Monday, December 15, 2014

Is It Foolish and Destructive for Me to Choose to be Homeless?

As of writing, I have officially been voluntarily homeless, living out of my car, for over 1 year and six months now. I actually intended it to be over by now, as I only wanted to pay off a portion of my debt and speedily secure an apartment so that I wouldn't have to  endure another hot summer, but my plans have gone awry to the extent that I'll likely be homeless for 3-5 more years.

It's been very difficult and stressful, having just enough pleasures and comforts to make the everything bearable. I've never regretted starting this experiment, particularly because I'm dedicated to never having to live with another human-being again unless it's a girlfriend or wife. The plan I'm set firm on is to pay off the entirety of all my debt and save up $20K to finally give me the financial stability and worth I've been seeking for years now.

A small selection of people think I'm nuts and irrational for doing this. (Perhaps even you, which I'll forgive you for thinking.) They say that my experiences with living with other people may not be as bad as I've made them out to be, or that even I may have been the bad person in the various situations, and that I could be setting myself up for long-term harm by continuing living this way.

The objections may not be very worthy to address, but they have set my brain buzzing enough to pressure me to respond. Mainly, my desire to remain homeless for this duration is fueled by the desire to reach some financial goals I've been pursuing fruitlessly for nearly five or more years now, and also that every time I've lived with someone they would deeply interfere with my life and emotional well-being, to the point the lasting emotional scars today still hamper my function on some levels. Let's analyze in a little depth. 

Sisyphean Debt

For an average person, my debt isn't all that horrendous. I wish not to give exact numbers, but with the relatively low cost of being homeless it's very feasible to be able to pay off the entirety of my debt within a year, even on a practically minimum wage job. I believe that being in debt is simply never a good thing, as it leaves one vulnerable to emergencies and will otherwise leave one living at a suppressed standard of living for years on end when life could be lived and enjoyed otherwise.

I intended to wipe my slate clean of debt in about 2010, but it seems that just about every time I try to make a motion in paying it off a new obstacle comes up, making the whole situation much like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the mountain, only to have it roll back down again.

For instance, I went to college briefly before I decided it was a bad choice for me, and dropped out before I got too deep into loan debt. I had the ability to pay off at least the vast majority of my student loans then and there with leftover college savings, but a family member had lied to me in order have me allow them to cosign on my financial account, and when I asked to pay my loans they withheld permission (and consequently my money as well). It angered me since this individual had already bankrupted themselves and was projecting their own financial irresponsibility onto me.

After that period my family situation -- I still lived in Michigan at the time, Texas now -- started deteriorating, so once I did get a hold of that money it was more important to save it so I could move out and get away from these irrational people, so paying off my student loans had to be put on hold.

After over a year of arduous struggle, I finally got to move to Texas. A sous chef I performed a stage for strongly implied that he was going to hire me and encouraged me to move accordingly, so when I did -- I was ready to jump out of my skin what with what was going on at home -- I was surprised to find he had no job to give me, and later on resigned from his post and moved out of state without telling me. Meeting flaky chefs like these kept me unemployed longer than was necessary, and made me go through the savings I had accumulated up to that point.

Some may say I shouldn't have trusted the chef until the contract was signed, but I've been in hiring situations where I would sign a contract and still no job materialize, for no start date was given. I've been in multiple frustrating situations like these, including one where a manager passive-aggressively canceled an interview by making me wait over forty-five minutes (when I had showed up on-time), and one manager at another restaurant didn't even show up at all. Along with other things, I've found the restaurant industry isn't the most stable place to be.

Lastly, my car, my present shelter, was reliable up until the time I decided to become homeless. For a long time it seemed to have a mystical knack for needing extreme repairs just as I was making financial headway. Just about a week before I was to go homeless it needed a $2,000 repair due to coolant leaking in the engine, for which I could not negotiate out of since it was about to become my shelter.

