I Feel Like I'll Always Be Poor

Backlight of a teenager depressed sitting inside a dirty tunnel
Backlight of a teenager depressed sitting inside a dirty tunnel

My name is Kaelyn Thompson.

I'm from Waller, Texas and I grew up in a lower-middle class household.

When I was a child I never went without the essentials (food, clothes, school books, safe living conditions) but that's mostly because my mother is a hardworking badass who worked four jobs at one point to make that possible.

I graduated at the top of my class in high school and decided I'd give college a shot because not only did my mother make it clear that I had no choice, I also realized that I would never be able to make a good enough living to do more than just survive without a college degree. Though my mother demanded I go to college, she and my stepfather really had no way of supporting me financially to help me get there. They had their hands full and were still living paycheck to paycheck so it was up to me to make it happen.

Of course, the way around that is scholarships and student loans. When I made it to college, having applied for $32,000 in student loans, I expected to get my degree in four years, then land a dream job that would allow me to pay off the debt. But of course it wasn't that easy.

What I didn't expect to happen was me not understanding the way a checkbook was supposed to be balanced. Hell, I'd never even written a check. Which resulted in one overdraft after another and my credit score plummeting and me having to get creative with finding places to cash my checks. Which resulted in me not getting approved for further student loans. Which led to me having to go to school part-time so I could pick up a job. Me working the job resulted in me being too tired to make it to class and turned into me picking up a second job so that I could try and "hurry up and pay the loans off so I could just finish school," which subsequently resulted in me not being in school at all.

Three years, two car repossessions, and one eviction later -- after being laid off and pulling out a few too many payday loans so I won't go without lights -- and I AM STILL trying to just fucking finish school.

I'm not saying I didn't make bad and stupid decisions, because I sure as shit did. I'm saying that because I, and millions of people like me, entered into college so ignorant as to how the world works that I feel like I was set up to fail. Poor people don't have an immediate network of others available to offer advice, or refer them to cushy on-campus jobs that will allow them a flexible work schedule, or parents that can afford to pay rent and car notes so their kids don't have to stress themselves to death.

I worked my ass off. I got a partial academic scholarship but that did almost nothing for me and I didn't know about what other opportunities I had. I had helpful guidance counselors, sure, but they were only helpful for the 10-15 minutes I was sitting in front of them.

I'm not trying to get any pity, I'm just offering a glimpse into my life. I'm blessed to still not have any kids at my age (25) because that would have made things a million times more difficult. I was also just blessed with a job at a startup that seems to put great value in their employees, but the fear of possibly getting laid off or replaced is a daily reminder of my inadequacy.

I want so damn badly just to finish school because I know if I could just get my degree I'll land a job that will help me break this paycheck to paycheck cycle. I think this job has the potential to get me there if I can stay here long enough and finally finish school.

I just want to lay in bed at night and not be afraid someone is coming to take something from me in the morning, I want to pay my fucking bills on time and go to the dentist to get my cavities filled, get my first mammogram and find out why my boobs are always hurting instead of just dealing with it. I want to be able to save up money to get out of debt, to fill up my gas tank a few times, not have to worry about whether I'll have food to eat for the rest of the week. I just don't know what I should be doing to get there. I feel like I'll always be poor.