Thursday, February 26, 2009

Portrait: Paradise, California

I live in Paradise, CA. It's not all the name implies...

Every day it gets a little harder to find the bright spot in my future.

I was raised in a trailer in the bay area of California. My mother sold belts in Oakland so she could buy me milk. My father lived in a van. We were, by the best Californian definition of the word, poor.

Now I am 21 and married, and I thought we were getting by. My husband has never understood what it was to grow up poor, but today I think he’s getting it. Last year we looked at homes to buy and planned to conceive a child. We even talked about names (he favors Alice). Today we moved all our possessions to a studio apartment and I started birth control.

Here are the specifics: I made minimum wage but I had health care and now I am unemployed and swamped with medical bills that have suddenly been denied by the insurance. My husband has managed to hold on to his position in real estate, but now makes 60% less than he did before (see: studio apartment). We used to live in a beautiful house, but then my lack of income caught up with us and we couldn’t afford the rent. I used to pay cash for my college tuition, now I’ve been forced to borrow either from the government or from my in-laws.

The medical bills? In our short lived quest to get pregnant, it turned out that I couldn’t get pregnant. I have PCOS and my doctors don’t smile when they talk to me about children. Finding that out is costing me $60 a month in payments that will eventually total $5,000. My former insurance is thrilled to be rid of me, as is my former job.

I’m going to college to become an elementary school teacher, but I’m terrified I won’t have a job when I get my credential, and then the borrowed money will be for nothing. We have no savings left, it’s all gone to buy textbooks and gas and spaghetti.

I hope there’s a bright spot in my future. I keep hoping there’s a home and babies and clean bills of health, but every night I dream about trailers.

Paradise, California