything else does not seem important. Feeding our children and surviving is most important.
For the last few years and FIRST years of our lives together as a couple, we have struggled financially. Starting off a relationship with our own business and kids was HARD. We have been together almost 5 years now and it has not gone the fairy tale way most people dream of when it comes to lifestyle, milestones and having belongings.
We do not have a home and we do not have our own place yet. We did not have a formal wedding. I had no family involved in any of our special occasions or celebrations. My in laws and my husband are my whole world. Unfortunately, I lost so many friends along the way, including my best friend. Life has just been really hard.
But there have been so many amazing moments. My husband was my knight from the moment he came into my life. He is my best friend and partner through life. He and I have each other. And his amazing parents, who love us tremendously. We have beautiful, healthy children. My baby girl, *who was my only child before meeting him, loves him with all of her being and knows him as daddy. She is so happy and proud to have this little family. Because we did not have a strong family before hand. We had people in our lives, but none who fought hard to stay or really be there when we needed it most. Everyone slowly left.
I grew up poor. My parents were addicts and mentally ill. After being married in their mid 20s, they had section 8 housing. They struggled big time. And funded their addiction more than caring for their only child. After the divorce, my mother took me to her parents' home, where we stayed in a cellar for 2 years and shared the bathroom/kitchen when we were able to. My mom was ashamed. And though I was too young to know it, she was actively on drugs while being high functioning and juggling a full time job. She ended up dating and marrying her BOSS within a few months of the relationship becoming public, and he whisked us away to an apartment we shared. But we were still low income, and I was still neglected and abused.
It was not until a few years later that we got a home his parents actually bought him. Turned out they all had money, but my mother and I were not going to be supported by it because we were not what his family wanted for him. So they both worked full time and I raised myself. Every day, I was either alone on my stoop after school for hours or I would hangout with my neighbor. She became my best friend over time. No one knew how poor we were or how much I struggled to keep it together.
In h.s., I had to move out twice after my mother had severe drunken episodes that became violent and endangered our lives. Between that, I had run away in the night many times to stay with my friend, look for my birth father or run to my first boyfriends' house. I was scared mostly and wanted to get out of my town. Out of the poverty. Out of the dysfunction.
I had dreams of going to college for fashion, art and journalism. I was obsessed with sketching and writing: it was all I did when I had to endure being at home and locked myself in my bedroom with furniture in front of the door (since I had no lock).
But I had no savings. My mother had no savings. His family bragged about their strong catholic ethic and how all the grand kids would get funded for their education after graduating. I would not be one of them. I did not count.
My mother received child support from my father. In her right, she could use it for whatever. I will never know what she really spent it on. What I do know is when she was home from her 40+ hour a week job, she was in a drunken stooper with CREED blasting, as she slow danced through old visions and memories that kept her from facing her current problems. Kept her from facing the empty fridge, the sadness stained across our walls, the empty walls, and empty belly she hadn't earned but was part of her fate.
I left at 16, after locked doors and my full belly broke me free of that house and into a new life. But as a single mom of a little baby girl, no boyfriend or family support, I did not have many choices and my chances of college seemed bleak.
I was so lucky my aunt and uncle from my birth fathers side took me in. I had always stayed in touch with them even though they lived over 2 hours away and were busy with 4 kids of their own. I called on them to rescue me after my home life imploded from discovering my pregnancy at 3 months. I packed only an overnight bag but would never return.
For 7 years, I did what I could to grow. To be better. To give my child her best chance. At 17, I went into college right after graduating with honors in high school (my 5 month old daughter in the crowd). I got a job part time in school at the community college theater sewing costumes. It was the closest I could get to my decade long dreams of being in fashion.
Saying good bye to FIT and hello to my AA degree in liberal arts, I next set my heart on a University. I was accepted to and attended Stony Brook University for my 4 year program in Women's Studies and English literature. My dreams were finally close and real.
I had 4 glorious years at that school. I was able to get a one bedroom family apartment for myself and my child right on campus. So from age 20 to 24, I lived very low class but I did it all by myself. I was able to work at the apartment complex dorm office, a University job that helped me develop into a better person and mother. I could pay my bills with the help of loans. I could put food in my fridge. Take myself out to get it. Show my child what it means to be independent and not struggle but make the best of what you have.
Meeting my husband senior year was weird timing for me but definitely meant to be. I was struggling to pay my final semester and raised money on GoFundMe to finish out. I had worked so hard and was winding up to my last semester while applying for the next piece of my journey: My Masters degree.
Due to money and scheduling problems, I would have to move off campus and pay out of pocket the remaining last 8 credits I needed while finding a place to live. Instead, I walked away. From my acceptance to the Masters Program. From that place I called home. From that path.