Again, my debt can be paid off within a year, but absurd obstacles like having my money withheld from me or staying unemployed due to unreliable chefs hindered me, so being homeless is just about the most extreme last-ditch effort I can think of to kill the debt beast.

Toxic People Will Drive You Crazy

However, my stronger motivation is that I absolutely cannot stomach the thought of living with another human-being for the rest of my life, unless I live with a girlfriend or get married. In every single household I've lived in, comprising of eight people, everyone I lived with often had severe psychological problems that they either took out on me or involved me in, and any attempt to work matters out failed, as the discussions either got uncivilized or promises weren't kept.

Living with terrible people has had a tremendous impact on my emotional well-being throughout my life and of my ability to perform well outside of the home. What's so bad about living with a toxic person is that the problems are so repetitious; it's like Chinese water torture, where while one water droplet may not bother you, a infinite array of those drops, never ending, is enough to drive a person mad. Whenever I started seeing the toxic person's true colors I always reacted with serenity, understanding, and a willingness to tolerate it until they came around . . . only to be stewing in rage when going 'round and 'round in the same problems, over and over again, and having little ability to remove myself from the situation.

This will deserve greater discussion in a future blog post, but keep in mind that I will most likely not be able to persuade you. The difficulty in conveying one's estimates of other people to other people is that the said estimate is coated thick in first-hand experience, which does not translate economically in words unless one resorts to verbiage few will read. Regardless, I should hope that you'll believe me when I say that in all situations I always tried to mind my own business and take care of myself, and to leave the other people to his own business, only to not get that same respect in return.

Household #1: The first person I ever lived with, like the vast majority of us, was my parent, my mother. Throughout most of her life she had been very mentally unstable and self-destructive since she never recovered from an abusive childhood and coasted passively in life. From her I learned to be very anxious and depressed, taking her approach to life, and played video games endlessly to take my mind off my misery, just as she watched television all evening to ignore her own. I don't feel like I ever truly knew her since our typical pattern is that when I woke she had already gone to work, and in the evening all she wanted to do was watch television while she preferred I'd be by myself in my room.

When she moved to Florida temporarily and left the house all to myself I turned into a responsible adult almost overnight. After having people take care of me for so long, I suddenly exploded into a madness of self-dependence, and cleaned the house vigorously and maintained it, mowed the lawn, ate far healthier, and so on. It was through this process I discovered that my mother really held me back from living well and developing myself, as I knotted up in stress when she was around and hid from her, and could see through my own actions and behaviors that I was capable of being a more responsible adult than she was. I wanted to cut her out of my life the first opportunity given, as I knew I'd be so much better off without her.

Luck smiled on me one night, as I ignited one of her infamous mood swings when I knocked on her door too loudly by accident, and it incurred a rage that drove her to kick me out out the house. I took the opportunity and kept my mother out of my life from then on, refusing to talk to her even as she was on her deathbed from cancer. She was no positive influence on my life, and I do not miss her. I would have been a broken adult if I kept her in my life.

Household #2: But immediately after I got kicked out I moved in with another family member, whom I'll keep anonymous. I was ready to embrace them since I thought that my mother's bipolar influence may have made me take a distorted vision of my family, so I resolved to treat all my family members as if I had never met them before. My perceptions quickly soured.

It's hard to say in a principled fashion what was so tough about living with this particular family member, except to say that it was insanely stressful that they were frequently changing their mind upon all matters, such as how they wanted to be treated, and frequently held me responsible for their own emotions.

For instance, they regularly complained that they hated cooking, implying that they hated that my presence in their home was an imposition . . . but when I repeatedly offered to do all the cooking for them they would decline and keep on bitterly complaining as if I was still forcing them to cook. I  eventually stopped eating most meals with them when one evening they practically screamed at me about the frustration they were imposing on themselves.

