No. Not that one. DEFINITELY not "that" one.
I'm talking about help. I don't know when it happened but these days the word "help" seems to be synonymous with failure. Politicians are weak if they ask for it, ordinary people are annoying if they need it. The reality is that there is no shame in asking for help, but rather the shame is in denying it.
Several months ago I wrote a story for Gawker. I wrote it anonymously because at the time I was broke -- actually broke doesn't describe my level of broke-ness. If you signed onto my bank account you would have thought you were looking at a calculator app cleared out to zero. Nobody knew of my struggles -- friends, family, and I wanted to keep it that way. At some point, weeks later, my friends somehow found out that I was the author. And I was relieved. Thinking that something was wrong with me just because I struggled where to lay my head at night was all wrong. It's not a fault. It was (and to some extent still is) a reality.
It wasn't until this realization that I was able to start putting the pieces back together. I accepted that there would be nights ahead where a car door would serve as a pillow, that I'd go days eating a steady diet of day old bagels, or on the days I didn't make it in time to a food bank, that my belly wouldn't always be full. I'm not a guru nor someone to look up to. I'm an underachieving musician and mediocre writer, who, when trying to rub two nickels together, ended up with blisters.
You won't give yourself any favors by thinking you can pick the pieces up of your broken life and glue yourself back together in just six months. It will not happen (unless you find a brown bag of cash under a mailbox). How to make it day to day is easier typed than done, and I don't have any good method about how to do it or how I've done it. It's trial and error. There are still days that my belly growls, and there might still be days ahead where I can't find a pillow for a head. Just accept it. You won't change until you've sucked it all in and owned every last bit of it.
If you're focusing on your failures and measuring your accomplishments against your peers and friends, then you're doing it wrong. This can be more destructive than a weekend binge on Devil Dogs (Ooooh... wait a second). Measure yourself up against yesterday's version of you. Are you better? Are you worse?
You'll need to swallow some of your pride at some point throughout all of this. If you're too embarrassed to walk into a food bank, I find sunglasses and headphones can be enough of a distraction to get you to the table to say, "I need some help." The second time you might even ditch the glasses. If you were judgmental before (like I was), you won't be soon enough.
I owe most of what has happened recently to an anonymous commenter who I interacted with about "her" story prior to writing mine. Our brief online encounter was what in part motivated me to share my story, which then led to literary agents emailing me, and opened opportunities like the one I am now using. It was a break. Which is what I needed. Which is what we all need sometimes.
The people who are destitute, I get. The people who have to decide what bill to pay and what bill to shelf, I get. The people who input every item at the grocery store into a calculator only to accidentally zero it out and then type everything again for fear of getting to the counter and being embarrassed when you have more food than you can afford, I get.
Making something from absolutely nothing can be a blessing in disguise. You'll learn to adapt, to amend, to deal. You'll be better off in some ways than before. You'll become a master-budgeter, and learn how to stretch a buck. You'll cut a toothpaste tube just to get two more days worth of paste. You'll add water to the shampoo bottle. Call me cheap. Call me frugal. I don't care one bit. Most importantly, though, you'll get through it.
I would normally discourage comments, but because I feel that the best advice can sometimes come from regular people helping each other, please join the discussion.
Chris Peak is a musician and freelance writer from Boston. Follow him @chrishpeak or visit him at chrispeak.com