I moved away with my new boyfriend, to start a brand new business he had just bought. It was a print and design company he and his family purchased the same weekend we first began talking, which I had no idea about right away. At that point, he and I both did not have much money. But we had determination and so many plans. For 3 years we would dedicate all our time to working and building up this business in our town. We would finally get that big break, and I would have my dream job designing apparel as well as logos for clients. It felt so right. I was ready for success.
Success is a weird word. A weird ideology.
For the past year and some months, we have been reflecting on our journey as entrepreneurs. We started off with so many expectations and so much hope but instead got beaten up and eaten up by overworking ourselves and struggling.
Entrepreneurship is hard. His family had years of business owning experience which came with ups and downs. I had none. But I was great with people, had great grades in college and many great accomplishments.
I had passion, dreams, and loved the idea of our company. But working in it was even harder than working on it. And all it felt like was an uphill battle the entire way.
So here we are now. 28 and 30, 3 kids total, 2 local businesses, and we are struggling. I tell no one, because it is hard to. So instead I have no one. I have no local friends. I have no family here. I watch my amazing husband grow more tired and more ashamed as he gets beat up by the physical and mental work it takes to run a business. I watch the sparkle in his eyes dwindle. And we barely scrape by. We have multiple times skipped our own meals to make sure our own kids eat well. We have sold things, we have worked 60+ hour weeks and brought our kids since we cannot afford daycare. All to keep the businesses afloat.
Coaching? $8,000 Expos? $1000+ , Books & self help guides? $500+ A weekend retreat and 2 personal mentors $6,000
Did we have good attitudes? Did we ask the right questions? Did we do what we were told. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Times a million.
But we are here still struggling. We have dreams of our own home, of montessori schooling our kids, of having holistic dr's, and an amazingly healthy lifestyle.
Here we are still IN LOVE. Still together. Just trying to keep it all together.
I think we have poor man's subconscious plague. I think we are bound by chaos and problems. That is because I was the survivor of trauma and abusive. I cannot rationalize enough what success means. I try hard. I am a go getter. But right now, all the energy I have goes into being an amazing mom and surviving. My #1 is to raise my babies.
But I have dreams. I have goals. I want to be a writer and public speaker. I want to inspire people to be their best through facing their trauma and saying NOT TODAY.
I want to be able to look at my own depression and say NOT TODAY.
My Masters program was in Social Welfare. I wanted to become a medical social worker and mentor pregnant teens + child abuse victims. I wanted for 4 years to become that. And then walked away to become an artist, my childhood dream. But I do not ask myself what ifs. Because I did the right thing at the time I was given that choice. And I always stand by my choices because I deeply contemplate my actions with heart, gut and brain.
I now know that every move my husband and I made in the past few years was all part of some bigger shift. It was part of a necessary series of experiences and mind growth we both needed.
Where most couples take their time in the beginning, we did not. The first 12 months of our relationship, we exellerated everything. It was what we wanted. My nana, who's husband died unexpectedly after 18 yrs of them being married, in his late 30's, once told me that you HAVE TO live in the moment.
You have to seize your moments. It is all we have in this world. So many people waste time contemplating. Being unsure. Being afraid. Or having the wrong focuses in life.
We are scared right now. We are tired. We both never got to be kids. We always had heavy responsibilities, even though our lives were so different. Together, my husband and I have something we both never had. Someone to be ourselves with. That is priceless.
I realize only now in 2019 that I have always only shed what was not needed. I have always shed my skin's, to grow into something more. Someone mightier.
I have rationalized this with facts. By analyzing all of the obstacles I ever went through since childhood, I see how each gave me scars as well as the qualities that are my deepest strengths now.
Resilience. Appreciation. Love. Empathic abilities. Highly emotional and intuitive powers. Truly. I know this because of all the good I have done. The people I have touched in their hearts. The difference I have made and people I have been inspired.
I could have been a great designer. I could have been a great social worker. I could have been a great teacher. But I want more. We want more.
We have lost and we have gained. We have learned a lot. And now are truly changed. We better know ourselves and our goals.
My new goal is to get past my own barriers. I am not fearless. But I am ready. And my depth has carried me through such darkness, that these moments are a field of flowers. I have what matters now. My babies. My partner. And my vision.
Now that I know this, I cannot wait to earn what we long for and make our dream life a reality.
Jean Soto, mother of 3 and wife, is a writer + artist in the Hudson Valley, NY community.
Content mention of Rape, Abuse, Neglect, Addictions, Mental Illness, Kidnap, Molestation, Child abuse, Teen Pregnancy, Abortion, birth, body image, gender/identity dysphoria, sexuality, personal trauma, domestic violence and other extremely personal stories. Please practice caution. I am not a licensed physician or mental health professional. No medical prescribing is provided on this site, Only personal insights, experience stories, and advice; All stories published have had prior authorization. Questions? Contact Jean at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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