All of the problems were molehills, but there were so many molehills that there was enough dirt to build a mountain. One time they readily gave me some sweets I asked for that I knew they didn't want, and when guests arrived they accused me of having stolen it from my kid cousin. When I changed my diet and started taking better care of my body they got upset that I wouldn't eat things like potatoes (as they felt pressured not to eat it themselves given that I wouldn't, even though I never expressed disapproval), and would beg me to eat cookies, potato chips, and candy so that they would feel okay eating it. Sometimes they'd even spontaneously start yelling when I asked a polite question that I had no ability to predict would upset them so much.

Unpredictability was the rule, and our problems were so multi-factorial that I couldn't bear to eat with them or be near them. Plus, once again I was being impeded on becoming an independent adult, as they begged me to eat junk food when I adopted a better diet, continually searched for emotional sores to pick at while I was trying to heal the emotional problems from my last home, and begged me to do things against my better judgment, such as go into debt for college just because everyone else is doing it.

Again, I quickly saw that I would function better as an adult without their influence, for they, too, did not teach me any necessary life skills as my mother hadn't, and worse yet they were perpetually pressuring me to go back to destructive ways even after I proved I made good choices.

What became more troublesome is that my whole family situation deteriorated, as almost everyone did not approve of the fact that I adamantly refused to deal with my mother after she kicked me out. They believed I had an arbitrary moral obligation to do so, and were aghast that I'd still ignore my mother after she made a failed suicide attempt, lost her house, and died of cancer. (I knew her self-destructive ways enough that I knew she was heading that direction, long before those events happened.)

I still managed to improve at an adult, somehow, in this situation, and with about a year's worth of work I managed to save up enough money to move to Texas, where I have resided ever since. I've been here four years now and still don't talk to my family; I consider myself permanently estranged.

Household #3: In Texas I moved into a house owned by an old lady, whom I'll call "Wassail," who rented out her spare rooms. I sent her a long, detailed e-mail stating what kind of roommate I would be for her, what kind of miserable situation I was in then, and how, due to my introverted nature, I preferred to be left alone and not socialize. She agreed to my terms and we lived together for nearly a year.

To my disgust I found out that Wassail had her own substantial psychological issues, including a medical problem I was forced to take care of, and a dire financial situation she concealed from me.

In the initial days of our living together I was just satisfied to have finally met my goal after such a long effort. Despite the fact I said I didn't want to socialize, Wassail would chat with me just about every time she heard me make any noise in the house outside of my room, and had a very obnoxious personality, such as by stating rude opinions about my lifestyle that had no relevance to her (such as how she repeatedly said she didn't like me going outside barefoot). I discovered she drank excessively, worked only a minimum wage job 2-4 times a week (and would not seek further work), and was on the verge of losing her house, a dandy thing for a renter to learn.

She had type-1 diabetes, which meant she could pass out into a coma and die if she didn't eat properly, as her blood sugar level was very volatile. Though, the effect of an actual crash seemed to change: Sometimes she'd faint, sometimes she be tremendously weak, and other times she still have all of her physical strength, but would have almost zero of her cognitive ability and wouldn't be able to understand the situation she was in, what other people were saying to her, or how serious it was for her to eat the food we were putting in front of her. This third was the most frequent symptom.

She did a horrible job maintaining an eating schedule, such as by waking up at 1 or 2PM in the afternoon and already being in dangerous condition by that point. She had diabetic emergencies often, so often that I personally had to call the paramedic 4-6 times, and in combination with the stories I've heard from my roommates dealing with these emergencies while I was out the incidents number to 12 or more. Being involved in these episodes was stressful beyond belief, though I later got desensitized and bitter. The 911 operator must've wondered how I could be angry rather than scared given the life-or-death emergency I was calling about. Wassail probably died shortly after I moved out, when no one would be in the house to save her like there always had been.

In combination, Wassail was also a bad judge of character, so the array of housemates I had to deal with just compounded how stressful it was to live there, such as one guy who stole food and money from me, and another guy who forced his personality on me and semi-regularly boasted of the people he had beaten up throughout his life.

