There are aspects of my life that I never talk about in my blog. No worries, it’s nothing wicked or gross; I always leave those for fiction. What I am talking about is a problem that is more common than I thought: homelessness.
I have lived on and off my car since 2013 (that’s six long and tiring years), after having been evicted from what I used to call ”the studio apartment of my dreams, ” a small and cozy adobe over on the San Roque neighborhood, a place so quiet and heavenly, from where many of my first short stories and one novel sprung like flowers, so effortlessly, that I couldn’t keep away from the desk, always typing on an old Dell computer I had bought at Staples a year earlier.
My creative life prospered, as my personal life waned. And it was, ironically, my personal life that caused the loss of this unique studio apartment, bringing my creativity to a halt.
In the apartment, I only had three things: dishes, books, and clothes. At the time I drove a small ’94 Chevy Geo, which could just fit one of the three items. Getting rid the dishes was easy, since I was a lousy cook at the time and eating out was the norm. Keeping the clothes was a must, a no-brainer, since walking around naked is still pretty much frowned upon. Giving away the books, however, was the most painful decision I made at the time. I had almost the whole collection of Stephen King, Sue Grafton, and Michael Conelly, just to mention some.
So I got entangled on the webs of depression, trying to acclimate myself to a different writing routine. I was used to writing in a quiet room, listening to classical music, where even the mosquitoes would keep away and respect my privacy. This time, in contrast, I had to reacclimate myself, trying desperately to write a decent sentence or two at a random coffee place or a diner, always listening to the noisy ambiance, unable to finish whatever I started working on, making my Work In Progress folder twice as big as my Finished Stories folder.
Someone once said that the path to hell was filled with works in progress. I had no doubt believing that.
But I persevered, somehow, since I have always been that kind of individual who complaints too little on the outside while yelling and kicking on the inside. And it was that yelling and kicking that made way to My First Transgressions, Unexpected and other short stories I compiled in the one and only collection I have. I became good at ignoring the noise around me and wrote, finishing up some of those works in progress.
But I also ignored other things: the fact that every night, when the sun went down, I would go and sleep in my car or crash at a friend’s house; I even spent some time sleeping at an office. I ignored that everyone goes through hell and that my problems were not making me unique in any way. I ignored great job opportunities, mainly because I only wanted to write. I ignored life. I ignored the chance to a better living situation.
Thankfully, as it often occurs in life, the inspiration to start making serious changes came, unexpectedly, in the form of a human being. Late last year I met someone whose life and personality epitomized the kind of person I would like to be surrounded with. Such was the impact this person caused that I suddenly realized I had a dead-end job, my saving account had always been empty, I had no idea what a budget was, and it had been a year since I wrote anything new.
So I started to spend a lot of time on my own, but instead of yelling and kicking, I grabbed a pen and started to write questions that I hadn’t asked myself before: what exactly have you been doing in the last six years? Where do you see yourself in the next five years? Will you still be a self-deprecating loser with a dead-end clerk job?
These questions caused me anxiety; I developed chest pains and spent days trying to figure out how I could make it all go away. Then I realized that the only way to deal with the pain was to face it. I learned how to do a budget, opened my eyes to the fact that my job at the time was never going to be prosperous, and started to listen to those job opportunities I had so blatantly ignored.
I listened to the advice of many of my friends. Thanks to that, I now have a better paying job, I am writing even more, and what makes me even happiest, is that I finally have a place to live.
I am not homeless anymore.
I just moved into a house over in Goleta, pretty much like the San Roque neighborhood, a quiet place where I can write. And I can sincerely testify that it all had to do with that particular one person I met, someone who just waltzed into my life and made me see the world with a different set of eyes. I’ve spent the last six months of my life making changes, complaining less and living more. If I see someone who is struggling financially, I try to lend a hand because I know what it feels like to be hungry. If I see someone who only wants to be heard, I listen, mainly because I know what it is to be rejected and ignored. If I see someone who wants to call it quits, I tell them the truth: life is tough, but the only way to survive is to be tougher than life itself.
People come into our lives for a reason. It is our job to find out what that reason is.