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Don’t Just Assume… Not Everyone Is A Stereotype

neverassume

It seems to me that the world today just naturally assumes things. This is not using your mind at all, but rather following the crowd aimlessly. People can be put into so many situations. They can be faced with hard times at any given moment, and it doesn’t matter how well they were doing before.

This is a topic very close to my heart. I was once teased because I was “dirty” and wore hand me downs. They just assumed that I was trailer trash, and that I had gotten this way because my parents were lazy, drunks, or drug addicts. But it wasn’t true.

In 2000 my step father was in a big car accident where he lost his entire hip and one of his wrists. He had to be on 24/7 care back then. My mother, a nurse practitioner, stayed home to take care of him because otherwise she would have been working to pay for his care. We went from making over 100 grand a year to making about $24,000 on disability, with a little bit of child support. The bills for our four bedroom house with a pool and huge yard was too much. My mother avoided foreclosure by doing a quick sale…. for about a quarter of the price it was worth. We moved twice, but eventually found a decent two bedroom apartment. We were doing okay. We all worked odd jobs, searching for a steady job that wasn’t there. But we were making it. Then my dad was robbed as he went to pay the landlord our rent. It was all over the news. Our landlord knew what happened, yet he had no kindness in his heart to allow us a few extra weeks to come up with the money that had been stolen for us. He kicked us out on the street.

That was when we landed squarely in a 1.5 bedroom trailer with water that worked sometimes, and carpets that could never get clean enough. Our food stamps got cut, and disability was decreased. There was never enough money. There was never enough food. My mom, sister, and myself worked cleaning entire trailers for $20-$40 a pop. My step dad would fix electronics and sell them. We had no car. Ours broke down and we couldn’t afford to either fix it or buy a new one. We walked everywhere. I was dirty because our shower did not always work. I wore hand me downs because some people were nice enough to help us out and give me them. I wasn’t embarrassed. I didn’t care that people teased. We were doing our best in a more than rough situation. We worked together as a family unit, scrounging together to survive… and we did.

That wasn’t the only time I landed squarely into a “cliche” however. At eighteen, I ended up pregnant. I was unwed, and even in these modern times people were disapproving. Keep in mind that I come from a tiny southern town where I think most people knew I was pregnant before I knew myself. People assumed I would turn into one of those women who pop out baby after baby without any means to afford it. They assumed I would laze about on welfare and that the baby’s daddy would leave me for something better, without ever paying child support. You think I’m exaggerating? I was actually told this on multiple occasions.

Did I care what they said about me? No way! I knew in my heart what I would do, and I did it. Not to prove everyone’s opinion of me wrong, but to prove my own of myself right. I was married before my daughter was born. We made sure to marry quickly. We knew we were in love, even though others said we would be divorced in the first one to five years. Guess what? My husband and I just celebrated our five year anniversary about three months ago, and we’re still going strong. We’re still as in love todya as we were back then. People claimed we would never make it. We struggled, no doubt. But we kept pushing, knowing it was the only way we would make headway.

When Florida offered us no other options, we moved. First the baby and I moved to New Jersey on a train, while my husband stayed back and continued working with his Uncle for a month. The second I got to New Jersey I began searching for a job. A week later I had a full-time fast food job. My sister watched the baby while I worked. Then I came home and took care of my daughter. Three weeks later my husband moved up. We did have food stamps, but we didn’t receive any other assistance. We stayed with my step father for a short while. After a single year we moved into a tiny one bedroom apartment. My husband began working as a seasonal for the city. He would work eight hours, come home for an hour, go back for three to four hours, come home and do odd jobs for our landlord for extra cash. Our food stamps were cut. I did all of our clothes by hand. There were times when my hands would crack and bleed,  but we needed clean clothes and couldn’t afford to use the laundry mat.

We struggled for a while, but I won’t bore you with the details. Move forward to today. I still just have the one daughter, although we will soon be trying again. My husband has a steady job with the city. It comes with benefits and everything. I work online as a freelance writer, and I’ve published well over ten books. We have a beautiful little rental home and are working right now on purchasing our first home. My husband and I are only 23. We didn’t settle into our stereotypes, despite all of the things we were called.

What is my point? To complain? No! I want to let you know that not everyone is a cliche. Sure, some are. Some allow themselves to be dragged down to the level people think they are at. But next time you see a young pregnant woman, or a dirty kid, don’t just assume. Even a young woman with three kids and no dad in sight may have a better story to tell than the cliche you have created for her. Perhaps the dad is off at war, or she is taking care of her siblings because her parents can’t. Maybe she was married, but got left in the dust for someone else. Maybe she works three jobs to support those children instead of bumming off welfare. Never just assume… make sure you know the facts before you label or tease anyone.

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