Two years ago, my marriage disintegrated. Seven years ago, my husband volunteered for two tours in Iraq. Ten years ago, my middle son was diagnosed severely autistic. Sixteen years ago, I left college because it felt like I was watching my dad work himself to death.
Today, I work in home health, a government-created job, making slightly above minimum wage. I make $900 a month, if I am lucky. It's decent work. People need us.
All of the events of my life are related, cause and effect. Sure, there were mistakes. I chose a private, Christian university to please my family. The tuition was insane, far beyond my means. But loans were going to change my world, you see. Boy, howdy. Did they.
All of this brought me to two years ago when I ended up on my own with three kids to feed. My job doesn't reimburse gas so I have a car to feed as well. My son has to be driven two hours to a neurologist in Memphis regularly, and he attends a special school 25 miles from our home on the Mississippi River which I rent because home ownership is a dead dream when you've defaulted on student loans.
Some days I am so weary I could sit and cry, if I didn't have so much to do. Oh, and I should have been tested for cervical cancer three years ago. Missouri skipped on Medicaid for people like me. I catch myself praying sometimes, "Please God." Over and over, but I don't know what I am asking for exactly.
"Please God, don't let me have cancer before I find some solutions. Please God, help me fix autism. Please tell me how to make more money. God, can we just have enough?"
The future used to be a pleasant thought when I was a girl, full of promise and possibilities. Now, it is a freight train headed straight for us. Will my kids do better? Will my son end up institutionalized? Will I ever earn enough to provide? I know the answer to that last one. Not if things don't change.
As I work my full-time job, for which I am grateful, I still qualify for SNAP. My son gets disability. It doesn't seem possible that one could work regularly and still qualify for help. How is that possible? Entire networks and politicians make careers out of demonizing women like me as takers. Meanwhile, I just pray and work.
Up is down now, and down is up.
Janice's story is part of a Huffington Post series profiling Americans who work hard and yet still struggle to make ends meet. Learn more about other individuals' experiences here.
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