Wassail's crowning achievement, however, was "Mr. Knife," a roommate so freaky that I swiftly moved out after meeting him. He was a guy my age who was friendly enough went he came in, but quickly deteriorated mentally for unknown reasons, and threatened me with a knife over the delusion that I had broken into his room (which I hadn't). I found out he regularly participates in illegal bare-knuckle street fighting, and that he had gone to jail for beating up a previous landlord, going so far as to whip him with a tire chain. Given my observation of his plummeting mental health and worrisomely uncertain self-control, Mr. Knife may have the potential to commit murder, and I worried he'd try to beat me up while I slept.

I got out swiftly after Mr. Knife got in, though he may have managed to leave first, as he withdrew all his stuff and ripped his renter's contract. Just like me, nobody could tolerate Wassail very well. Renters were breaking their contract with her in droves, which also worsened her financial condition since she was frequently not being paid rent, which added more stress to me since I didn't know if the bank would evict me from the house, even as I maintained my own financial affairs well.

In conclusion, it was after Wassail and Mr. Knife that I gave up on the whole concept of having roommates or living with other people. I tried it with eight people now, and could never live peaceably with a single one. The crux of the misery is being STUCK in those situations, such as how I couldn't get myself out of household #2 for over 3 years due to not being financially independent, or of being stuck with Wassail for that nearly 1 year even as she was almost evicted from her own house. When you're stuck like that the unhappiness compounds in a dramatic way.

Maybe I'd have a lighter and more gentle of the above people if I could've separated from them sooner, but alas, I could not, and could not bear another second of their types.

Will Being Homeless Hurt Me in the Long-Run?

Now as to how being homeless will hurt me in the long-run is rather undefined. The few critics who mentioned it did not specify in a good manner through what means it would hurt me, and I can't see why it would since I shave, bathe, and do my laundry, making it impossible for other people to detect I'm homeless by visual appearance; can provide a mailing address for jobs so that I may work, and have a hand-me-down laptop and cheap smart phone that enable me to function like everyone else, except I live in a car.

It's certainly by no means possible for me to achieve important and higher goals starting from this standpoint.

Chris Gardner started his path to becoming a multimillionaire by starting out in an investor's office as a homeless man. None of his coworkers and bosses knew that he was homeless and occasionally slept in his office under the desk. 

The proprietor of Burt's Bees used to live in a turkey coop and pick-up truck. He's probably a multimillionaire now.

One of my favorite people still alive today, Jamie Hyneman (a host of the Discovery Show *Mythbusters*), ran away from his family while he was young and worked in a restaurant while he slept under the boardwalk on a beach. He's a multimillionaire now, owns his own special effects company, and is of television fame.

I think I'm in good company.

Long-Term Aim: Certainly Not Being Homeless

Though, in the long-term it is definitely my aim not to be homeless. It's a very high-stress lifestyle with lots of things to dislike about it, and has just enough pleasures and comforts to make it endurable. Once I stop being homeless, I intend to stop being so permanently.

It has changed my perspective quite a bit on how I'd like to live my life. I've learned to live while owning very little property, since I had to dispose of 90% of my stuff due to the smallness of my car, and I like that I'm never in danger of going stir-crazy since I'm always on the go and propping my laptop up in new environments almost everyday. When I do get an apartment I'm going to know better which pieces of property to emphasize and which I can do without since I've spent so long doing without, and I'll probably want a small and cheap place to leave me well-suited for taking on the expense of traveling around the local area, since it's nice to have one's scenery changing so often.

Plus, if I had to live out of my car ever again for whatever reason, I'd certainly be prepared to do so again. At the very least, if I wanted to save money on hotels or motels when I'm visiting a faraway town for a day or two, I'll know that I can make do with sleeping in my car at a Walmart for that time. Far cheaper than a room and bed.

It's a long ways away, unfortunately, before I'll be residing in that future apartment, but until then I'm going to work the best I can to improve my condition within my means, regardless of how preposterous people may think me to be.

I shall never live with another person again. Toxic people will drive you crazy.

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