I Get by with a Whole Lot of Help From My Friends

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I think I’ve been coming off as independent and self-sufficient.

Well, I am independent. I don’t want anyone telling me what to do. I want to make my own decisions. I want to follow my own path while listening to my own drummer. But self-sufficient? That’s not really been happening. Since I started this journey of unusual living, I’ve been helped by strangers and friends.

After I left my not-very-nice boyfriend in the middle of the night, I ended up homeless for three months. I was spending my nights outside in a sleeping bag given to me by someone I’d just met, carrying everything I owned in a backpack from the same fellow. I mostly ate food given to me at a food bank, and I brushed my teeth in a rest stop restroom. But even with such a simple existence, I didn’t make it alone. A couple of new friends took me into their homes once or twice a week to feed me dinner and let me shower or bathe. Vendors at the outdoor arts and crafts market where I sold sage sticks (and later hemp jewelry) slipped me granola bars or leftovers or (on a very few occasions) a five or ten dollar bill, which I used to buy supplies. One grizzled old horse trader bought me a sandwich one day and gave me a pep talk about how he liked me because I showed up every day and did what I had to do to earn my own way while not asking for nothing from nobody.

When I was lost (meaning after I left the boyfriend and dropped off the face of the earth) friends from my past lives sent out a search party to find me. I was found, and so many people from my past offered love and support in the form of dollars and open invitations to sleep on their couches and in their spare rooms. I used those dollars (and dollars I had earned myself in long days of selling my handiwork in the wind and the sun and the heat) to buy myself a van and go on a fantastic, epic journey where I met new people who became friends and offered me new and appreciated love and (mental and physical) support.

From Mt. Shasta, California, I ended up North Carolina. A wonderful housed-up road sister I’d just met invited me into her home to share Thanksgiving dinner with her family. A couple I’d met at the Bridge on Labor Day weekend welcomed me at the inn they own on the Tuckasegee River. These folks put me up in a suite, fed me, gave me clothes to wear. In both instances, these people barely knew me but treated me like family.

From North Carolina, I ended up in a major Texas city where old friends turned over their spare room to me, fed me, entertained me, gave me access to their laundry room and their internet service, AND gave me a pair of beloved cowgirl boots. Beginning to see a pattern here?

I could go on and on. I could tell you about my Computer Guy who’s helped me out financially several times, as well as making this very website possible. I could tell you about the walk-the-talk young Christian couple who rescued me (and a mentally unstable young man friend, his dog, the woman he was in love with, and her six-month-old baby) in Hot Springs, Arkansas; drove us all to their home in Southern Louisiana; then with the help of their church paid for my bus ticket back to Texas (at my request) and sent me off with a new purple backpack and a few dollars in my pocket. I could tell you about a different set of friends (college buddies) in Texas who took me in, gave me the guest room, fed me, included me in their Friday night extended-family time, loaned me a car when I was without a van, bought me a piece of memory foam for my new (to me) van, and helped me with my insurance payment. I could tell you about the kind and generous people who gave me gas money so I could get to my job in California last summer.

In the comments to my March spending report (read that report here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/04/02/spending-report-for-march-2016/), one of my readers said,

your expenses were close to $600 for the month. Were you able to earn at least $600 during the month?

My response was

No, I didn’t earn $600 in March. I have been living off the money I saved from working last summer and fall. That money is just about gone…

Anyone who has been paying attention is going to wonder what’s going on when they see my April report in a few days. At the end of March, I said I was almost out of money, but the spending report is going to show that I spent a bundle of money on tires (that is a saga for another day) as well as a bunch on insurance. And how did I afford to stay in a room I found through Airbnb while I worked scoring standardized tests? The answer is that I’ve been making it through with money I’ve earned through house sitting and Craigslist jobs, as well as with gifts and loans from people who care about me.

I don’t know how long this way of life is going to last for me. Right now, it doesn’t feel sustainable. I’m tired of being a burden on people, and I worry that people are getting tired of taking care of me. I’ve been stressed a lot about money in 2016. I know money is just a social construct. It doesn’t even matter and it’s not even real (right?) until transmission fluid is leaking or the fuel pump goes out or the metal threads are showing on the back tires (all of which have happened to my van since February).

I think I’ll have to save $2,000 (of an estimated $5,000 gross income) this summer to make it through the fall and winter of 2016 and the first part of 2017 while being able to take care of any van emergencies. Of course, I when I’m not work camping, I’ll fill in with side jobs if I can get them.

I can’t think of any clever, upbeat way to end this post except to say I’m so grateful to everyone who has assisted me, ever, but especially in the last four years. (And if I you have helped me, and I failed to mention you specifically in this post, please don’t think that means I don’t feel gratitude for everything you’ve done for me.) My life would be impossible without so much help.

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist. Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it. I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk. This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

8 Responses »

  1. I known these struggles. I have been surviving off of work and grmerocity for the past several years as well. It makes me feel very much like a mooch/beggar/goodfor-nothing. LOL I can do to make up for it is to not waste the generosity shown to me and to pay it forward when ever I can… I can only hope that is enough.

    • Thanks for commenting, Vincent. It sounds like you really understand what I am getting at here.

      I also definitely try to pay it forward, as well as help out other people way when I can, in the ways that I can.

      I know that I am a very good friend to people, so I try to remember that I do contribute, just not necessarily with money.

      I hope you are having a wonderful journey.

  2. I don’t want to be a downer, but while you’re soul searching, you might want to think of the future when you’re much older and can’t get jobs as easily. So many single women live way below the poverty line when they hit 60 and beyond (heck, most of us are tap dancing on that line all our life!)

    • Most of the job I work (camp host, scorer of standardized tests) are already full of people older than I am, so I’ll fit right in when I am 60. I’ve been poor most of the years of my adulthood, so nothing new there. I don’t even mind being poor, and will continue to do the best that I can.

  3. I was going to ask what sorts of things you have done previously, enjoy doing, are qualified by experience or education to do, and where your “original” home was. (State is close enough.) This is because I’m always thinking of things that other people could do to save themselves from living a day to day existence, and also because it’s just the way I think. I can’t say I was one of the original feminists, but I certainly do believe that a woman needs to be in control of her life and finances in order to be happy. Even though I am married and have been for a long time, it doesn’t mean it has all been a picnic. I’m the sort who would always have my own bank account, just in case. People change and circumstances change. You seem very capable and also a good writer, so I assume you are reasonably intelligent as well–that does help! You also seem to know where to find temporary “paid in cash right away” sorts of jobs when necessary! I am partial to having an emergency fund, and vehicles are prone to needing “emergency funds” plus people themselves can get suddenly sick and unable to work. Found myself in the hospital quite unexpectedly about 5 months ago, and SICK! Only stayed five days but it took a month to recover at home and that was a BIG surprise to me. I had to make one and two item “to do” lists when I first got home so I could see progress from one day to the next.

    So if I knew a few more things about you, I would suggest finding a job you could work at for a while and save up as much as you can for the lean times in winter when both van and you may not be able to find as much as easily. Of course, you can guess from this that I live in a place with cold winters and need to think ahead for that reason. Feel free to write me if you are interested in talking about it.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Marcia.

      I definitely stay away from cold places in the winter. I am on a mountains in the summer/desert in the winter program. So that helps a lot, as does staying on BLM land. Supplementing with house and pet sitting rounds out my year.

      I’m definitely with you on a woman having her own bank account and finances. I’ve never shared a bank account with another person, and I don’t see me starting to do anything like that now.

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