I recently turned 40 and have been wondering just how I got to this place in my life. Growing up, I excelled in academics and music, and I had big dreams and plans for my future. I was attending the University of Louisiana Lafayette, focusing on Acadian and Creole History, when my mom was diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer. With one class short of graduation, I withdrew from school to take care of her.
I incurred a lot of bills taking care of her and ended up defaulting on my school loans. I need to save about $2,000 to go back and finish my degree. I feel like that $2,000 is standing between me and so many better job opportunities.
What is my life like? I have a car with 240,000 miles for which I am grateful. It gets me to work and back. I have a number of chronic medical conditions. I have finally qualified for free medical care at University Hospital and Clinic, which has been an answered prayer. With the medical care, I’m able to work hard and keep a job. Without it, I’d be in rough shape and unable to work. I live simply and within my means. I have an old school, “dumb” flip phone, and that’s fine with me. I’m a thrifty shopper and love a good bargain.
I currently work as a server at a casual-fine dining restaurant. I did well with that work until the local economic slump in late 2015. In the past, I qualified for food stamps, but the up-and-down nature of income as a waiter caused me to get bumped off. With the downturn at the restaurant, I’m not able to keep up with my bills, but I still make “too much” to re-qualify for public assistance.
Last fall, my roommate was laid off from an oilfield job. We had to give up the house we were renting. I moved in with my sister, brother-in-law and nephews. Moving back in with family at 40 was humbling, but I am grateful to have a place to go.
Definitely one of my biggest regrets is having given up music. I want to turn that regret around and look forward to the future. I’m tired of making excuses and resolve to return to playing and performing music this year.
I focus on the positive. I am blessed with amazing family, friends and a church group who always encourage me. Many of them have supported me when I’ve needed a helping hand. Not that any of them are rich, but it’s the old Stone Soup scenario. We all pull together because our resources combined add up to so much more than any of us has on our own.
I try to be the best individual, neighbor, and friend possible. Yes, I’m ALICE, but I am also a contributing and thriving member of this community — and I want to do more!