Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Checking Privilege: Streets Edition

When I last left you, I was in Nevada. I had just survived an alpine rainstorm and the next morning, I crossed the Nevada desert into California. And a lot of things happened between then and now.

I could tell you so many things without loss of original depth, but right now, I don't think that I can. 

Major milestones and growth and accomplishments, and it was all incredibly emotional. And draining. I don't think I've ever been more physically (and otherwise) tired than I was at the end of our Half Dome hike, and for an ever so brief moment of clarity, everything popped into perspective. Like, I have this body that I don't really want on any given day, but it's amazing and it can do incredible things. I can literally pull myself up a mountain. I have two functional legs that carry me along. I have two inflatable lungs that skillfully sift through the air for any available oxygen. I have a rhythm and a beat, and if I listen to it, I'm told when to go and then when to rest.

Also, of course, Conservation of Energy and all that.

But I left Yosemite without any real certainty of where I was going.

Things remain to be pretty uncertain, but by the next day, I was offered a job opportunity in the Sacramento area. I was able to CouchSurf with an excellent human for a couple nights, but my closest friends lived 100 miles away and I had no place to stay in my new pocket of NorCal. So, I headed to SoCal for a couple weeks to spend time with some of my loves and to regroup.

I'm back in NorCal now, slightly worse for wear in some ways but better in others, hopeful to start my new job ASAP, and homeless.

Certainly not for lack of searching, but for lack of funding just like everything else. The way things turned out between Florida and California, with a replaced windshield and a replaced phone and a replaced car battery and more than enough grace but not enough dollars and cents, I'm out and I remain to be the one who is infinitely attempting to scrape by on delusional optimism and pink-clouding.

But Official Day One of homelessness is already pretty interesting. I'm sitting in a Starbucks with my car parked outside, and I slept there last night. I settled in with the sunset and I rose with the sunrise. Last night around 10ish, I noticed a bundle of white fabric shaped like a human outside of an abandoned building that was behind where I had parked, and realized that it was another homeless person. In that moment, I felt an odd sense of camaraderie and safety, like this was a safe place to crash, free from interruption by law enforcement or otherwise. When I woke up, it was just a raggedy pile of fabric again, its occupant had moved on.

I moved inside, and almost immediately, it became apparent that this Starbucks complex is a popular homeless destination because the bathrooms are locked and guarded and overseen, here. But then, I realized that apart from some of the others who stopped in for a bit of relief, I could be very easily granted access to the key. Because of my ability to (barely) afford an iced coffee, I can be afforded a rein over this entire establishment. In fact, nobody will even bat an eye at a clean-ish female nomad when I ask for something.

It's an odd realization to make, that I'm already better at being homeless than experienced homeless people. Certainly not based on skill, but based on privilege. Based on our grossly over-accepted social hierarchy, my skin color generally works in my favor. In this case, so does my gender. As a woman, people are far more likely to pity or ignore me than to fear or distrust me. Also, I have access to very nice things; I have a phone and a tablet and a MacbookPro. When I was in Peru a year ago, my ownership of a laptop like that had preposterously established me as one of the richest people my friends in Lima had ever seen, with only a few hundred dollars in my bank account. Even though I insisted that it had been a gift and it was discounted because it had been a store display laptop and that I had been so lucky and blessed to have it, it didn't matter; I had it. To them, I was already in a place of unattainable privilege.

So I'll sit here in this Starbucks for a little while, simply looking like a normal college student. I think that's probably how I'll get through the next month: looking like a college student. Being resourceful. Learning how to do this. I don't know what I'm doing and I'm scared of this uncharted territory, but I suppose I've gotten by with less before.

We'll see what happens.

1 comment:

Ashley Booth said...

Stay safe. Let me know if you need ANYTHING. Much love!